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Submission + - Is 2013 the year of alternative inputs? 1

gotfork writes: Now that touch screens have become ubiquitous thanks to smartphones and tablets, will alternative input technologies finally start to change the way we interact with desktop computers? Touch screen monitors are becoming commonplace, and while operating systems are increasingly working to support them, David Pogue thinks it's not enough. Despite issues that remain with touch-enabled displays, I think that pen-enabled writing pads, tablets and displays are now a mature technology, since they work more readily with traditional OS interfaces. There's also interesting new technologies on the horizon — SteLuLu Technologies wants gamers to start using their feet and Leap Motion, previously covered here, wants to bring their 3D gesture input to the desktop (think a Kinect on steroids) . If you're not a fan of the new stuff, you can always hack a Nintendo Power Glove or use something that looks like a Portal gun in reverse. Keyboards and mice won't go away any time soon, but we now have many more options to use in parallel.

Submission + - Why Self-Driving Cars Are Still a Long Way Down the Road (

moon_unit2 writes: Technology Review has a piece on the reality behind all the hype surrounding self-driving, or driverless, cars. From the article: "Vehicle automation is being developed at a blistering pace, and it should make driving safer, more fuel-efficient, and less tiring. But despite such progress and the attention surrounding Google’s “self-driving” cars, full autonomy remains a distant destination. A truly autonomous car, one capable of dealing with any real-world situation, would require much smarter artificial intelligence than Google or anyone else has developed. The problem is that until the moment our cars can completely take over, we will need automotive technologies to strike a tricky balance: they will have to extend our abilities without doing too much for the driver."

Submission + - 90% of Game Hacks and Cracks Contain Malware

An anonymous reader writes: Computer and online gaming is big business for companies creating the games, but a considerable drain on the finances of gamers, so it should not come as a surprise that many of the latter decide against buying games and add-ons, choosing instead to download cracked games, keygens, patches and more from torrent or file-sharing sites. But, according to AVG, that decision could cost them much more in the long run, as the company's recent research proved that over 90 percent of "hacks and cracks" found via metasearch services such as FilesTube and FileCrop contained malicious code or malware.

Comment Different writing technology (Score 3, Insightful) 119

Everspin previously used the crossed-lines writing technique (shown here, but has now switched to spin-transfer torque based devices. Several other companies are also working on this, so things to improve rapidly. PR release at (

Comment Re:Just stupid (Score 1) 123

Eh, even if he had made up realistic-looking data, there were a lot of other red flags: not saving raw data or samples, no one else making measurements, all other groups unable to reproduce results, etc. In retrospect, it sounds like it only went on that long because he was at a private lab, but I see what you mean.

Comment Re:Thermodynamics (Score 4, Informative) 144

Aren't there some fundamental physical limits on how low your energy usage can be for a given amount of information based on thermodynamics? Is it just the case that they're way, way less than what we're using now?

For any sort of data storage the energy barrier between the two states needs to be large enough that the system doesn't thermodynamically fluctuate between them very often. In practice, this means that the barrier needs to be several times larger than kb*T where kb is the boltzman constant. For computation there's not any hard and fast rule about the energy required, but there's lots of practical ones...

Comment Re:No, our science education is dismal (Score 1) 564

You did say that you believe that education is a business and that the more competition a business receives, the better it is for the customer. I just suggested an alternate option that would be more competitive for low-income families. I'm not implying that you're pro-child labor -- I'm giving a counterexample to show that your blanket statement is silly, and that (assuming education is a business) competition to public education is not always better for the customer.

What *I* said is that parents who send their kids to private school should be exempt from paying school tax for that 1 year.

What I'm saying is that this will do almost nothing to help low and middle-class families.

Comment Re:No, our science education is dismal (Score 1) 564

I checked the numbers for the country where I grew up: . The medium household income is 50 k$, putting private education entirely out of reach for most families.

I am a believer that the more competition a business receives, the better it is for the customer (versus a monopoly or near-monopoly).

Sure, that makes sense for businesses, but since when is primary education a business? A lot of people would agree that a primary education is a human right: Unfortunately for many families a more economically competitive option would be to send kids to work at age 14 rather than to school. Allowing them to do that wouldn't improve schools either.

Comment Re:No, our science education is dismal (Score 1) 564

I went to a high school where ~60 percent of the students got free/reduced lunch, which meant that their parents made less than 200% of the poverty level. In my county schools are supported primarily through property tax revenues, and most of these families rent and pay property tax only indirectly. It's a moot point though, considering private school tuition runs around 15-20 k$. Families, especially those who are trying to make ends meet, can't spend ~half their net income on a single child's education.

Comment Re:No, our science education is dismal (Score 1) 564

I had a similar case -- also from NC and did Duke's TIP -> IB/AP -> top tier state school for almost free. I think the author of the article is intentionally confusing the testing results which show how the US does on average with how students who actually end up doing science do.

Yet during this period of national "mediocrity," we created Silicon Valley, built multinational biotechnology firms, and continued to lead the world in scientific journal publications and total number of Nobel Prize winners. We also invented and sold more than a few iPads. Obviously, standardized tests aren't everything.

That's all great, but to some extent many students will be good at science even if they go to terrible schools. Similarly, it's worth trying to give most students a basic understanding of science even if they go into another field.


Submission + - The most epic scavenger hunt returns

gotfork writes: The world's largest scavenger hunt, covered in previous years on Slashdot, is now taking place at the University of Chicago. The competition is fierce: in 1999 one team build a working breeder reactor in the quad, but only won second place. Items on this year's list include your appendix in a jar (210), a disappearing spoon made of metal (105), a chromatic typewriter (216), an xyloexplosive (33) and a weaponized Xerox machine (83). Check out the full list here (PDF). Not bad for the school where "where fun comes to die".

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