Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


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Submission + - Software for Synthetic Biology Makes DNA Editing Easy (

the_newsbeagle writes: In the fast-growing field of synthetic biology, researchers and startups need ways to rapidly edit the DNA sequences of organisms. Then they can synthesize the DNA to spec and insert it into living organisms to see how it affects their life functions. They might do that based on scientific curiosity or a profit motive—imagine, for example, if a bacteria could be rejiggered to naturally exude a biofuel or a vaccine.

One group of researchers is trying to build a completely synthetic organism—a single-celled yeast—by building synthetic versions of its 16 chromosomes and putting them into a cell. To design this weird new critter, they had to invent a software program called BioStudio that make editing the genetic code as easy as cut & paste. It also has a feature akin to track changes, so genetic edits that turn out to be "bugs" and make the yeast malfunction can be rolled back. It's the kind of tool geneticists will need as they explore this new design frontier—the design of life itself.

Submission + - The Russian Utopian Designs That Never Became Reality (

dryriver writes: The BBC reports: Had Tatlin's Tower been built, its spiral steel frame would have stood taller than the Eiffel Tower, at that time — 1919 — the world’s tallest manmade structure, by some 91m (299 ft). And its record as the world’s tallest building would have gone unsurpassed for over half a century, until the construction of the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, which opened for business in 1973. The steel frame would contain three glass units: a cube, a cylinder and a cone. These would rotate once a year, once a month and once a day respectively, and house a conference hall, a legislative chamber and an information and propaganda centre for the Third Communist International (also known as the Comintern – the organisation that advocated world communism). It would stand at just over 396 m (1,306 ft). But for reasons of cost (Russia was bankrupt and in the middle of a civil war) and practicality (was its realisation even structurally possible, and where, after all, would they get all that steel?) this staggeringly audacious symbol of modernity was never built.

Submission + - Zen and the Art of CPU Design (

JoshMST writes: This in-depth editorial covers the history of the major AMD releases over the past 20+ years and comparing them to what Zen is expected to encounter when it is released this week. It goes from pre-K5 processors, how AMD got into the CPU world, and the releases that not only matched Intel's products but also exceeded them at times.

Submission + - Overwatch director speaks out against console mouse/keyboard adapters (

Striek writes:

Regardless of where you fall in the long-running debate between keyboard/mouse and analog stick controls, you could historically be relatively sure that everyone on a single platform would be playing with the same control scheme. Recently, though, third-party adapters have started allowing console players to use a mouse and keyboard effectively on dedicated consoles, throwing off the competitive balance in a way that Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan doesn't appreciate.

"The Overwatch team objects to the use of mouse and keyboard on console," Kaplan wrote on the forums. "We have contacted both first-party console manufacturers and expressed our concern about the use of mouse and keyboard and input conversion devices.

Submission + - Parents View New Peanut Guidelines With Guilt and Skepticism ( 1

schwit1 writes: When Nicole Lepke’s son was born, she listened to her pediatrician and kept peanuts away until the age of 2, but the toddler still developed a severe peanut allergy when he finally tried them.

Now, 12 years later, health experts have reversed their advice on peanuts, urging parents to begin feeding foods containing peanut powder or extract during infancy in hopes of reducing a child’s risk for allergy.

The about-face on peanuts has stunned parents around the country who are coping with the challenges of severe peanut allergies. Like many parents, Ms. Lepke is now plagued with guilt. By restricting peanuts early, did she inadvertently cause the very allergy she was trying to prevent?

Submission + - TV News Broadcast Accidentally Activates Alexa, Initiates Orders (

ShaunC writes: Amazon's Echo digital assistant is supposed to make our lives easier, but one recent incident is causing headaches for some Echo owners. In San Diego, TV news anchor Jim Patton was covering a separate story about a child who accidentally ordered a doll house using her family's Echo. Commenting on the story, Patton said "I love the little girl, saying 'Alexa ordered me a dollhouse.'" Viewers across San Diego reported that in response to the news anchor's spoken words, their own Echo devices activated and tried to order doll houses from Amazon. Amazon says that anyone whose Echo inadvertently ordered a physical item can return it at no charge.

Submission + - Navy Coded Sea Animal Sounds for Communications

An anonymous reader writes: A 1980 report on the U.S. Government project called Project COMBO to study the use of coded marine animal sounds for covert underwater communication systems has just been declassified by ISCAP, a federal declassification appeals panel, overruling a previous Navy Department decision. The concept originated in 1949, and collection and analysis of sounds began in 1965. In 1970, DARPA sponsored analysis and duplication of sonogram patters of collected marine mammal sounds, and the Navy sponsored efforts to study communications applications. Project COMBO developed a coding technique that uses temporal and frequency patterns to convey messages, and recognizer/decoder equipment. Lab and sea tests used demonstration messages based on coded pilot whale sounds; the messages were received correctly underwater out to 50 nautical miles.

Submission + - It's not you, Slashdot, it's me. 5

BuckB writes: When I was a young man, I read Slashdot in order to amaze my friends with useful facts. It was even my homepage for awhile. Sure, there was time when I cheated and went to cnet or wired. With Slashdot, I could count on high quality debate on controversial topics, even though I knew in my heart that most of the readers were Apple fans, while I am a closeted Microsofterian. Now the stories are mainly non-tech — no, that's the real reason — the stories are now mainly fake or click-bait or alarmist, and the discussions are completely uninformed, insulting, to the point of being indistinguishable from an MSNBC forum.

I'll still remember you fondly. And I'll check back now and then. You'll do fine without me, find more people who enjoy insulting contributions and upvoting rumors and gossip. But maybe, just maybe, you'll think back to when you were a leader and attracted the kinds of people like me.

Submission + - GoboLinux 016 released, featuring its own filesystem virtualization tool

paranoidd writes: GoboLinux announced today the availability of a new major release. What's special about it is that it comes together with a container-free filesystem virtualization that's kind of unique thanks to the way that installed programs are arranged by the distro. Rather than having to create full-fledged containers simply to get around conflicting libraries, a lightweight solution simply plays with overlays to create dynamic filesystem views for each process that wants them. Even more interesting, the whole concept also enables 32-bit and 64-bit programs to coexist with no need for a lib64 directory (as implemented by mostly all bi-arch distributions out there). The announcement page brings some more interesting pieces of work coming from the 15-years old project.

Submission + - SPAM: Steve Wozniak, Elementary School Computer Teacher 1

theodp writes: "In 5th grade," Syambra Moitozo fondly recalls in Steve Wozniak Was My Computer Teacher in 1995, "we’d stay after school so my friend Sara’s dad could teach us about computers. Sara's dad happens to be Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple." By Moitozo's account, Woz was one cool teacher. Not only did he purchase Macintosh PowerBook laptops for the kids (those who mastered the concepts got to keep theirs), get them online with AOL accounts, and equip them with gadgets like laser pens, Woz would even occasionally treat the kids to McDonald’s Happy Meals, which Moitozo notes felt rebelliously exciting for kids who were regularly force-fed granola by their health conscious parents. "It was less important to me what you teach, and more important to motivate people by making things as fun as you can," Wozniak told Moitozo when she reconnected with him nearly 22 years later. “I had that liberty because I was sponsoring the class myself and wasn’t under the guidance of a principal. My intent was not to train people to become computer specialists or work for computer companies. We don’t need everyone in life to be computer experts." Of the 30 kids in her class, Moitozo notes that at least eight went into careers in technology, including a vision-impaired student (who now works at Apple) for whom Woz installed a huge screen at her home so she could see the lessons better.

Submission + - U.S. Senate Quietly Passes The "Countering Disinformation And Propaganda Act" (

lwmv writes: On December 8, 2016, the U.S. Senate passed the Countering Disinformation And Propaganda Act as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Conference Report for fiscal year 2017. The bipartisan bill was written in March 2016 by U.S. Senators Republican Rob Portman and Democrat Chris Murphy, and designed to help American allies counter foreign government propaganda from Russia, China, and other nations. In the version of the bill incorporated into the 2017 NDAA, the U.S. Congress would ask the United States Secretary of State to collaborate with the United States Secretary of Defense and create a Global Engagement Center to monitor information warfare from foreign governments, and publicize the nature of ongoing foreign propaganda and disinformation operations against the U.S. and other countries. To support these efforts, the bill also creates a grant program for NGOs, think tanks, civil society and other experts outside government who are engaged in counter-propaganda related work.

Submission + - Scott Adams and "The Non-Expert Problem" ( 18

Layzej writes: It is easy for a non-expert to be swayed by a credible sounding narrative that claims to overthrow a scientific consensus. For a scientist it is generally clear which arguments are valid, but the general public can’t independently evaluate scientific evidence. Scientist Victor Venema provides answers to a number of concerns about climate science raised by cartoonist Scott Adams. His answers are accessible and illuminating, and hopefully helpful to the non-expert who would like to understand the truth behind certain contrarian talking points.

Submission + - Deep Space Network glitches worry scientists (

sciencehabit writes: Earlier this year, the Cassini spacecraft screwed up an orbital maneuver at Saturn because of a problem with its radio connection to Earth. The incident was one of several recent glitches in the Deep Space Network (DSN), NASA’s complex of large radio antennas in California, Spain, and Australia. For more than 50 years, the DSN has been the lifeline for nearly every spacecraft beyond Earth’s orbit, relaying commands from mission control and receiving data from the distant probe. On 30 September, in a meeting at NASA headquarters, officials will brief planetary scientists on the network’s status. Many are worried, based on anecdotal reports, that budget cuts and age have taken a toll that could endanger the complex maneuvers that Cassini and Juno, a spacecraft now at Jupiter, will require over the next year.

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