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Science

Submission + - Isaac Newton, Alchemist (nytimes.com)

Pickens writes: "It wasn't easy being Isaac Newton because he didn't like wasting time: Newton didn't play sports or a musical instrument, gamble at whist or gambol on a horse. Newton was unmarried, had no known romantic liaisons and may well have died, at the age of 85, with his virginity intact. But, as Natalie Angier writes in the NY Times, it is now becoming clear that Newton had time to spend night upon dawn for three decades of his life slaving over a stygian furnace in search of the power to transmute one chemical element into another. "How could the ultimate scientist have been seemingly hornswoggled by a totemic psuedoscience like alchemy, which in its commonest rendering is described as the desire to transform lead into gold," writes Angier. Now new historical research describes how alchemy yielded a bounty of valuable spinoffs, including new drugs, brighter paints, stronger soaps and better booze. "Alchemy was synonymous with chemistry," says Dr. William Newman, "and chemistry was much bigger than transmutation." Newman adds that Newton's alchemical investigations helped yield one of his fundamental breakthroughs in physics: his discovery that white light is a mixture of colored rays that can be recombined with a lens. “I would go so far as to say that alchemy was crucial to Newton’s breakthroughs in optics,” says Newman. “He’s not just passing light through a prism — he’s resynthesizing it.”"
Books

Submission + - Confessions of a Used-Book Scanner

Ponca City, We Love You writes: "In a good example of how advancing technology, the internet, and informationally efficient markets can work together to create new niche opportunities for entrepreneurs, Michael Savitz writes how, armed with an a laser bar-code scanner fitted to a Dell PDA, he makes a living spending 80 hours per week haunting thrift stores and library book sales to scan hundreds of used books a day and instantly identify those that will get a good price on Amazon Marketplace. "My PDA shows the range of prices that other Amazon sellers are asking for the book in question," writes Savitz. "Those listings offer me guidance on what price to set when I post the book myself and how much I'm likely to earn when the sale goes through." Savitz writes that on average, only one book in 30 will have a resale value that makes it a "BUY" but that he goes through enough books to average about 30 books sold per day and earn about $1,000 a week in profit. "If I can tell from a book's Amazon sales rank that I'll be able to sell it in one day, I might accept a projected profit of as little as a dollar. The more difficult a book will be to sell, the more money the sale needs to promise." Savitz writes that people scanning books sometimes get kicked out of thrift stores and retail shops and that libraries are beginning to advertise that no electronic devices are allowed at their sales. "If it's possible to make a decent living selling books online, then why does it feel so shameful to do this work?" concludes Savitz. "The bibliophile bookseller, and the various other species of pickers and flippers of secondhand merchandise, would never be reproached like this and could never be made to feel bad in this way.""
Science

Submission + - 90 Percent Of Human Being Not Human (sciencedaily.com)

drmattnd writes: "Scientists at the National Institutes of Health recently published an analysis of 178 genomes from microbes that live in or on the human body, and have plans to expand their reference collection to nearly a thousand genomes.

Dubbed the human microbiome, this set of fungi, bacteria, and viruses are known to outnumber human cells 10 to 1 and play a critical role in health and disease. According to Human Microbiome Project leader Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. "We are only at the very beginning of a fascinating voyage that will transform how we diagnose, treat and ultimately, prevent many health conditions."

Published in the May 21 issue of the journal Science, "this initial work lays the foundation for this ambitious project and is critical for understanding the role that the microbiome plays in human health and disease," says Collins."

Submission + - Windows 7 update installs stealth WAT 7

unassimilatible writes: A Windows 7 update released on 9/30, KB2158563, claims to "resolve issues caused by revised daylight saving time and time zone laws in several countries. This update enables your computer to automatically adjust the computer clock on the correct date in 2010." The part not mentioned by Microsoft is that KB2158563 is a Trojan, the stealth payload being a WAT (Windows Activation Technologies) update that sniffs out cracked versions of Windows 7, and declares them not genuine, complete with black screen. Looks like MS is up to its old tricks again.
Security

Submission + - Government Randomly X-Raying Citizens (counterpunch.org)

shahidg writes: You might want to think twice about going out the door from now on. Homeland Security is apparently now performing random x-rays on highways, border crossings and even city streets. The public can only hope that these random and uncontrolled doses of radiation being unknowingly administered on them will not cause any serious health effects.

Submission + - GitFight compares user's GitHub contributions (bloople.net)

An anonymous reader writes: When you're browsing GitHub, you often come across new and interesting projects and the people behind them — visiting their profile page shows you plenty of information about their projects. But what the profile doesn't tell you is how popular they, and their projects are as a whole — how known, trusted, and interesting they are.

But how to determine this? Gauging trust and quality is difficult for a computer to do.

GitHub users don't live in vacuums — they are linked to other users through followers and repo watchers, and of course repo forks. This social data can be used to estimate a user's quality and trustworthiness, and also their volume of output.

Git Fight! combines a user's GitHub data into a single score which you can use to compare users.

Submission + - Neural Responses Indicate Our Willingness to Help

An anonymous reader writes: Witnessing a person from our own group or an outsider suffer pain causes neural responses in two very different regions of the brain. And, the specific region activated reveals whether or not we will help the person in need. Researchers at the University of Zurich studied the brain responses of soccer fans and now have neurobiological evidence for why we are most willing to help members of our own group.
Software

Submission + - OpenSearchServer 1.2 beta is available (sourceforge.net)

ekeller writes: OpenSearchServer unveils the 1.2 beta release. This new version add more than 40 new features: Index replication, n-grams filter and shingle filter (suggestion box, wrong spelling tolerance, automated topics generation), a database crawler supporting join queries and external files, an API and Web interface for monitoring and supervision, an audio parser with meta data extraction fro Torrent, MP3/MP4, OGG Vorbis, FLAC and WMA files.

Submission + - Smart Phones that Know Their Users by How They Wal

mirgens writes: Technology review has a short article on new work on doing gait analysis with the accelerometers built into many smart phones. The work was done at the Norwegian Information Security Laboratory ("Nislab"). The need for more security on mobile devices is increasing with new functionalities and features made available. To improve the device security Nislab proposed gait recognition as a protection mechanism — in other words, if somebody else walks away with your phone, it locks up. While previous work on gait recognition used video sources, for instance to identify people in airports or secure buildings, the Nislab researchers collected the gait data using a Google G1 phone containing the AK8976A embedded accelerometer.

Submission + - SPAM: The Real Life Game for Introverts

rinkjustice writes: "Rejection Therapy is a real life game with one rule: to be rejected by someone every single day, for 30 days consecutive. It's designed to help introverts and those with social anxiety disorders get out of their comfort zone more. There are even suggestion cards available for "rejection attempts" (although they are not essential to the game)."
Link to Original Source
Open Source

Submission + - Decentralized Barter Software as Natural Economics (media-art-online.org)

egell writes: About a year ago in an internet search for decentralized banking software, I came across a GPL, open source program called Wija and the iWat system developed by a duo of Japanese researchers from Keio University and Gesell Resarch Society. Based on the idea that fiat money has no inherent value, it proposes a resilient, sustainable, and alternative monetary system on (much like) the internet that creates value based on the users who define the units being bartered. Interestingly, they offer to trade 1 hour of programming labor for 10kwh to exemplify their physical economics belief (of energy scarcity or what they value). Their publication is from 2008 or 9: http://www.media-art-online.org/pdf/das-p2p2008-s

sc.pdf

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