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Submission + - City lights could reveal alien civilizations ( 1

MrSeb writes: "New research conducted by Abraham Loeb from Harvard University and Edwin Turner from Princeton University shows that electric, artificial lights on remote planets could be detected using next-generation ground and space telescopes. The basic approach is simple: planets that are exclusively illuminated by a local sun will have one "light signature," while a planet with artificial lights will have another. Loeb and Turner say that this technique, with our current telescopes, would be able to pick out a major terrestrial city on the edge of the Solar System, in the Kuiper belt (50 AU) — but future telescopes, or the telescopes belonging to advanced, alien races, could see farther. More interesting than the how is the why. Why are Loeb and Turner interested in weak, visible-light spectra rather than the megawatts of easily-detectable radio waves that are pumped into space every second? Because the amount of radio waves being produced by humanity — mostly thanks to fiber optic networks — is on the decline. In turn, this infers that other, advanced civilizations might have moved beyond radio communications too. In this case, radio astronomy won't help us (or alien civilizations) the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) — but looking for artificial light would."

Submission + - A rethinking of files (

An anonymous reader writes: Two recent papers, one from Microsoft Research (above link) and one from University of Wisconsin ( are providing a refreshing take on rethinking "what a file is". This could have major implications for the next-gen file system design, and will probably cause a stir among Slashdotters, given that it will affect the programmatic interface. The first paper has some hints as to what went wrong with the previous WinFS approach.

Citing the first paper: "For over 40 years the notion of the file, as devised by pioneers in the field of computing, has proved robust and has remained unchallenged. Yet this concept is not a given, but serves as a boundary object between users and engineers. In the current landscape, this boundary is showing signs of slippage, and we propose the boundary object be reconstituted. New abstractions of file are needed, which reflect what users seek to do with their digital data, and which allow engineers to solve the networking, storage and data management problems that ensue when files move from the PC on to the networked world of today. We suggest that one aspect of this adaptation is to encompass metadata within a file abstraction; another has to do what such a shift would mean for enduring user actions such as ‘copy’ and ‘delete’ applicable to the deriving file types. We finish by arguing that there is an especial need to support the notion of ‘ownership’ that adequately serves both users and engineers as they engage with the world of networked sociality. "


What US Health Care Needs 584

Medical doctor and writer Atul Gawande gave the commencement address recently at Stanford's School of Medicine. In it he lays out very precisely and in a nonpartisan way what is wrong with the institution of medical care in the US — why it is both so expensive and so ineffective at delivering quality care uniformly across the board. "Half a century ago, medicine was neither costly nor effective. Since then, however, science has... enumerated and identified... more than 13,600 diagnoses — 13,600 different ways our bodies can fail. And for each one we've discovered beneficial remedies... But those remedies now include more than six thousand drugs and four thousand medical and surgical procedures. Our job in medicine is to make sure that all of this capability is deployed, town by town, in the right way at the right time, without harm or waste of resources, for every person alive. And we're struggling. There is no industry in the world with 13,600 different service lines to deliver. ... And then there is the frightening federal debt we will face. By 2025, we will owe more money than our economy produces. One side says war spending is the problem, the other says it's the economic bailout plan. But take both away and you've made almost no difference. Our deficit problem — far and away — is the soaring and seemingly unstoppable cost of health care. ... Like politics, all medicine is local. Medicine requires the successful function of systems — of people and of technologies. Among our most profound difficulties is making them work together. If I want to give my patients the best care possible, not only must I do a good job, but a whole collection of diverse components must somehow mesh effectively. ... This will take science. It will take art. It will take innovation. It will take ambition. And it will take humility. But the fantastic thing is: This is what you get to do."

Should the Gov't Pay For Injured Man's Wii? 222

An anonymous reader writes "Politicians in the Australian state of Victoria are currently locked in a debate about whether an injured man should be able to claim the cost of a Nintendo Wii for rehabilitation purposes under worker's compensation. The man's doctor apparently recommended he use the Wii Fit exercise device, but both insurance companies and the government itself have blocked the payment and have now ridiculed the idea as paying for video games. But with the Wii Fit increasingly being used for rehabilitation purposes internationally, does the man have a fair case?"

New Speed Cameras Catch You From Space 351

A new kind of speed camera that uses satellites to measure average speed over long distances is being tested in Britain. The "Speedspike" system combines plate reading technology with a global positioning satellite receiver to calculate average speed between any two points in the area being monitored. From the article: "Details of the trials are contained in a House of Commons report. The company said in its evidence that the cameras enabled 'number plate capture in all weather conditions, 24 hours a day.' It also referred to the system's 'low cost' and ease of installation." I can't wait to see the episode of MythBusters where they try to avoid getting a speeding ticket from a satellite.
PlayStation (Games)

Sony May Charge For PlayStation Network 212

In an interview with IGN, Sony's VP of marketing, Peter Dille, responded to a question about the PlayStation Network by saying that the company is considering charging for the service. He said, "It's been our philosophy not to charge for it from launch up until now, but Kaz recently went on the record as saying that's something we're looking at. I can confirm that as well. That's something that we're actively thinking about. What's the best way to approach that if we were to do that? You know, no announcements at this point in time, but it's something we're thinking about." This follows news of a customer survey from last month that listed possibilities for subscription-based PSN features.

Submission + - new technology streams movie-quality video to PDAs

steve simon writes: "A new technology for broadcasters from ESPRE called eView Media supports DRM. It can stream movie quality video from a PC over a broadband connection to any Internet-enabled device such as PDAs and cell phones. Previously, TV programs and movies needed to be re-purposed or converted. With this technology, they don't and no resolution is lost. Steve 847/415-9347"

Antarctic Microbes Could Live on Mars 117

eldavojohn writes "Recent research has shown that microbes found in an Antarctic lake could survive the coldest temperatures on Mars. From the article, 'And they found that these species of microorganisms "huddled" together in colder temperatures to form a chemically linked unit called a biofilm. The finding marks the first time this phenomenon has been detected in the Antarctic species of so-called extremophiles. The findings provide more evidence for the ideas that liquid found beneath Mars' surface could harbor microbial life and that life could exist elsewhere in the solar system and galaxy, which is generally incredibly cold.' Their genes are currently being sequenced to determine which give the organisms 'cold-shock' proteins and their resistance to cold."

Submission + - Jeff Han's Mouseless Interface-Free Interface

Bowie J. Poag writes: "Jeff Han is a research scientist for NYU's Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. Back in February 2006, he demo'ed his touch-driven interface for the first time publically. Han's design may be look at what might be the way you and I interact with computers in the near future. What's more interesting, is the fact that some operations are actually quicker, and make more sense to perform using both hands versus using a traditional mouse & keyboard method. Of course, we can expect that any useful concepts underlying Han's presentation will be swiftly rejected by the leaders of GNOME and KDE's GUI development teams since it looks nothing like Windows 98. (*groan*)."

Japan To Get Wii With DVD Player 73

cdneng2 writes " reports that Japan will be getting a Wii with a DVD player. Unfortunately, there are no plans to release this in US or Europe." From the article: "An article in the latest issue of Edge magazine states that an 'enhanced' Wii with DVD function is due out in Japan some time next year. Speaking to, a spokesperson declined to comment on when the new machine will hit the shops, but did confirm, 'There are currently plans to release a version of Wii in Japan featuring DVD playback.' ... The Edge article also claimed that CNN has already signed up to provide content for the Wii news channel in the US and Japan - but according to Nintendo's spokesperson, 'We have currently announced no deals with any news or weather service provider for Wii channels.'"

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