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Submission + - SPAM: The mystery of Tabby's star deepens

schwit1 writes: Astronomers looking at the light variations of the star dubbed by some Tabby's star have become even more baffled.

Spurred by a controversial claim that the star’s brightness gradually decreased by 14 percent from 1890 to 1989, Montet and Simon decided to investigate its behavior in a series of Kepler calibration images that had not previously been used for scientific measurements. “We thought that these data could confirm or refute the star’s long-term fading, and hopefully clarify what was causing the extraordinary dimming events observed in KIC 8462852,” explained Simon.

Simon and Montet found that, over the first three years of the Kepler mission, KIC 8462852 dimmed by almost 1 percent. Its brightness then dropped by an extraordinary 2 percent over just six months, remaining at about that level for the final six months of the mission. The pair then compared this with more than 500 similar stars observed by Kepler and found thata small fraction of them showed fading similar to that seen in KIC 8462852 over the first three years of Kepler images. However, none exhibited such a dramatic dimming in just six months, or a total change in brightness of 3 percent.

“The steady brightness change in KIC 8462852 is pretty astounding,” said Montet. “Our highly accurate measurements over four years demonstrate that the star really is getting fainter with time. It is unprecedented for this type of star to slowly fade for years, and we don’t see anything else like it in the Kepler data.”

At the moment, there is no good theory based on what astronomers know of stellar evolution to explain this star's behavior. This does not mean the only explanation left is that aliens are building a Dyson sphere around the star, but it also leaves everyone at a loss to explain what is happening.
Link to Original Source

Submission + - Sony Reaches Settlement In PlayStation3 "Other OS" Class Action Lawsuit

Dave Knott writes: After six years of litigation, Sony has reached a settlement with the the plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit relating the Sony's removal of Other OS functionality from its PlayStation3 gaming console. Sony and lawyers representing as many as 10 million console owners reached the deal on Friday. Under the terms of the accord, gamers are eligible to receive $55 if they used Linux on the console. The proposed settlement also provides $9 to each console owner that bought a PS3 based on Sony's claims about "Other OS" functionality. The accord did not say how much it would cost Sony, but the entertainment company is expected to pay out millions.

Submission + - Self Driving Cars Could Be Worse for Carbon Emissions writes: David Roberts writes at VOX that it stands to reason that vehicle automation could save energy and reduce emissions in some ways. Cars will be able to chain together more aerodynamically, drive at more consistent speeds, and perhaps serve as shared vehicles in lieu of individual vehicle ownership. But it also stands to reason that automation could increase energy use and emissions in some ways. If driving is easier and more pleasant, people will do it more. Automation will open up car travel to populations (the young, the elderly, the visually or otherwise impaired) who did not previously have access. Self-driving cars could increase the overall amount of vehicle miles traveled.

A new study: "Help or hindrance? The travel, energy and carbon impacts of highly automated vehicles," suggests that the big swing factor is travel cost reduction — in other words, how cheap and easy driving gets. If that stays at the low end, then the effects of self-driving cars on energy use are almost certain to be a substantial net positive. However if it reaches the high end, a 60 percent boost in energy consumption for transportation, all the energy-saving benefits could be wiped out, for a net increase in energy and emissions. "This leads to somewhat surprising policy implications It may be that the socially optimal outcome, at least for now, is partial, not full, automation. That way the energy and emissions benefits of smarter driving practices can be fully captured, without allowing drivers to tune entirely out — without making it too easy," concludes Roberts. "Perhaps when we get farther down the road (ahem) — when more vehicles are electrified, when car sharing is more firmly established, when the benefits of automation have proven out — we can move to full automation without the risk of carbon blowback."

Submission + - Yahoo denies ad-blocking users access to email (

JoeyRox writes: Yahoo is running an A/B test ( that blocks access to Yahoo email if the site detects that the user is running an Ad Blocker. Yahoo informed Engadget that this a trial rather than a new policy, effecting only a "small number" of users. Those lucky users are greeted with a message that reads "Please disable Ad Blocker to continue using Yahoo Mail." Regarding the legality of the move, "Yahoo is well within its rights to do so, said Ansel Halliburton an attorney at Kronenberger Rosenfeld who specializes in Internet law."

Submission + - Thirteen Wikipedia editors sanctioned in mammoth GamerGate arbitration case (

The ed17 writes: The English Wikipedia's Arbitration Committee has closed the colossal GamerGate arbitration case. One editor has been site-banned, while another twelve are subject to remedies ranging from admonishments to broad topic bans and suspended sitebans. Arbitrator Roger Davies told the Signpost that the case was complicated by its size and complexity, including 27 named parties and 41 editors presenting roughly 34,000 words worth of on-wiki evidence—a total that does not include email correspondence.

Submission + - Debian Votes not to Mandate Non-systemd Compatibility

paskie writes: Voting on a Debian General Resolution that would require packagers to maintain support even for systems not running systemd ended tonight with the resolution failing to gather enough support.

This means that some Debian packages could require users to run systemd on their systems in theory — however, in practice Debian still works fine without systemd (even with e.g. GNOME) and this will certainly stay the case at least for the next stable release Jessie.

However, the controversial GR proposed late in the development cycle opened many wounds in the community, prompting some prominent developers to resign or leave altogether, stirring strong emotions — not due to adoption of systemd per se, but because of the emotional burn-out and shortcomings in the decision processes apparent in the wake of the systemd controversy.

Nevertheless, work on the next stable release is well underway and some developers are already trying to mend the community and soothe the wounds.

Submission + - When Snowden speaks, future lawyers (and judges) listen (

TheRealHocusLocus writes: We are witness to an historic 'first': an individual charged with espionage and actively sought by the United States government has been (virtually) invited to speak at Harvard Law School, with applause. HLS Professor Lawrence Lessig conducted the hour-long interview last Monday with a list of questions by himself and his students.

Some interesting jumps are Snowden's assertion that mass domestic intercept is an 'unreasonable seizure' under the 4th Amendment, it also violates 'natural rights' that cannot be voted away even by the majority, a claim that broad surveillance detracts from the ability to monitor specific targets such as the Boston Marathon bombers, calls out Congress for not holding Clapper accountable for misstatements, and laments that contractors are exempt from whistleblower protection though they do swear an oath to defend the Constitution from enemies both foreign and domestic. These points have been brought up before. But what may be most interesting to these students is Snowden's suggestion that a defendant under the Espionage act be permitted to present an argument before a jury that the act was committed "in the public interest". Could this pure-judicial move help ensure a fair trial for whistleblowers whose testimony reveals Constitutional violation?

Professor Lessig wraps up the interview by asking Snowden, Hoodies or Suits? “Hoodies all the way. I hope in the next generation we don't even have suits anymore, they're just gone forever.”

Submission + - Data Mining Shows How Down-Voting Leads To Vicious Circle Of Negative Feedback

KentuckyFC writes: In behavioural psychology, the theory of operant conditioning is the notion that an individual’s future behaviour is determined by the punishments and rewards he or she has received in the past. It means that specific patterns of behaviour can be induced by punishing unwanted actions while rewarding others. While the theory is more than 80 years old, it is hard at work in the 21st century in the form of up and down votes--or likes and dislikes--on social networks. But does this form of reward and punishment actually deter unwanted actions while encouraging good behaviour? Now a new study of the way voting influences online behaviour has revealed the answer. The conclusion is that that negative feedback leads to behavioural changes that are hugely detrimental to the community. Not only do authors of negatively-evaluated content contribute more but their future posts are of lower quality and are perceived by the community as such. What's more, these authors are more likely to evaluate fellow users negatively in future, creating a vicious circle of negative feedback. By contrast, positive feedback does not influence authors much at all. That's exactly the opposite of what operant conditioning theory predicts. The researchers have a better suggestion for social networks: "Given that users who receive no feedback post less frequently, a potentially effective strategy could be to ignore undesired behaviour and provide no feedback at all." Would /.-ers agree?

Submission + - Should Tesla CEO Elon Musk Make Batteries Instead Of Electric Cars?

cartechboy writes: Elon Musk is the CEO and founder of both Tesla Motors and Space X, and in the past he was the founder and CEO of PayPal. You might say he's a busy guy. Tesla seems to be doing quite well these days, but one bond trader thinks Elon should quit making electric cars and should focus his efforts on making batteries. Bond manager Jeffrey Gundlach believes the "killer" return speculative investors could get from Tesla becoming a battery-only business. Gundlach says he's already tried to meet with Musk to persuade him to take the battery-only route. Speaking to Bloomberg, he said Tesla could be "wildly transformational" in the same way electricity and electromagnets were at the advent of their discovery. With strong demand, it seems people are interested in Tesla's vehicles which leads me to believe Elon won't take Gundlach's advice. Should he?

US Climate Report Says Global Warming Impact Already Severe 627

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: "Darryl Fears reports in the Washington Post on the U.S. government's newest national assessment of climate change. It says Americans are already feeling the effects of global warming. The assessment carves the nation into sections and examines the impacts: More sea-level rise, flooding, storm surge, precipitation and heat waves in the Northeast; frequent water shortages and hurricanes in the Southeast and Caribbean; more drought and wildfires in the Southwest. 'Residents of some coastal cities see their streets flood more regularly during storms and high tides. Inland cities near large rivers also experience more flooding, especially in the Midwest and Northeast. Insurance rates are rising in some vulnerable locations, and insurance is no longer available in others. Hotter and drier weather and earlier snow melt mean that wildfires in the West start earlier in the spring, last later into the fall, and burn more acreage. In Arctic Alaska, the summer sea ice that once protected the coasts has receded, and autumn storms now cause more erosion, threatening many communities with relocation.' The report concludes that over recent decades, climate science has advanced significantly and that increased scrutiny has led to increased certainty that we are now seeing impacts associated with human-induced climate change. 'What is new over the last decade is that we know with increasing certainty that climate change is happening now. While scientists continue to refine projections of the future, observations unequivocally show that climate is changing and that the warming of the past 50 years is primarily due to human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases.'"

Submission + - Tesla Gets $34 Million Tax Break, Adds Capacity For 35,000 More Cars

cartechboy writes: The state of California will give Tesla Motors a $34.7 million tax break to expand the company’s production capacity for electric cars, state officials announced yesterday. Basically, Tesla won’t have to pay sales taxes on new manufacturing equipment worth up to $415 million. The added equipment will help Tesla more than double the number of Model S sedans it builds, as well as assemble more electric powertrains for other car makers. In addition to continued Model S production, Tesla plans to introduce the Model X electric crossover in late 2014, as well as a sub-$40,000 car--tentatively called Model E--that could debut as soon as the 2015 Detroit Auto Show. It turns out California is one of the few states to tax the purchase of manufacturing equipment--but the state grants exemptions for 'clean-tech' companies. California estimates this expansion by Tesla will add 112 permanent jobs.

Submission + - Why Charles Stross Wants Bitcoin to Die in a Fire

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: SF writer Charles Stross writes on his blog that like all currency systems, Bitcoin comes with an implicit political agenda attached and although our current global system is pretty crap, Bitcoin is worse. For starters, BtC is inherently deflationary. There is an upper limit on the number of bitcoins that can ever be created so the cost of generating new Bitcoins rises over time, and the value of Bitcoins rise relative to the available goods and services in the market. Libertarians love it because it pushes the same buttons as their gold fetish and it doesn't look like a "Fiat currency". You can visualize it as some kind of scarce precious data resource, sort of a digital equivalent of gold. However there are a number of huge down-sides to Bitcoin says Stross: Mining BtC has a carbon footprint from hell as they get more computationally expensive to generate, electricity consumption soars; Bitcoin mining software is now being distributed as malware because using someone else's computer to mine BitCoins is easier than buying a farm of your own mining hardware; Bitcoin's utter lack of regulation permits really hideous markets to emerge, in commodities like assassination and drugs and child pornography; and finally Bitcoin is inherently damaging to the fabric of civil society because it is pretty much designed for tax evasion. "BitCoin looks like it was designed as a weapon intended to damage central banking and money issuing banks, with a Libertarian political agenda in mind—to damage states ability to collect tax and monitor their citizens financial transactions," concludes Stross. "The current banking industry and late-period capitalism may suck, but replacing it with Bitcoin would be like swapping out a hangnail for Fournier's gangrene."

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