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Submission + - How Employers Get Out of Paying Their Workers writes: We love to talk about crime in America and usually the rhetoric is focused on the acts we can see: bank heists, stolen bicycles and cars, alleyway robberies. But Zachary Crockett writes at Pricenomics that wage theft one of the more widespread crimes in our country today — the non-payment of overtime hours, the failure to give workers a final check upon leaving a job, paying a worker less than minimum wage, or, most flagrantly, just flat out not paying a worker at all. Most commonly, wage theft comes in the form of overtime violations. In a 2008 study, the Center for Urban Economic Development surveyed 4,387 workers in low-wage industries and found that some 76% of full-time workers were not paid the legally required overtime rate by their employers and the average worker with a violation had put in 11 hours of overtime—hours that were either underpaid or not paid at all. Nearly a quarter of the workers in the sample came in early and/or stayed late after their shift during the previous work week. Of these workers, 70 percent did not receive any pay at all for the work they performed outside of their regular shift. In total, unfairly withheld wages in these three cities topped $3 billion. Generalizing this for the rest of the U.S.’s low-wage workforce (some 30 million people), researchers estimate that wage theft could be costing Americans upwards of $50 billion per year.

Last year, the Economic Policy Institute made what is, to date, the most ambitious attempt to quantify the extent of reported wage theft in the U.S.and determined that “the total amount of money recovered for the victims of wage theft who retained private lawyers or complained to federal or state agencies was at least $933 million.” Obviously, the nearly $1 billion collected is only the tip of the wage-theft iceberg, since most victims never sue and never complain to the government. Commissioner Su of California says wage theft has harmed not just low-wage workers. “My agency has found more wages being stolen from workers in California than any time in history,” says Su. “This has spread to multiple industries across many sectors. It’s affected not just minimum-wage workers, but also middle-class workers.”

Comment Re:Fast track (Score 4, Informative) 355

This article suggests the most likely source for the quote commonly attributed to Socrates was actually crafted by a student, Kenneth John Freeman, for his Cambridge dissertation published in 1907.

Looking at the digital copy of the dissertation linked in the above article, it looks like the source for the Socrates quote is a combination of two sections of text on page 74 of the disertation.

Socrates quote from grandparent:
“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”

Quote noted as misattributed to Socrates and suggested as paraphrased from Aristophanes at end of wiki link from parent:
The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.

Excerpt from Kenneth John Freeman's 1907 dissertation:
[Lines 5-7] "The counts of the indictment are luxury, bad manners, contempt for authority, disrespect to elders, and a love for chatter in place of exercise. [Lines 19-21] Children began to be the tyrants, not the slaves, of their households. They no longer rose from their seats when an elder entered the room; they contradicted their parents, chattered before company, gobbled up the dainties at table, and committed various offences against Hellenic tastes, such as crossing their legs. They tyrannised over the paidagogoi and schoolmasters."

Submission + - Marching to the Beat of Two Different Drummers (

sciencehabit writes: Almost all organisms, from bacteria to mammals, have a circadian clock—a mechanism in their cells which keeps them in sync with Earth’s day-and-night cycle. But many organisms follow other rhythms as well. Now, new research provides the first evidence that animals have molecular cycles independent of the circadian rhythm. They include a sea louse whose swimming patterns sync up with the tides, and a marine worm that matures and spawns in concert with the phases of the moon. The discoveries suggest that noncircadian clocks might be common and could explain a variety of biological rhythms.

Submission + - Ask Slashdot: Has Gmail's SSL certificate changed, and how would we know?

An anonymous reader writes: Recent reports from around the 'net suggest that SSL certificate chain for gmail has either changed this week, or has been widely compromised. Even in less-than-obvious places to look for information, such as Google's Online Security Blog, are silent. At the moment, the blind are leading the blind to blindly trust the new certificates in order to see the dancing bunnies in their emails. The problem isn't specific to gmail, of course, which leads me to ask: What is the canonically-accepted out-of-band means by which a new SSL certificate's fingerprint may be communicated and/or verified by end users?

Comment Re:You're testing wrong (Score 3, Informative) 177

The paper that comes to my mind when I read your post is:

Soon, C. S.; Brass, M.; Heinze, H.-J. & Haynes, J.-D. (2008). Unconscious determinants of free decisions in the human brain. Nature Neuroscience, 11, 5, 543-545, doi:10.1038/nn.2112 (article paywalled but a quick google provides an alternative link to the article PDF).

I've a small collection of references for scientific "mind reading" studies I've gathered over the years, so if it's not the one you're thinking of, give me some more details and I might be able to dig it up for you.

Comment Re:Missing something? (Score 2) 89

Seems that in the "virtual reality" experiment, the rat views the return trip as a 2nd one-way trip, instead of a return trip. This could be explained by the lack of some sense due to the limited inputs (no acceleration, for example) and the rat brain does not really think it has moved.

This is one of the most interesting findings of the study. In the real-world the rats turn themselves round 180 degrees when they reach the end of the tracks. In the virtual world, the environment is turned 180 degrees while the rats remain pointed in the same direction. This suggests that the visual cues provided by the rotation of the virtual environment around the rat are not sufficient to persuade the rat that it is now running in the opposite direction. This gets us a little closer to understanding what sensory inputs the rat is using to determine its location. This study strongly suggests that the rat's perceived direction of motion is what makes the place cells behave differently in the real and virtual worlds.

However, we still don't know whether the rat is using primarily visual cues or primarily self-motion cues. In the visual case, the difference in place cell behaviour between real and virtual worlds might be explained by the rat transforming the visual cues from the side walls to account for its reversed direction of travel in the real world (making the location visually similar from both directions). In the virtual world, the rat might think it is going in the same direction and therefore not transform the visual cues (making the location visually different from each direction). In the self-motion case, the rat could be keeping a "dead reckoning" estimate of position travelled from the ends of the track. In the real world, the rat might increment its position when travelling from left to right and decrement its position when travelling from right to left. In the virtual world the rat might be incrementing its position from the ends in both directions, as its perceived direction of travel might be unchanged. However, this would probably require the rat to reset its perceived position to the "start" of the track when it reaches the "end" of the track in the virtual world, but not in the real world. This may not be plausible.

The fact that over twice the number of place cells are active in the real-world compared to the virtual world is also interesting. The idea is that place cells combine a range of inputs to fire consistently in one spatial location, letting the rat know where it is on an internal "map" of the environment. The fact that so many fewer place cells fire in the absence of cues from certain senses (e.g. vestibular, whisker, smell) could suggest that that the importance of these inputs varies significantly across place cells. Alternatively, it might be possible that multiple place cells encode unique properties of a location as perceived by different senses. I am somewhat familiar with the literature on place cells, but I am not sure whether we know if each location is uniquely coded for by a single place cell. My understanding is that each experiment can only record from a small number of place cells at once, so it would be unlikely for studies to simultaneously record from different place cells that code for the same spatial location (assuming they exist).

IANANBIWWS (I Am Not A Neurocientist But I Work With Some)

Submission + - Hacking a medical practice 2

An anonymous reader writes: I manage a few computers for an independent private medical practice connected to a hospital network. Recently I discovered repeated attempts to access these computers. After adjusting the firewall to drop connections from the attacking computers, I reported the presumed hacker IP to hospital IT. I was told that the activity was conducted by the hospital corporation for security purposes. The activity continues. It has included attempted fuzzing of a web server, buffer overrun attacks, attempts to access a protected database, attempts to get the password file, etc. The doctors want to maintain a relationship with the hospital and are worried that involving law enforcement would destroy the relationship. What would you advise the doctors to do next?

Comment Re:Is a uniwheel car possible? (Score 1) 140

Not a car, but the RYNO is a pretty cool one-wheeled motorbike (direct link to video - main riding segment starts 3 minutes in). As far as I can tell, it uses an active balancing system rather than a gyroscope. It featured on Slashdot back in 2011. Back then production was expected sometime in 2012 and the eventual cost was expected to be $3,500-$4000 (with pre-production models going for $25,000!). Production "begins January 2013" according to the website, so maybe you'll be able to buy one soon :o)

Comment Currently a *very* limited replacement (Score 1) 102

From the article: "Each smartphone in the network can operate up to about 100 feet away from its nearest neighbor. VoIP works over up to 5 hops."

By my maths, that gives phone calls over about 500 feet (152 metres). Point to point communication using cheap PMR446 radios would do a better job if the mobile network went down, with a range of up to a few kilometres in open space and a few hundred metres in the city (though channel collisions might be more of an issue than with VOIP over wifi). These are as cheap as £15 for a pair. Heck, I could probably just about shout over 150 metres :oP

I will grant that the key benefit of this approach is that it works with the phone you have, and working with the equipment you have is pretty much the only option for communication for the general populace in an emergency (such as the earthquake in Haiti that motivated this work). However, you would need to have a suitable ad-hoc VOIP system that can run on a local (not connected to the internet) network and ideally connect using mobile phone numbers as VOIP identities (a bit like a distributed version of Viber).

However, the article notes that the mobile infrastructure was still operational, just overwhelmed by sheer weight of traffic. It is therefore also likely that some internet connectivity remained as both often rely on similar backhaul connectivity. In this case, having phones that can connect to the mobile network via wifi access points (e.g. UMA) would also have helped, assuming that the network "crash" was a bandwidth or connection density issue and not a crash of the backend subscriber management systems. Orange in the UK have this technology deployed, but the number of compatible handsets is very low. As pointed out by others, offloading a portion of calls and data over internet connections makes sense for the operators in non-disaster conditions too, reducing contention for limited bandwidth. I for one would like to see UMA technology become standard in all wifi capable smartphones.

Submission + - Scientology on Trial in Belgium (

dgharmon writes: "After a years long legal battle, federal prosecutors in Belgium now believe their investigation is complete enough to charge the Church of Scientology and its leaders as a criminal organization on charges of extortion, fraud, privacy breaches, and the illegal practice of medicine .. The Belgian government won't charge Scientology for being a cult — authorities are focusing on prosecuting it as a criminal organization" ...

Submission + - Origin of Neil Armstrong's 'One Small Step' Line Revealed (

SchrodingerZ writes: "In an upcoming BBC Documentary, Dean Armstrong, the brother of astronaut Neil Armstrong, reveals when the world famous 'one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind' line originated. For years, people have argued over when Armstrong came up with the line, whether it was on the spot or planned years ahead. Also debated is whether Armstrong meant to include 'a' before man, making the indefinite article 'man', which alludes to mankind, into a singular, 'a man', himself. According to Dean Armstrong, the quote was shared to him over a board game, months before the mission began. He says, 'We started playing Risk and then he [Neil] slipped me a piece of paper and said 'read that’. I did. On that piece of paper there was 'That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind’. He says 'what do you think about that?’ I said 'fabulous’. He said 'I thought you might like that, but I wanted you to read it’. He then added: 'It was 'that is one small step for A man’'. Armstrong had always insisted that he had said 'a', that that it was lost in communication static. This new story however conflicts with what Neil told James Hansen for his biography, stating he came up with the quote on the lunar surface. More on the historic moon landing and the life of Neil Armstrong in the new documentary Neil Armstrong- First Man on the Moon, on BBC."

Submission + - MIT Rsearch Shows New Type of Magnetism (

itwbennett writes: "From the article: 'Researchers at MIT and other institutions have demonstrated a new type of magnetism, only the third kind ever found, and it may find its way into future communications, computing and data storage technologies. Working with a tiny crystal of a rare mineral that took 10 months to make, the researchers for the first time have demonstrated a magnetic state called a QSL (quantum spin liquid), according to Massachusetts Institute of Technology physics professor Young Lee. He is the lead author of a paper on their findings, which is set to be published in the journal Nature this week. Theorists had said QSLs might exist, but one had never been demonstrated before.'"

Comment Re:He might not think it works, but IS a politicia (Score 3, Informative) 526

If you read the Early Day Motion he signed in 2007, he says is that he "believes that complementary medicine has the potential to offer clinically-effective and cost-effective solutions to common health problems faced by NHS patients" (emphasis mine). To be fair, he was only one of 206 MPs (including such luminaries as Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister) who signed the motion. That's almost a third of British MPs who believe the NHS should be spending upwards of £4 million* per year treating sick people with something that works no better than a sugar pill.

* This is from the £12 million 2005-2008 expenditure figures for homeopathy obtained by Channel 4, which apparently doesn't include the running costs of the NHS homeopathic hospitals that the Early Day Motion is supporting.

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This is clearly another case of too many mad scientists, and not enough hunchbacks.