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Multitasking Considered Detrimental 371

djvaselaar sends along an article from The New Atlantis that summarizes recent research indicating that multitasking may be detrimental to work and learning. It begins, "In one of the many letters he wrote to his son in the 1740s, Lord Chesterfield offered the following advice: 'There is time enough for everything in the course of the day, if you do but one thing at once, but there is not time enough in the year, if you will do two things at a time.' To Chesterfield, singular focus was not merely a practical way to structure one's time; it was a mark of intelligence... E-mails pouring in, cell phones ringing, televisions blaring, podcasts streaming--all this may become background noise, like the 'din of a foundry or factory' that [William] James observed workers could scarcely avoid at first, but which eventually became just another part of their daily routine. For the younger generation of multitaskers, the great electronic din is an expected part of everyday life. And given what neuroscience and anecdotal evidence have shown us, this state of constant intentional self-distraction could well be of profound detriment to individual and cultural well-being."

Submission + - Gadets Taking Over Our Brains (

skotte writes: "According to a Trinity College survey released Friday, the boom in mobiles and portable devices that store reams of personal information has created a generation incapable of memorizing simple things. While perhaps not news to slashdotters, the implication is a little unsettling."

Submission + - Bail Denied for Spam King (

Spamicles writes: The man accused of defrauding people with millions of spam emails has been denied bail today. Judge James P. Donohue said Robert Soloway, 27, of Seattle, should remain in jail until his trial scheduled for Aug. 6 because he has minimal ties to Washington state and has family in Sweden. Spamhaus has listed Soloway as one of the 135 spammers that were responsible for up to 80 percent of all spam sent.

Submission + - YouTube to host Presidential Debates (

skotte writes: "Wired is reporting July 23 at the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, Anderson Cooper will host presidential debates in which debaters are asked 20-30 questions culled fFrom a specially designated section of YouTube, where the voting populace can post questions directly. You and I (assuming you're American, probably) can ask questions ourselves, not just a reporter in a crowd. Candidates won't know which questions they are being asked, and the video selection process will remain a complete secret. Interesting, but also the slightest bit scary."

Submission + - IBM loses tapes with former employees' data (

An anonymous reader writes: I was an intern with IBM ten years ago and just today received a letter informing me that tapes containing my and other former employees' data (including social security numbers) were lost on February 23, 2007 while being transported by a vendor. IBM is offering free membership with the ID TheftSmart Enhanced Identity Theft Restoration and Continuous Credit Monitoring program from Kroll Inc for one year for everyone affected. It just goes to show that no matter how long it's been, your personal information in someone else's hands is never safe.

The full text of the letter can be found here.


Submission + - Stephen Hawking Explains Why He Is Going Zero-G

An anonymous reader writes: The BBC asked Stephen Hawking to explain why he is going on a zero-gravity flight, at the age of 65 and disabled from motor neurone disease, when many able-bodied people find the flight physically demanding. Hawking explained that the importance of space to humankind's future is the reason behind his space ventures: 'I think the human race doesn't have a future if it doesn't go into space. I therefore want to encourage public interest in space. A zero-gravity flight is the first step towards space travel.' If his weightless flight goes well, Hawking plans to take a suborbital space flight with Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic.

Feed Well, Look At That: Offshoring Didn't Destroy The Tech Industry (

Back during the recession years, whenever we'd write about how offshoring technology jobs wasn't the big problem people made it out to be, we'd get tons of angry comments. However, the points many of us were making were pretty straightforward. First, offshoring wasn't as cheap as people were making it out to be. The monetary costs would continue to increase as demand increased (which is exactly what happened), but more importantly, the non-monetary costs were a lot higher than people expected. Managing a team halfway around the world isn't easy, and there are lots of problems with it for certain types of projects. In fact, that's exactly what many companies discovered. At the same time, there are clearly cases where offshoring makes sense. It's classic comparative advantage economics at work, where benefits tend to accrue to both sides of the equation. People forget this and think that it's a zero sum game and that a job that goes to India is somehow "lost" forever. However, the value from well done offshoring actually opens up new opportunities and so it should come as no surprise that unemployment for techies is the lowest its been in years. This fits with other recent stories about tech wages at new highs and H1-B visas being exhausted in a single day. The simple fact is that the economy is not a zero sum game. Allowing the economy to grow by letting jobs go where they're most efficient will increase the overall pie and open up plenty of new job opportunities in other places -- which appears to be exactly what's happened. As if to underscore this, now that tech jobs are scarce in the US, those who were complaining about "lost" jobs a few years ago must think that there's less demand in India for skilled tech workers -- but the opposite is true. Tech companies there are also having trouble hiring. In other words, the sector just keeps growing, and having jobs move around doesn't mean that any jobs are permanently "lost." At some point, we'll go through this cycle again, but hopefully next time around people will recognize it for what it is, rather than passing around the blame and pushing Congress to pass protectionist laws that actually shrink the economic opportunity.

Submission + - Tomb of Mary,Joseph & Jesus found?

Aryabhata writes: "MSNBC reports, that this week the Discovery Channel, together with HarperSanFrancisco, will announce the release of "The Jesus Family Tomb," a television documentary and a book that aim to show that the tomb located in a nondescript suburb called East Talpiot, is, well, the family plot of Jesus Christ. Spearheaded by a well-known TV director named Simcha Jacobovici, and produced by "Titanic" director James Cameron, "The Jesus Family Tomb", is a slick and suspenseful narrative about the 1980 discovery of a first-century Jewish burial cave and the 10 bone boxes, or ossuaries, found therein. With the help of statisticians, archeologists, historians, DNA experts, robot-camera technicians, epigraphers and a CSI expert from New York's Long Island, Jacobovici puts together a case in which he argues that the bones of Jesus, Mary and Mary Magdalene, along with some of their lesser-known relatives, were once entombed in this cave."

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PL/I -- "the fatal disease" -- belongs more to the problem set than to the solution set. -- Edsger W. Dijkstra, SIGPLAN Notices, Volume 17, Number 5