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Big Dipper "Star" Actually a Sextuplet System 88

Theosis sends word that an astronomer at the University of Rochester and his colleagues have made the surprise discovery that Alcor, one of the brightest stars in the Big Dipper, is actually two stars; and it is apparently gravitationally bound to the four-star Mizar system, making the whole group a sextuplet. This would make the Mizar-Alcor sextuplet the second-nearest such system known. The discovery is especially surprising because Alcor is one of the most studied stars in the sky. The Mizar-Alcor system has been involved in many "firsts" in the history of astronomy: "Benedetto Castelli, Galileo's protege and collaborator, first observed with a telescope that Mizar was not a single star in 1617, and Galileo observed it a week after hearing about this from Castelli, and noted it in his notebooks... Those two stars, called Mizar A and Mizar B, together with Alcor, in 1857 became the first binary stars ever photographed through a telescope. In 1890, Mizar A was discovered to itself be a binary, being the first binary to be discovered using spectroscopy. In 1908, spectroscopy revealed that Mizar B was also a pair of stars, making the group the first-known quintuple star system."
Operating Systems

Should the Linux Desktop Be "Pure?" 665

jammag writes "According to Matt Hartley, many Linux desktop users don't like to admit that there's scads of closed source code commonly used with the Linux desktop. Hartley points to examples like proprietary drivers, the popularity of Skype among Linux users (in preference to the open source Ekiga), and the use of Wine. He concludes that, hey, if the code works, use it — a stance that won't sit well with purists. But his article raises the question: is it better to embrace some closed source fixes, and so create a larger user base, or to remain pure, and keep Linux for the specialists?"

Is Open Source Recession Proof? 285

DaMan writes "ZDNet asks Is open source recession proof? 'So, how might a recession affect open source software? Well, first off, I think that any business model that relies on volunteers could certainly see interest decline if times get tough. There are a lot of businesses that rely on people working for them for free because they get a pay check somewhere else, and I think that a recession would make people question working without getting any dollars in return.'"

Did Insects Kill the Dinosaurs? 184

Ponca City, We Love You writes "Asteroid impacts, massive volcanic flows, and now biting, disease-carrying insects have been put forward as an important contributor to the demise of the dinosaurs. In the Late Cretaceous the world was covered with warm-temperate to tropical areas that swarmed with blood-sucking insects. A theory explored by researchers at Oregon State suggests these bugs carried leishmania, malaria, intestinal parasites, arboviruses and other pathogens. Repeated epidemics may have slowly-but-surely worn down dinosaur populations while ticks, mites, lice and biting flies tormented and weakened them. 'After many millions of years of evolution, mammals, birds and reptiles have evolved some resistance to these diseases,' says Researcher George Poinar. 'But back in the Cretaceous, these diseases were new and invasive, and vertebrates had little or no natural or acquired immunity to them.' The confluence of new insect-spread diseases, loss of traditional food sources, and competition for plants by insect pests could all have provided a lingering, debilitating condition that dinosaurs were ultimately unable to overcome."

Morality — Biological or Philosophical? 550

loid_void writes to mention The New York Times is reporting that Biologists are making a bid on the subject of morality. "Last year Marc Hauser, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard, proposed in his book 'Moral Minds' that the brain has a genetically shaped mechanism for acquiring moral rules, a universal moral grammar similar to the neural machinery for learning language. In another recent book, 'Primates and Philosophers,' the primatologist Frans de Waal defends against philosopher critics his view that the roots of morality can be seen in the social behavior of monkeys and apes."

What is Apple Without Steve Jobs? 281

necro81 writes "David Pauly at Bloomberg has written a piece that asks 'Does Apple Inc. Have a Future Without Steve Jobs?' He writes in the context of Jobs' latest success in launching the iPhone, set against the backdrop of stock backdating troubles. In Pauly's worst-case-scenario, the SEC prosecutes Apple, and the board is forced to oust Jobs.Even without resorting to such scenarios, it's an interesting question to ask the fanboys and detractors out there: could Apple succeed and continue to innovative without Jobs at the helm?"

Are IT Job Titles Getting Out of Control? 209

grudgelord asks: "Information technology jobs have always been difficult for those from non-technical disciplines to understand. However, in recent years it has become difficult for even IT professionals to divine the actual responsibilities of a given position's role as job titles become increasingly more nebulous and the descriptions more buzz-wordy. At one time, we all had a reasonable grasp of the role of a 'System Administrator' or 'Helpdesk Technician' but now such roles may actually have significant DBA or developer responsibilities bundled into a lesser job title (such as the recent trend of 'Desktop Support Techs' with SQL DBA responsibilities), often robbing the holder of a fair position (and traditionally better paid) title on the résumé. Are these trends a contrivance by corporations to get more 'value' from IT professionals by bundling responsibilities of higher paid jobs into lesser roles and to evade competitive salary by creating titles that have no analogue on pay-scale indexes? Has there ever been a proposed standard for information technology position titles (or at least some form of translation guide)? How do Slashdot job searchers contend with these wildly varying, and increasingly vague titles that seem to have saturated the industry, or worse, when they've been festooned with an inaccurate or absurd job title?"

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