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Astrophysicists Identify the Habitable Regions of the Entire Universe

samzenpus posted 13 minutes ago | from the good-neighborhood dept.

Space 1

KentuckyFC writes It's not just star systems and galaxies that have habitable zones--regions where conditions are suitable for life to evolve. Astrophysicists have now identified the entire universe's habitable zones. Their approach starts by considering the radiation produced by gamma ray bursts in events such as the death of stars and the collisions between black holes and so on. Astrobiologists have long known that these events are capable of causing mass extinctions by stripping a planet of its ozone layer and exposing the surface to lethal levels of radiation. The likelihood of being hit depends on the density of stars, which is why the center of galaxies are thought to be inhospitable to life. The new work focuses on the threat galaxies pose to each other, which turns out to be considerable when they are densely packed together. Astronomers know that the distribution of galaxies is a kind of web-like structure with dense knots of them connected by filaments interspersed with voids where galaxies are rare. The team says that life-friendly galaxies are most likely to exist in the low density regions of the universe in the voids and filaments of the cosmic web. The Milky Way is in one of these low density regions with Andromeda too far away to pose any threat. But conditions might not be so life friendly in our nearest knot of galaxies called the Virgo supercluster."

Ask Slashdot: Who Should Pay Costs To Attend Conferences?

samzenpus posted about an hour ago | from the conference-or-else dept.

Businesses 60

An anonymous reader writes I wanted to get your opinion on who should pay the costs associated with attending conferences. In the past, I've covered costs associated with attending some local (in town) conferences, but despite claims to be willing to cover some costs associated with conferences, training, and certifications, my requests have been denied. The short version is I would like to attend a national conference, hosted in Las Vegas, and that while specific to a technology, it is what 90% of my day is related to so its directly work related. My employer has declined to pay some of the costs associated with the conference, but has said if I pay my way, they will pay for the training associated with it. Since this is a pretty hot technology, I'm very interested in getting certified and appreciate their offer.

I should add that I work for a public entity and due to some fairly public issues, we have enjoyed record levels of funding the past couple of years. We know that they cannot afford to continue so we're about to start a multi-year decrease in our budget. My current thoughts are: First, I was working for a company where we faced potential layoffs, getting as close as to within 24 hours of one. Even just having some job security is extremely appreciated. Second, I work in a WONDERFUL environment. They aren't clock punchers, its about getting the job done. We're not micromanaged and have freedom to try new things. For the public sector, I know those are rare things and I appreciate them. Third, I work on a very talented team. I am probably the weakest member, so for me its a perfect learning/growth opportunity. Finally, its not my employer saying the conference isn't important, its looking at the bottom line and that we are a public entity so its not like we can easily raise more money. Tough decisions must be made.

For this particular conference, I decided to try and save up my own money. Unfortunately, my personal life has gotten in the way, so I've resorted to begging. My problem with this is I hate begging, but what am I going to do for future conferences? So should I re-think my acceptance of my employers policy and start looking for a new job? Obviously, it is a personal decision, but I don't have a mentor or close friends to act as sounding boards, so I'd love to hear your thoughts.

How Our Botched Understanding of "Science" Ruins Everything

samzenpus posted 1 hour ago | from the you-keep-using-that-word-I-do-not-think-it-means-what-you-think-it-means dept.

Education 191

An anonymous reader writes "Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry writes at The Week, "If you ask most people what science is, they will give you an answer that looks a lot like Aristotelian 'science' — i.e., the exact opposite of what modern science actually is. Capital-S Science is the pursuit of capital-T Truth. And science is something that cannot possibly be understood by mere mortals. It delivers wonders. It has high priests. It has an ideology that must be obeyed. This leads us astray. ... Countless academic disciplines have been wrecked by professors' urges to look 'more scientific' by, like a cargo cult, adopting the externals of Baconian science (math, impenetrable jargon, peer-reviewed journals) without the substance and hoping it will produce better knowledge. ... This is how you get people asserting that 'science' commands this or that public policy decision, even though with very few exceptions, almost none of the policy options we as a polity have have been tested through experiment (or can be). People think that a study that uses statistical wizardry to show correlations between two things is 'scientific' because it uses high school math and was done by someone in a university building, except that, correctly speaking, it is not. ... This is how you get the phenomenon ... thinking science has made God irrelevant, even though, by definition, religion concerns the ultimate causes of things and, again, by definition, science cannot tell you about them. ... It also means that for all our bleating about 'science' we live in an astonishingly unscientific and anti-scientific society. We have plenty of anti-science people, but most of our 'pro-science' people are really pro-magic (and therefore anti-science). "

Update: Mangalyaan's Main Engine Test Fired, Maven In Orbit

samzenpus posted 1 hour ago | from the all-systems-are-go dept.

Mars 11

William Robinson writes Before the spacecraft is scheduled to enter Mars orbit, Indian Space Research Organization (Isro) scientists reignited the Mars Orbiter Mission spacecraft's main engine for four seconds as a trial. The liquid apogee motor (LAM) engine has been idle for about 300 days since the spacecraft left the Earth's orbit on a Martian trajectory on December 1, 2013. The short-duration test was to ensure that the engine is in good shape for the 24-minute crucial maneuver on Wednesday." In other Mars mission updates, NASA's Maven spacecraft arrived at Mars late Sunday after a 442 million-mile journey that began nearly a year ago.

Nobody's Neutral In Net Neutrality Debate

samzenpus posted 2 hours ago | from the picking-sides dept.

Businesses 61

ygslash writes Michael Wolff at USA Today has a long list of the many stakeholders in the net neutrality debate, and what each has to gain or lose. The net neutrality issue has made its way into the mainstream consciousness, thanks to grassroots activism and some help from John Oliver on HBO. But it's not as simple as just net neutrality idealists versus the cable companies or versus the FCC. One important factor that has raised the stakes in net neutrality is the emergence ("unanticipated" by Wolff, but not by all of us) of the Internet as the primary medium for distribution of video content. And conversely, the emergence of video content in general and Netflix in particular as by far the most significant consumers of Internet bandwidth. So anyone involved in the distribution of video content has a lot to gain or lose by the outcome of the net neutrality struggle.

Kickstarter Lays Down New Rules For When a Project Fails

samzenpus posted 2 hours ago | from the setting-expectations dept.

The Almighty Buck 112

An anonymous reader writes "In a blog post, Kickstarter announced several updates to its terms of use for projects. From the article: "Kickstarter has iterated on its policies several times since it launched in 2009, with the most recent wave of revisions surrounding the site's transition from only posting projects cleared by the staff to clearing all projects that meet a basic set of criteria. Even still, some projects lack clear goals, encounter setbacks, or fail to deliver, like the myIDkey project that has burned through $3.5 million without yet to distributing a finished product. The most recent terms revision is timely: on Thursday, science fiction author Neal Stephenson announced that a game he Kickstarted in 2012 with $526,000 in funding was officially canceled."

Hundreds of Thousands Turn Out For People's Climate March In New York City

samzenpus posted 3 hours ago | from the cooling-things-off dept.

Earth 122

mdsolar writes with an update on the People's Climate March. More than 400,000 people turned out for the People's Climate March in New York City on Sunday, just days before many of the world's leaders are expected to debate environmental action at the United Nations climate summit. Early reports from event organizers are hailing the turnout as the largest climate march in history, far bigger than the Forward on Climate rally held in Washington, D.C., last year. High-profile environmentalists including Bill McKibben, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jane Goodall and Vandana Shiva marched alongside policymakers such as Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and former Vice President Al Gore were also there, and more than 550 buses carried in people from around the country.

The Raid-Proof Hosting Technology Behind 'The Pirate Bay'

timothy posted 4 hours ago | from the pesky-vikings-and-their-lessons dept.

Piracy 94

HughPickens.com writes Ernesto reports at TorrentFreak that despite its massive presence the Pirate Bay doesn't have a giant server park but operates from the cloud, on virtual machines that can be quickly moved if needed. The site uses 21 "virtual machines" (VMs) hosted at different providers, up four machines from two years ago, in part due to the steady increase in traffic. Eight of the VM's are used for serving the web pages, searches take up another six machines, and the site's database currently runs on two VMs. The remaining five virtual machines are used for load balancing, statistics, the proxy site on port 80, torrent storage and for the controller. In total the VMs use 182 GB of RAM and 94 CPU cores. The total storage capacity is 620 GB. One interesting aspect of The Pirate Bay is that all virtual machines are hosted with commercial cloud hosting providers, who have no clue that The Pirate Bay is among their customers. "Moving to the cloud lets TPB move from country to country, crossing borders seamlessly without downtime. All the servers don't even have to be hosted with the same provider, or even on the same continent." All traffic goes through the load balancer, which masks what the other VMs are doing. This also means that none of the IP-addresses of the cloud hosting providers are publicly linked to TPB. For now, the most vulnerable spot appears to be the site's domain. Just last year TPB burnt through five separate domain names due to takedown threats from registrars. But then again, this doesn't appear to be much of a concern for TPB as the operators have dozens of alternative domain names standing by.

Vrvana's Totem HMD Puts a Camera Over Each Eye

timothy posted 7 hours ago | from the translucency-=-50-for-walking dept.

Displays 21

The Verge reports that Montreal startup Vrvana has produced a prototype of its promised (and crowd-funded) VR Totem headset. One interesting aspect of the Totem is the inclusion of front-facing cameras, one over each eye, the output of which can be fed to the displays. Reviewer Mike Futter has worn a prototype, and seems to be generally impressed, writing at Game Informer: Vrvana’s device offers 1080p resolution and features 90-degree field of view (the same as the Project Morpheus, but less than the Oculus Rift's 100-degree FOV), an OLED display, and adjustable lenses that can compensate for lens prescription. The HMD is usable by glasses wearers, but the tuning provides an option for those that don't want to wear corrective lenses while in VR. The system connects via HDMI to any source, and can model 3D (side-by-side) from game consoles as virtual reality right now. The Totem is currently compatible with all Oculus developer kit 1 applications, and Vrvana is working on getting DK2 experiences working. The prototype I wore was a good proof of concept, but didn't yet feature the OLED screen. This led to increased persistence due to the LCD. The head tracking also wasn't perfect, requiring some software tuning to prevent drift (something easily surmountable down the road). The clarity was impressive, rivaling some of the best experiences I've had with a Rift or Morpheus.

Researchers Propose a Revocable Identity-Based Encryption Scheme

timothy posted 10 hours ago | from the now-who-was-I? dept.

Encryption 64

jd writes Identity-based public key encryption works on the idea of using something well-known (like an e-mail address) as the public key and having a private key generator do some wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff to generate a secure private key out if it. A private key I can understand, secure is another matter. In fact, the paper notes that security has been a big hassle in IBE-type encryption, as has revocation of keys. The authors claim, however, that they have accomplished both. Which implies the public key can't be an arbitrary string like an e-mail, since presumably you would still want messages going to said e-mail address, otherwise why bother revoking when you could just change address?

Anyways, this is not the only cool new crypto concept in town, but it is certainly one of the most intriguing as it would be a very simple platform for building mostly-transparent encryption into typical consumer apps. If it works as advertised. I present it to Slashdot readers to engender discussion on the method, RIBE in general and whether (in light of what's known) default strong encryption for everything is something users should just get whether they like it or not.

Small Restaurant Out-Maneuvers Yelp In Reviews War

timothy posted 13 hours ago | from the slumming-with-the-stars dept.

Businesses 188

An anonymous reader writes Yelp has, for the past year or so, garnered a reputation for extorting businesses into paying for advertising on their site. Allegations include incessant calls for advertising contracts, automatic listing of a business, and suppressing good reviews should a business decide to opt out of paying Yelp for listing them. One small Italian trattoria, however, may have succeeded in flipping Yelp's legally sanctioned business practices in its favor. The owners of Botto Bistro in Redmond, CA, initially agreed to pay for advertising on Yelp one year ago apparently because they were tired of getting calls from Yelp's sales team. But even after buying advertising, the owners claim that they kept receiving calls. So they started a campaign to get as many one-star reviews as they could, even offering 25% discounts to customers. As of this writing they have 866, and a casual perusal of them reveals enthusiastic tongue-in-cheek support for the restaurant. One-star reviews, once Yelp's best scare tactic, is now this particular business's badge of quality. And they didn't even have to pay Yelp for it.

2 Mars Missions Set For Arrival, Both Prepare for Orbital Maneuvers

timothy posted yesterday | from the you-can-collude-but-don't-collide dept.

Mars 62

As reported by the BBC, NASA's Maven Mars orbiter has nearly reached the red planet, and will undergo a 33-minute rocket burn to slow its course. Monday's big manoeuvre on Maven's engines will place the satellite in a high, elliptical, 35-hour orbit around the planet. Confirmation of capture should be received on Earth shortly after 0220 GMT (2220 EDT Sunday; 0320 BST). "We should have a preliminary answer within just a few minutes after the end of the burn," said [principal investigator professor Bruce] Jakosky. In the coming weeks, engineers will then work to bring Maven into a regular 4.5-hour, operational orbit that takes the probe as close as 150km to Mars but also sends it out to 6,200km. India's first mission to Mars faces a critical test as it does a similar maneuver -- firing of a rocket to slow its travel as it approaches Mars orbit.

New MRI Studies Show SSRIs Bring Rapid Changes to Brain Function

timothy posted yesterday | from the depressing-thought-or-perhaps-not dept.

Medicine 103

A story at the Los Angeles Times reports that researchers at the Max Planck Institute have found that Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, various of which are widely used in anti-depressant medications, cause changes in healthy subjects' brain architecture just hours after ingestion. As the article mentions, one reason that this rapid change is surprising is that patients taking SSRIs to treat depression typically take considerably longer (weeks) to perceive a change in mood. A slice from the story: When more serotonin was available, this resting state functional connectivity decreased on a broad scale, the study found. This finding was not particularly surprising -- other studies have shown a similar effect in brain regions strongly associated with mood regulation. But there was a two-fold shock: Some areas of the brain appeared to buck the trend and become more interdependent. And all the changes were evident only three hours after the single dosage. ... The rapid connectivity shifts noted by the study might therefore be precursors to longer-term changes, perhaps starting with remodeling of synapses, the microscopic gaps where chemical neurotransmitters such as serotonin flood across to an adjacent brain cell, the study suggests. But this type of brain scanning can’t pick up changes at such a scale, so the hypothesis will have to be tested other ways[.] ... Study subjects did not have diagnoses of depression, so researchers will need to generate similar maps among those diagnosed with depression, and re-map them during and after depressive episodes, as well as after treatment, Sacher said. Comparisons might then show whether a certain initial architecture predicts treatment success.

Trouble In Branson-Land, As Would-Be Space Tourists Get Antsy Over Delays

timothy posted yesterday | from the that's-only-a-few-months dept.

Transportation 74

schwit1 (797399) writes "Rumors are flying that some of the individuals who gave Virgin Galactic deposits for space tourism flights on SpaceShipTwo are demanding their money back. It appears that the most recent delay, revealed by Branson on David Letterman, is the cause." How much would you pay to go to space, if the ticket was only good starting 10 years from now? How about 20? How about, as Branson claims, if it was early next year?

Mark Zuckerberg Throws Pal Joe Green Under the Tech Immigration Bus

timothy posted yesterday | from the sorry-pal dept.

United States 212

theodp (442580) writes "A month after he argued that Executive Action by President Obama on tech immigration was needed lest his billionaire bosses at Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC have to hire 'just sort of OK' U.S. workers, Re/code reports that Joe Green — Zuckerberg's close friend and college roommate — has been pushed out of his role as President of FWD.us for failing to Git-R-Done on an issue critical to the tech community. "Today, we wanted to share an important change with you," begins 'Leadership Change', the announcement from the FWD.us Board that Todd Schulte is the new Green. So what sold FWD.us on Schulte? "His [Schulte's] prior experience as Chief-of-Staff at Priorities USA, the Super PAC supporting President Obama's re-election," assured Zuckerberg in a letter to FWD.us contributors, "will ensure FWD.us continues its momentum for reform." Facebook, reported the Washington Post in 2013, became legally "dependent" on H-1B visas and subject to stricter regulations shortly before Zuckerberg launched FWD.us with Green at the helm."

Ask Slashdot: Is iOS 8 a Pig?

timothy posted yesterday | from the not-intended-to-denigrate-pigs dept.

IOS 441

kyjellyfish writes I've been using iOS 8 for several days and aside from a few gimmicks and add-ons that attempt to achieve parity with Android, my experience has been overwhelmingly unsatisfactory. My chief complaint is that the vast majority of my apps are slow to boot and noticeably sluggish in operation. I want to point out that all of these apps have been "upgraded" specifically for iOS 8 compatibility. Previous operating system upgrades have been relatively seamless, so I'm asking whether other slashdotters have experienced this degraded performance.

Wired Profiles John Brooks, the Programmer Behind Ricochet

timothy posted yesterday | from the bouncy-bouncy dept.

Encryption 47

wabrandsma writes with this excerpt from Wired: John Brooks, who is just 22 and a self-taught coder who dropped out of school at 13, was always concerned about privacy and civil liberties. Four years ago he began work on a program for encrypted instant messaging that uses Tor hidden services for the protected transmission of communications. The program, which he dubbed Ricochet, began as a hobby. But by the time he finished, he had a full-fledged desktop client that was easy to use, offered anonymity and encryption, and even resolved the issue of metadata—the "to" and "from" headers and IP addresses spy agencies use to identify and track communications—long before the public was aware that the NSA was routinely collecting metadata in bulk for its spy programs. The only problem Brooks had with the program was that few people were interested in using it. Although he'd made Ricochet's code open source, Brooks never had it formally audited for security and did nothing to promote it, so few people even knew about it.

Then the Snowden leaks happened and metadata made headlines. Brooks realized he already had a solution that resolved a problem everyone else was suddenly scrambling to fix. Though ordinary encrypted email and instant messaging protect the contents of communications, metadata allows authorities to map relationships between communicants and subpoena service providers for subscriber information that can help unmask whistleblowers, journalists's sources and others.

SpaceX Launches Supplies to ISS, Including Its First 3D Printer

timothy posted yesterday | from the from-fantasy-to-routine dept.

ISS 119

A "flawless" launch early Sunday from Cape Canaveral has sent a load of supplies on its way to the International Space Station aboard a Falcon 9-lofted SpaceX Dragon capsule. Food, care packages and provisions for NASA's astronauts make up more than a third of the cargo onboard Dragon. But the spacecraft also has experiments and equipment that will eventually help scientists complete 255 research projects in total, according to NASA. In Dragon's trunk, there's an instrument dubbed RapidScat, which will be installed outside the space station to measure the speed and direction of ocean winds on Earth. Among the commercially funded experiments onboard Dragon is a materials-science test from the sports company Cobra Puma Golf designed to build a stronger golf club. Dragon is also hauling the first space-grade 3D printer, built by Made in Space, which will test whether the on-the-spot manufacturing technology is viable without gravity.

Fork of Systemd Leads To Lightweight Uselessd

timothy posted yesterday | from the not-big-and-fancy dept.

Open Source 412

An anonymous reader writes A boycott of systemd and other backlash around systemd's feature-creep has led to the creation of Uselessd, a new init daemon. Uselessd is a fork of systemd 208 that strips away functionality considered irrelevant to an init system like the systemd journal and udev. Uselessd also adds in functionality not accepted in upstream systemd like support for alternative C libraries (namely uClibc and musl) and it's even being ported to BSD.

Wanxiang May Give 2012's Fisker Karma a Relaunch

timothy posted yesterday | from the cool-cars-hot-fires dept.

Transportation 42

New submitter sumit sinha notes recent reports that Tesla may soon be joined again by Fisker in the world of high-end, all-electric car makers. According to a Reuters story, the Fisker Karma in something very close to its previously available form may be offered for sale again sometime soon. Says the article: The "new" Karma that California-based Fisker, acquired by Wanxiang earlier this year, is rushing to finish is based largely on the 2012 model, said the people, who asked not to be identified. Wanxiang's top U.S. executive said in February the Karma would be reintroduced within a year. "It will have to be nearly identical to the 2012 model, or it would need to go through (safety) testing and certification again," a person close to Fisker's suppliers said. "I don’t think they want to put a lot of engineering into it either, as well as probably use up some of the old parts that are in inventory." Close, but not exact,: Fisker does not plan to simply reintroduce the 2012 Karma, a source close to Fisker said. “Not 100 percent identical," the person said. "The new Karma will be different in many key areas. It will have noticeable upgrades." He declined to provide details. Using the 2012 Karma design could present problems given it has older features and technologies. "You're not buying something that's considered 'state of the art' necessarily," the supplier source said. "It's a big hurdle to overcome."

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