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Astronomers Solve Puzzle of Mysterious Streaks In Radio Images of the Sky

timothy posted about 6 months ago | from the smudges-on-the-lens dept.

Space 66

KentuckyFC (1144503) writes 'Back in 2012, astronomers constructed an array of 256 radio antennas in the high deserts of New Mexico designed to listen for radio waves produced by gamma ray bursts, one of the most energetic phenomena in universe and thought to be associated with the collapse of a rapidly rotating stars to form neutron stars and black holes. The array generates all sky images of signals produced in the 25 MHz to 75 MHz region of the spectrum. But when researchers switched it on, they began to observe puzzling streaks across the sky that couldn't possibly be generated by gamma ray bursts. One source left a trail covering more than 90 degrees of the sky in less than 10 seconds. This trail then slowly receded to an endpoint which glowed for around 90 seconds. Now the first study of these transient radio signals has discovered that they are almost certainly produced by fireballs as they burn up after entering the Earth's atmosphere. The conclusion comes after the researchers were able to match several of the radio images with visible light images of fireballs gathered by NASA's All Sky Fireball Network. That solves the mystery but not without introducing another to keep astrophysicists busy in future. The question they're scratching their heads over now is how the plasma trails left by meteors can emit radio waves at this frequency.'

Mad Cow Disease Blamed For Patient's Death In Texas

timothy posted about 6 months ago | from the where'd-it-come-from dept.

Medicine 132

An anonymous reader writes 'Health officials say a patient in Texas has died of a rare brain disorder believed to be caused by consumption of beef products contaminated with mad cow disease. It is only the fourth known case of its kind in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement that recent laboratory tests confirmed a diagnosis of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in the patient.' From the article: 'The CDC says the Texas patient's history included extensive travel to Europe and the Middle East and that it is likely the infection occurred overseas. In each of the three previous U.S. deaths, the initial infection is believed to have taken place in other countries. ... The Texas Department of State Health Services says there are no state public health concerns or threats associated with the case. State and federal health officials continue to investigate and are trying to track the source of the infection.'

Apple Acquires Social Search Engine Spotsetter

timothy posted about 6 months ago | from the what-you-did-last-summer dept.

Businesses 21

redletterdave (2493036) writes 'Apple has purchased Spotsetter, a social search engine that uses big data to offer personalized recommendations for places to go. Spotsetter was designed to combine recommendations from friends with trusted reviews and other data to create more social maps. It would show you which friends were 'experts' in a given area, and you could tag your friends as experts (like LinkedIn) to boost the influence of their recommendations. You could also discover new places by browsing Spotsetter's maps to see where your friends have been and what they've recommended. Spotsetter's app, which was available on iOS and Android, officially closed down just six days ago.'

Sparse's Story Illustrates the Potholes Faced By Hardware Start-Ups

timothy posted about 6 months ago | from the oh-you-wanted-them-in-black? dept.

Businesses 103

waderoush (1271548) writes "Hardware is Silicon Valley's new religion. Bits and atoms aren't so different after all, the creed goes; just as the cost and complexity of starting a software company has drastically declined over the last decade, it's now becoming much cheaper and easier to start companies that make physical things. But talk to almost any real hardware company, and you'll discover that the promised land is still some distance away. Sparse, a San Francisco product design startup, learned that the hard way. The company raised $66,000 on Kickstarter for its uber-cool theft-proof bicycle lights, but it took more than a year to deliver the first units to backers, thanks to a string of unforeseen manufacturing and supply-chain snafus. 'We had all the t's crossed and all the i's dotted and still there was a big daily surprise,' says industrial designer Colin Owen, Sparse's co-founder and CEO. Today Sparse is shipping and profitable, with a vision to 'change the face of mobility' for urban cyclists, but its story illustrates just how high the bar still is for aspiring hardware entrepreneurs. Says Owen: 'I wish there was more of a handbook for these things, but the biggest hiccups were very localized and unpredictable.'"

'Pop-Up' Bus Service Learns Boston Riders' Rhythms, Creates Routes Accordingly

timothy posted about 6 months ago | from the it's-like-some-sort-of-hand-you-can't-see dept.

Transportation 51

moglito (1355533) writes with this story about a new take on bus service in Boston, as reported by the New York Times: 'This new-old method of transport has comfortable seats and Wi-Fi. But its real innovation is in its routing. It is a "pop up" bus service, with routes dictated by millions of bits of data that show where people are and where they need to go. The private service uses chartered buses and is run by a start-up technology company called Bridj.' 'Bridj collects millions of bits of data about people's commutes from Google Earth, Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter, LinkedIn, the census, municipal records and other sources. "We crunch these millions and millions of data points through a number of algorithms that are existing, or that we're refining, to tell us where people are living and working," Mr. George said. "And through our special sauce, we're able to determine how a city moves."'

Virginia DMV Cracks Down On Uber, Lyft

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the markets-solve-many-things dept.

Transportation 260

An anonymous reader writes 'Talk about regulatory capture! As radio station WTOP reports, "The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles says that ride services Lyft and Uber are violating state law and must stop operating immediately. The DMV sent cease and desist orders to both companies Thursday." Who benefits most? It's not the people who are voting with their dollars and feet — seems more like the current stable of taxi drivers and others blessed by the state of Virginia. Good thing there's no call for or benefit from greater per-car occupancy, or experimentation more generally with disruptive disintermediation. Given enough bribe money down the road, I'm sure a deal can be struck, though.'

Aspiring Astronaut Gideon Gidori Invents a New Holiday: Star Day (Video)

Roblimo posted about 6 months ago | from the it's-easier-to-make-a-wish-than-to-make-it-come-true dept.

Space 46

Gideon wants to be an astronaut. You could even describe him as "space-obsessed." He wants to be the first astronaut from Tanzania. The only African to make it into space so far is Mark Shuttleworth, who is from South Africa. Can Gideon talk Elon Musk into launching from Tanzania, which is directly on the equator? How about bringing in other space buffs and entrepreneurs? Don't think this is a silly idea. Gideon is only 14, but he's a straight-A student at the Florida Air Academy, and before that was one of the top students at Shepherds Junior School in Arusha, which Mama Lucy Kamptoni originally financed by raising and selling chickens. Gideon's scholarships to Shepherds and later to Florida Air Academy have been financed in part by EpicChange.org, which is also helping him spread the word about Star Day (tomorrow; June 7), the holiday Gideon created, which is being celebrated all over the world even in this, its first year of existence. You can celebrate it, too. All you have to do, weather permitting, is sleep outdoors under the stars, and maybe make a wish or two. After all, wishing (and a lot of studying and hard work) have helped Gideon get to where he is today, and may yet help him become Tanzania's first astronaut.

Parents Mobilize Against States' Student Data Mining

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the you-can-trust-us dept.

Education 139

theodp writes 'Politico reports that parents have mobilized into an unexpected political force to fight the data mining of their children, catapulting student privacy to prominence in statehouses. Having already torpedoed the $100 million, Bill Gates-funded inBloom database project, which could have made it easier for schools to share confidential student records with private companies, the amateur activists are now rallying against another perceived threat: huge state databases being built to track children for more than two decades, from as early as infancy through the start of their careers. "The Education Department," writes Stephanie Simon, "lists hundreds of questions that it urges states to answer about each child in the public school system: Did she make friends easily as a toddler? Was he disciplined for fighting as a teen? Did he take geometry? Does she suffer from mental illness? Did he go to college? Did he graduate? How much does he earn?" Leonie Haimson, a NY mother who is organizing a national Parent Coalition for Student Privacy says, "Every parent I've talked to has been horrified. We just don't want our kids tracked from cradle to grave." For their part, ed tech entrepreneurs and school reformers are both bewildered by and anxious about the backlash — and struggling to craft a response, having assumed parents would support their vision: to mine vast quantities of data for insights into what's working, and what's not, for individual students and for the education system as a whole. "People took for granted that parents would understand [the benefits], that it was self-evident," said Michael Horn, a co-founder an education think tank."

Driver Study: People Want Fewer Embedded Apps, Just Essentials That Work Easily

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the good-news-for-apple dept.

Transportation 148

Lucas123 writes 'A study released at the Telematics Detroit 2014 conference revealed the obvious: Most people don't want more distracting embedded apps in their cars; they just want essential apps like navigation and music to be intuitive to use and reliable. Part of the study involved a focus group of 46 people who were asked to evaluate infotainment systems from three luxury car makers and four "mass consumer" car makers. The drivers were asked to do three things: Navigate home, find a pizza shop and find a radio station. Only 40% were able to complete all three tasks. Not surprisingly, the highest rated infotainment system was Tesla because its icons were "large" and it was easy to figure out.'

Tetris Turns 30

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the supply-of-long-straight-tetrominos-still-strained dept.

Classic Games (Games) 36

An anonymous reader writes "Wildly popular video game Tetris launched 30 years ago today, and continues to capture the hearts of folks around the world. Topping best-of video game lists for years, the colorful block puzzle has sold an estimated 170 million copies—about 100 million of which are played on mobile devices."

The Sci-Fi Myth of Killer Machines

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the so-say-we-all dept.

Sci-Fi 222

malachiorion writes: "Remember when, about a month ago, Stephen Hawking warned that artificial intelligence could destroy all humans? It wasn't because of some stunning breakthrough in AI or robotics research. It was because the Johnny Depp-starring Transcendence was coming out. Or, more to the point, it's because science fiction's first robots were evil, and even the most brilliant minds can't talk about modern robotics without drawing from SF creation myths. This article on the biggest sci-fi-inspired myths of robotics focuses on R.U.R, Skynet, and the ongoing impact of allowing make-believe villains to pollute our discussion of actual automated systems."

Xanadu Software Released After 54 Years In the Making

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the get-off-his-lawn dept.

Software 90

redletterdave writes: "'Project Xanadu,' designed by hypertext inventor Ted Nelson to let users build documents that automatically embed the sources they're linking back to and show the visible connections between parallel webpages, was released in late April at a Chapman University event. Thing is, development on Xanadu began in 1960 — that's 54 years ago — making it the most delayed software in history. 'At its simplest, Xanadu lets users build documents that seamlessly embed the sources which they are linking back to, creating, in Nelson's words, "an entire form of literature where links do not break as versions change; where documents may be closely compared side by side and closely annotated; where it is possible to see the origins of every quotation; and in which there is a valid copyright system - a literary, legal and business arrangement - for frictionless, non-negotiated quotation at any time and in any amount." The version released on the internet, named OpenXanadu, is a simple document created using quoted sections from eight other works, including the King James Bible and the Wikipedia page on Steady State Theory.'"

Lose Sleep, Fail To Form Memory

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the expect-dupes-if-i-miss-my-nap dept.

Medicine 85

Rambo Tribble writes: 'A research team of Chinese and American scientists claim to have witnessed the mechanism by which sleep contributes to the formation of memories. Using advanced microscopy, the researchers witnessed synapses being formed in the brain of sleeping mice recently exposed to a learning task (abstract). They compared this to similarly tasked mice, that were subsequently sleep-deprived. The sleeping mice showed a marked increase in the formation of new synapses. As one researcher explained, "We thought sleep helped, but it could have been other causes, and we show it really helps to make connections and that in sleep the brain is not quiet, it is replaying what happened during the day and it seems quite important for making the connections.'''

Fixing the Humanities Ph.D.

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the start-calling-it-word-engineering dept.

Education 325

An anonymous reader writes "A new report from the Modern Language Association focuses on the decline of Ph.D. programs in the humanities over the past several years. "These programs have gotten both more difficult and less rewarding: today, it can take almost a decade to get a doctorate, and, at the end of your program, you're unlikely to find a tenure-track job." According to the report, 40% of new Ph.D.s won't be able to find tenure-track jobs, and many of the rest won't manage to receive tenure at all. "Different people will tell you different stories about where all the jobs went. Some critics think that the humanities have gotten too weird—that undergrads, turned off by an overly theoretical approach, don't want to participate anymore, and that teaching opportunities have disappeared as a result. ... Others point to the corporatization of universities, which are increasingly inclined to hire part-time, 'adjunct' professors, rather than full-time, tenure-track ones, to teach undergrads. Adjuncts are cheaper; perhaps more importantly, they are easier to hire." The MLA doesn't want to reduce enrollments, but they think the grad school programs should be quicker to complete and dissertations should be shorter and less complex."

Whom Must You Trust?

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the mainly-just-late-night-infomercial-spokepeople dept.

Crime 120

CowboyRobot writes: 'In ACM's Queue, Thomas Wadlow argues that "Whom you trust, what you trust them with, and how much you trust them are at the center of the Internet today." He gives a checklist of what to look for when evaluating any system for trustworthiness, chock full of fascinating historical examples. These include NASA opting for a simpler, but more reliable chip; the Terry Childs case; and even an 18th century "semaphore telegraph" that was a very early example of steganographic cryptography. From the article: "Detecting an anomaly is one thing, but following up on what you've detected is at least as important. In the early days of the Internet, Cliff Stoll, then a graduate student at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories in California, noticed a 75-cent accounting error on some computer systems he was managing. Many would have ignored it, but it bothered him enough to track it down. That investigation led, step by step, to the discovery of an attacker named Markus Hess, who was arrested, tried, and convicted of espionage and selling information to the Soviet KGB."'

Lego To Produce Three Box Sets Featuring Female Scientists

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the also-known-as-scientists dept.

Science 208

vossman77 writes: 'According to the Chicago Tribune, "Lego will produce a limited-edition box set called Research Institute, featuring three female scientists in the act of learning more about our world and beyond." The concept received 10,000 supporters on the LEGO ideas site. Creator Ellen Kooijman writes in a blog post, "As a female scientist I had noticed two things about the available Lego sets: a skewed male/female minifigure ratio and a rather stereotypical representation of the available female figures. It seemed logical that I would suggest a small set of female mini-figures in interesting professions to make our Lego city communities more diverse." LEGO says, "The final design, pricing and availability are still being worked out, but it's on track to be released August 2014."'

GM Names and Fires Engineers Involved In Faulty Ignition Switch

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the bet-you-didn't-think-you'd-be-in-the-headlines-for-ignoring-an-email dept.

Transportation 307

An anonymous reader writes 'Thirteen people have died because of faulty ignition switches in General Motors vehicles. The company has recalled 2.6 million cars, paid a $35 million fine, and set up a fund to compensate the victims. Now, an internal investigation into the incident has shown that the company was aware of the problem since 2002. 15 employees have been fired over what CEO Mary Barra calls "misconduct and incompetence." The report singles out Ray DeGiorgio, an engineer who allegedly approved a part that did not meet specifications and misled coworkers who were investigating complaints. "He actually changed the ignition switch to solve the problem in later model years of the Cobalt, but failed to document it, told no one, and claimed to remember nothing about the change."

"There's no evidence anyone else knew the switch was out-of-spec at the time, the report says; neither did DeGiorgio tell anyone when issues with the part were brought to his attention multiple times. When one engineer specifically asked DeGiorgio in 2004 whether the switch met torque specifications, DeGiorgio didn't respond. Evidence the investigators gathered showed that he started two e-mails but never sent them. ... Instead, DeGiorgio was consumed by a problem in which cars with the switch were failing to start in cold weather, something the report says was "a personal embarrassment to DeGiorgio.'"'

Intel Confronts a Big Mobile Challenge: Native Compatibility

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the write-once-run-nowhere dept.

Intel 230

smaxp writes: "Intel has solved the problem of ARM-native incompatibility. But will developers bite? App developers now frequently bypass Android's Dalvik VM for some parts of their apps in favor of the faster native C language. According to Intel, two thirds of the top 2,000 apps in the Google Play Store use natively compiled C code, the same language in which Android, the Dalvik VM, and the Android libraries are mostly written.

The natively compiled apps run faster and more efficiently, but at the cost of compatibility. The compiled code is targeted to a particular processor core's instruction set. In the Android universe, this instruction set is almost always the ARM instruction set. This is a compatibility problem for Intel because its Atom mobile processors use its X86 instruction set."

Vodafone Reveals Warrantless Wiretapping

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the confirming-expectations dept.

Communications 73

Charliemopps writes "According to Vodafone, multiple governments have installed equipment that collects data on its customers without a warrant. This includes metadata, location data, and voice. They say, "In a small number of countries, agencies and authorities have direct access to communications data stored within an operator’s network. In those countries, Vodafone will not receive any form of demand for communications data access as the relevant agencies and authorities already have permanent access to customer communications via their own direct link." It's a rather long, and very interesting report. Vodafone also criticized the transparency process: "In our view, it is governments – not communications operators – who hold the primary duty to provide greater transparency on the number of agency and authority demands issued to operators. We believe this for two reasons."'

Cable Companies Use Astroturfing To Fight Net Neutrality

Soulskill posted about 6 months ago | from the if-you-can't-trust-huge-corporations-who-can-you-trust dept.

Network 142

An anonymous reader sends a report from Vice which alleges that a trade group for internet service providers is building support for its crusade against net neutrality by funding opinion pieces and letters that masquerade as legitimate public sentiment. 'A disclosure obtained by VICE from the National Cable and Telecom Association (NCTA), a trade group for ISPs, shows that the bulk of Broadband for America's recent $3.5 million budget is funded through a $2 million donation from NCTA. Last month, Broadband for America wrote a letter to the FCC bluntly demanding that the agency "categorically reject" any effort toward designating broadband as a public utility. It wasn't signed by any internet consumer advocates, as the Sununu-Ford letter suggests. The signatures on the letter reads like a who's who of ISP industry presidents and CEOs, including AT&T's Randall Stephenson, Cox Communications' Patrick Esser, NCTA president (and former FCC commissioner) Michael Powell, Verizon's Lowell McAdam, and Comcast's Brian Roberts. Notably, Broadband for America's most recent tax filing shows that it retained the DCI Group, an infamous lobbying firm that specializes in creating fake citizen groups on behalf of corporate campaigns.'

The Ethics Cloud Over Ballmer's $2 Billion B-Ball Buy

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the dirty-money dept.

The Almighty Buck 398

theodp (442580) writes '"It is hard to imagine any more heinous way of earning money than by benefiting from racism," writes Rick Cohen, who argues that Donald Sterling and the NBA owners are being unjustly enriched by Sterling's racism, which led to the $2 billion sale of the L.A. Clippers to ex-Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, a record-high sum for an NBA team. "Indeed, the only losers in the Sterling affair are the players," adds the NY Times. "What held promise as a possible D-Day in the N.B.A., a day when N.B.A. owners stood up to be counted and voted Donald Sterling out of the league, instead turned into a great day for the status quo." Forbes contributor Robert Wood speculates that if he plays his cards right, Sterling's windfall could be tax-free.'

Evidence of Protoplanet Found On Moon

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the back-in-the-day dept.

Space 105

mrspoonsi (2955715) writes 'Researchers have found evidence of the world that crashed into the Earth billions of years ago to form the Moon. Analysis of lunar rock brought back by Apollo astronauts shows traces of the "planet" called Theia. The researchers claim that their discovery confirms the theory that the Moon was created by just such a cataclysmic collision. The accepted theory since the 1980s is that the Moon arose as a result of a collision between the Earth and Theia 4.5bn years ago. It is the simplest explanation, and fits in well with computer simulations. The main drawback with the theory is that no one had found any evidence of Theia in lunar rock samples. Earlier analyses had shown Moon rock to have originated entirely from the Earth whereas computer simulations had shown that the Moon ought to have been mostly derived from Theia. Now a more refined analysis of Moon rock has found evidence of material thought to have an alien origin.'

Snowden Rallies Privacy Advocates In New York City

samzenpus posted about 6 months ago | from the fight-the-power dept.

Privacy 72

An anonymous reader writes 'Mass global surveillance "isn't just an American problem, this is a global problem," Edward Snowden told the Personal Democracy Forum (PDF) conference in New York on Thursday. Appearing via video call from Moscow, Snowden spoke with John Perry Barlow, cofounder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in front of a crowd of hundreds gathered in downtown Manhattan. Barlow announced the launch of the Courage Foundation, an organization dedicated to financially supporting Snowden's considerable legal battles. "I'm afraid we've descended to this point," Barlow said, "But why do animals lick their genitals? Because they can. Why do governments do this? Because they can't lick their own." "They're licking ours," Snowden quipped, "and taking pictures."'

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