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sciencehabit writes To probe the dawn of time, astronomers usually peer far away; but now they've made a notable discovery close to home. An ancient star a mere thousand light-years from Earth bears chemical elements that may have been forged by the death of a star that was both extremely massive and one of the first to arise after the big bang. If confirmed, the finding means that some of the universe's first stars were so massive they died in exceptionally violent explosions that altered the growth of early galaxies.
vinces99 writes with news about a study that may account for a slowdown in air temperature rises. Following rapid warming in the late 20th century, this century has so far seen surprisingly little increase in the average temperature at the Earth's surface. More than a dozen theories have now been proposed for the so-called global warming hiatus, ranging from air pollution to volcanoes to sunspots. New research from the University of Washington shows the heat absent from the surface is plunging deep in the north and south Atlantic Ocean, and is part of a naturally occurring cycle. The study is published in Science. Subsurface ocean warming explains why global average air temperatures have flatlined since 1999, despite greenhouse gases trapping more solar heat at the Earth's surface. "Every week there's a new explanation of the hiatus," said corresponding author Ka-Kit Tung, a UW professor of applied mathematics and adjunct faculty member in atmospheric sciences. "Many of the earlier papers had necessarily focused on symptoms at the surface of the Earth, where we see many different and related phenomena. We looked at observations in the ocean to try to find the underlying cause." What they found is that a slow-moving current in the Atlantic, which carries heat between the two poles, sped up earlier this century to draw heat down almost a mile (1,500 meters). Most previous studies focused on shorter-term variability or particles that could block incoming sunlight, but they could not explain the massive amount of heat missing for more than a decade.
Zothecula writes We've been hearing a lot about the development of tiny flying sensor-equipped robots, that could be sent into areas such as disaster sites to seek out survivors or survey the damage. However, why go to the trouble of designing those robots from scratch, when there are already ready-made insects that are about the right size? That's the thinking behind research being conducted at North Carolina State University, which is aimed at converting moths into "biobots".
cartechboy writes Tesla's Superchargers are the talk of the electric car community. These charging stations can take a Model S battery pack from nearly empty to about 150 miles of range in around 30 minutes. That's crazy fast, and it's nothing short of impressive. But what does it take to actually build a Tesla Supercharger site? Apparently a lot of digging. A massive trench is created to run high-capacity electric cables before the charging stations themselves are even installed. A diagram and photos of the Electric Conduit Construction build out have surfaced on the Internet. The conduits connect the charging stations to a power distribution center, which in turn is connected to a transformer that provides the power for charging cars. It took 11 days to install the six charging stalls in Goodland, Kansas. If you thought it was a quick process to build a Supercharger station, you were clearly wrong.
tlhIngan writes Municipal broadband is in the news again — this time Chief of Staff Matthew Berry, speaking at the National Conference of State Legislatures, has endorsed states' right to ban municipal broadband networks and warned the (Democrat-led) FCC to not do anything that a future Republican led FCC would dislike. The argument is that municipal broadband discourages private investment in broadband communications, that taxpayer-funded projects are barriers to future infrastructure investment.
metasonix writes: As if the problems brought up during the recent 2014 Wikimania conference weren't enough, now Wikipedia is having an outright battle between its editor and administrator communities, especially on the German-language Wikipedia. The Wikimedia Foundation, currently flush with cash from its donors, keeps trying to force flawed new software systems onto the editor community, who has repeatedly responded by disabling the software. This time, however, Foundation Deputy Director Erik Moeller had the bright idea to create a new level of page protection to prevent the new software from being disabled. "Superprotection" has resulted in an outright revolt on the German Wikipedia. There has been subsequent coverage in the German press, and people have issued demands that Moeller, one of Wikipedia's oldest insiders, be removed from his job. One English Wikipedia insider started a change.org petition demanding the removal of superprotection."
An anonymous reader writes: A new research paper (PDF) outlines security software that scans and scrapes web sites (past and present) to identify patterms leading up to a security breach. It then accurately predicts what websites will be hacked in the future. The tool has an accuracy of up to 66%. Quoting: "The algorithm is designed to automatically detect whether a Web server is likely to become malicious in the future by analyzing a wide array of the site's characteristics: For example, what software does the server run? What keywords are present? How are the Web pages structured? If your website has a whole lot in common with another website that ended up hacked, the classifier will predict a gloomy future. The classifier itself always updates and evolves, the researchers wrote. It can 'quickly adapt to emerging threats.'"
schwit1 writes: Managers of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) are searching for a mission that they can propose and convince Congress to fund. "Once SLS is into the 2020s, the launch rate should see the rocket launching at least once per year, ramping up to a projected three times per year for the eventual Mars missions. However, the latter won’t be until the 2030s. With no missions manifested past the EM-2 flight, the undesirable question of just how 'slow' a launch rate would be viable for SLS and her workforce has now been asked." Meanwhile, two more Russian rocket engines were delivered yesterday, the first time that's happened since a Russian official threatened to cut off the supply. Another shipment of three engines is expected later this year. In Europe, Arianespace and the European Space Agency signed a contract today for the Ariane 5 rocket to launch 12 more of Europe’s Galileo GPS satellites on three launches. This situation really reminds me of the U.S. launch market in the 1990s, when Boeing and Lockheed Martin decided that, rather than compete with Russia and ESA for the launch market, they instead decided to rely entirely on U.S. government contracts, since those contracts didn’t really demand that they reduce their costs significantly to compete.
Today's videos are parts five and six of our casual interview with Tim O'Reilly, founder of O'Reilly Media and one of the most influential open source boosters around. (You supplied the questions. He supplied the answers.) We had a lot more to say about Tim Tuesday when we ran parts one and two of our video interview with him. Yesterday we ran parts three and four. (Today's alternate Video Links: Video 5 ~ Video 6.)
cranky_chemist sends this report from NPR: "Cancer simply may be here to stay. Researchers at Kiel University, the Catholic University of Croatia and other institutions discovered that hydra — tiny, coral-like polyps that emerged hundreds of millions of years ago — form tumors similar to those found in humans. Which suggests that our cells' ability to develop cancer is "an intrinsic property" that has evolved at least since then — way, way, way before we rallied our forces to try to tackle it, said Thomas Bosch, an evolutionary biologist at Kiel University who led the study, published in Nature Communications in June (abstract) To get ahead of cancer, he said, "you have to interfere with fundamental pathways. It's a web of interactions," he said. "It's very difficult to do." That's why cancer "will probably never be completely eradicated."
walterbyrd writes: Fresh on the heels of the entire Munich and Linux debacle, another story involving Microsoft and free software has popped up across the world, in Chile. A prolific magazine from the South American country says that the powerful Microsoft lobby managed to turn around a law that would allow the authorities to use free software. "An independent member of the Chilean Parliament, Vlado Mirosevic, pushed a bill that would allow the state to consider free software when the authorities needed to purchase or renew licenses. ... A while later, the same member of the Parliament, Daniel Farcas, proposed another bill that actually nullified the effects of the previous one that had just been adopted. To make things even more interesting, some of the people who voted in favor of the first law also voted in favor of the second one. ... The new bill is even more egregious, because it aggressively pushes for the adoption of proprietary software. Companies that choose to use proprietary software will receive certain tax breaks, which makes it very hard for free software to get adopted."
benrothke writes When I got a copy of Social Engineering in IT Security Tools, Tactics, and Techniques by Sharon Conheady, my first thought was that it likely could not have much that Christopher Hadnagy didn't already detail in the definitive text on the topic: Social Engineering: The Art of Human Hacking. Obviously Hadnagy thought differently, as he wrote the forward to the book; which he found to be a valuable resource. While there is overlap between the two books; Hadnagy's book takes a somewhat more aggressive tool-based approach, while Conheady take a somewhat more passive, purely social approach to the topic. There are many more software tools in Hadnagy; while Conheady doesn't reference software tools until nearly half-way through the book. This book provides an extensive introduction to the topic and details how social engineering has evolved through the centuries. Conheady writes how the overall tactics and goals have stayed the same; while the tools and techniques have been modified to suit the times. Keep reading for the rest of Ben's review.
Nerval's Lobster writes When you ask random strangers on the Internet to give you money, there are no guarantees. That's true in almost any scenario, including when video game developers use Kickstarter to crowdfund the creation of a game. While 3,900 or so games have been funded on Kickstarter, more than 7,200 game projects failed to hit their goal. Within those two numbers are some people who fall into both categories: developers who failed to get funding on their first try, but re-launched campaigns and hit their goals. Jon Brodkin spoke with a handful of those indie game developers who succeeded on their second try; many of them used the momentum (and fans) from the first attempt to get a head start on funding the second, and one even adjusted his entire plan based on community feedback. But succeeding the second time also depended on quite a bit of luck.
KentuckyFC writes: Superconductors allow current to flow with zero resistance when cooled below some critical temperature. They are the crucial ingredients in everything from high-power magnets and MRI machines to highly sensitive magnetometers and magnetic levitation devices. But one big problem is that superconductors work only at very low temperatures — the highest is around 150 kelvin (-120 degrees centigrade). So scientists would dearly love to find ways of raising this critical temperature. Now a group of physicists say they've found a promising approach: to build metamaterial superconductors that steer electrons in the same way as other metamaterials steer light to create invisibility cloaks. The inspiration for the work comes from the observation that some high temperature superconductors consist of repeated layers of conducting and dielectric structures. So the team mixed tin — a superconductor at 3.7 kelvin — with the dielectric barium titanate and found that it raised the critical temperature by 0.15 kelvin. That's the first demonstration that superconductors can be thought of as metamaterials. With this proof of principle under their belts, the next step is to look for bigger gains at higher temperatures.
snydeq writes: Most of us gave little thought to the "career" aspect of programming when starting out, but here we are, battle-hardened by hard-learned lessons, slouching our way through decades at the console, wishing perhaps that we had recognized the long road ahead when we started. What advice might we give to our younger self, or to younger selves coming to programming just now? Andrew C. Oliver offers several insights he gave little thought to when first coding: "Back then, I simply loved to code and could have cared less about my 'career' or about playing well with others. I could have saved myself a ton of trouble if I'd just followed a few simple practices." What are yours?
sciencehabit writes: An experimental treatment against an Ebola-related virus can protect monkeys even when given up to 3 days after infection, the point at which they show the first signs of disease. The virus, known as Marburg, causes severe hemorrhagic fever—vomiting, diarrhea, and internal bleeding. In one outbreak, it killed 90% of people it infected. There are no proven treatments or vaccines against it. The new results raise hopes that the treatment might be useful for human patients even if they don't receive it until well after infection. The company that makes the compound, Tekmira, based in Burnaby, Canada, has started a human safety trial of a related drug to treat Ebola virus disease, and researchers hope that it, too, might offer protection even after a patient has started to feel ill. In other Ebola news, the two American aid workers who were infected with the virus while in Liberia have now recovered and been released from the hospital.
hackingbear writes: According to a new Cost-Competitiveness Index, the nations often perceived as having low manufacturing costs — such as China, Brazil, Russia, and the Czech Republic — are no longer much cheaper than the U.S. In some cases, they are estimated to be even more expensive. Chinese manufacturing wages have nearly quintupled since 2004, while Mexican wages have risen by less than 50 percent in U.S. dollar terms, contrary to our long-standing misconception that their labors were being slaved. In the same period, the U.S. wage is essentially flat, whereas Mexican wages have risen only 67%. Not all countries are taking full advantage of their low-cost advantages, however. The report found that global competiveness in manufacturing is undermined in nations such as India and Indonesia by several factors, including logistics, the overall ease of doing business, and inflexible labor markets.
Slashdot regular (and Couchsurfing.org volunteer) Bennett Haselton writes with a report that an anonymous prankster hacked the Couchsurfing.org website and sent spam to about 1 million members, snarkily advertising their commercial arch-rival Airbnb as "the new Couchsurfing." (Read on below for more on the breach.) As of now, the spam's been caught, but not the spammer.
Dave Knott writes: WorldCon 2014 wrapped up in London this last weekend and this year's Hugo Award winners were announced. Notable award winners include:
Best Novel: Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Best Novelette: "The Lady Astronaut of Mars" by Mary Robinette Kowal
Best Novella: "Equoid" by Charles Stross
Best Short Story: "The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere" by John Chu
Best Graphic Story: "Time" by Randall Munroe
Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form): Gravity written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón, directed by Alfonso Cuarón
Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form): Game of Thrones: "The Rains of Castamere" written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by David Nutter
The results of this year's awards were awaited with some some trepidation in the SF community, due to well-documented attempts by some controversial authors to game the voting system. These tactics appear to have been largely unsuccessful, as this is the fourth major award for the Leckie novel, which had already won the 2013 BSFA, 2013 Nebula and 2014 Clarke awards.
Several readers sent word of research into the cost of internet content without ads. They looked at the amount of money spent on internet advertising last year in the U.K., and compared it to the number of U.K. internet users. On average, each user would have to pay about £140 ($230) to make up for the lost revenue of an ad-free internet. In a survey, 98% of consumers said they wouldn't be willing to pay that much for the ability to browse without advertisements. However, while most consumers regard ads as a necessary trade-off to keep the internet free, they will go to great lengths to avoid advertising they do not wish to see. Of those surveyed, 63 per cent said they skip online video ads 'as quickly as possible' – a figure that rises to 75 per cent for 16-24 year olds. Over a quarter of all respondents said they mute their sound and one in five scroll away from the video. 16 per cent use ad blocking software and 16 per cent open a new browser window or tab.
New submitter dszd0g writes The Court of Appeal of the State of California has ruled in Cochran v. Schwan's Home Service that California businesses must reimburse employees who BYOD for work. "We hold that when employees must use their personal cell phones for work-related calls, Labor Code section 2802 requires the employer to reimburse them. Whether the employees have cell phone plans with unlimited minutes or limited minutes, the reimbursement owed is a reasonable percentage of their cell phone bills." Forbes recommends businesses that require cell phone use for employees either provide cell phones to employees or establish forms for reimbursement, and that businesses that do not require cell phones establish a formal policy.
redletterdave (2493036) writes "When Steve Ballmer announced he was stepping down from Microsoft's board of directors, he cited a fall schedule that would "be hectic between teaching a new class and the start of the NBA season." It turns out Ballmer will teach an MBA class at Stanford's Graduate School of Business in the fall, and a class at USC's Marshall School of Business in the spring. Helen Chang, assistant director of communications at Stanford's Business School, told Business Insider that Ballmer will be working with faculty member Susan Athey for a strategic management course called "TRAMGT588: Leading organizations." As for the spring semester, Ballmer will head to Los Angeles — closer to where his Clippers will be playing — and teach a course at University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business. We reached out to the Marshall School, which declined to offer more details about Ballmer's class.
StartsWithABang writes It's the holy grail of modern particle physics: discovering the first smoking-gun, direct evidence for physics beyond the Standard Model. Sure, there are unanswered questions and unsolved puzzles, ranging from dark matter to the hierarchy problem to the strong-CP problem, but there's no experimental result clubbing us over the head that can't be explained with standard particle physics. That is, the physics of the Standard Model in the framework of quantum field theory. Or is there? Take a look at the evidence from the muon's magnetic moment, and see what might be the future of physics.
aarondubrow writes The National Science Foundation today announced two $10 million projects to create cloud computing testbeds — to be called "Chameleon" and "CloudLab" — that will enable the academic research community to experiment with novel cloud architectures and pursue new, architecturally-enabled applications of cloud computing. While most of the original concepts for cloud computing came from the academic research community, as clouds grew in popularity, industry drove much of the design of their architecture. Today's awards complement industry's efforts and enable academic researchers to advance cloud computing architectures that can support a new generation of innovative applications, including real-time and safety-critical applications like those used in medical devices, power grids, and transportation systems.