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Nerval's Lobster writes As a trend, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge seems a bit played out—who hasn't yet dumped a bucket of icy water over his or her head for charity? But that didn't stop Canadian chemist Muhammad Qureshi from executing his own sublimely scientific, potentially dangerous variation on the theme: After donating to the ALS Association, he proceeded to douse himself with a bucket of liquid nitrogen. Anyone who's taken a chemistry class, or at least watched the end of Terminator 2, knows that liquid nitrogen can rapidly freeze objects, leaving them brittle and prone to shattering. Pouring it on your skin can cause serious frostbite. So what prevented that bucketful of liquid nitrogen from transforming Qureshi into a popsicle? In two words: Leidenfrost effect. Named after 18th century scientist Johann Gottlob Leidenfrost, the effect is when a liquid comes near a mass that's much warmer than the liquid's boiling point, which (in the words of Princeton's helpful physics explainer) results in an insulating vapor layer that "keeps that liquid from boiling rapidly." In other words, the vapor makes the liquid "float" just above the surface of the object, rather than coming into direct contact with it.
jfruh writes Oracle and the state of Oregon are in the midst of a particularly nasty set of lawsuits over the botched rollout of Oregon's health care exchange site, with Oregon claiming that Oracle promised an "out-of-the-box solution" and Oracle saying that Oregon foolishly attempted to act as its own systems integrator. But one aspect of the dispute helps illustrate an unpleasant reality of these kinds of disputes: even as Oregon tries to extract damages from Oracle, it still needs Oracle's help to salvage the site.
Esther Schindler writes "You're not alone in your struggle against people who think a shell is something you hold to your ear," writes Carol Pinchefsky. "Other techies are out there supporting users in remote offices, fighting the good fight against computer- and user-related mishaps – or at least tolerating user frustration with a modicum of grace." One example she gives is a tech support person whose systems in Brazil went down — during Carnival: "...We had to wait more than a week for the locals to sober up enough to reconnect the line. In the end, I had to walk a tech (who did not know the system) through the process step by step via an interpreter. Of course, the interpreter was not technical. So it was kind of like explaining to your mom to tell your grandfather (who is hard of hearing) how to do something while she is on the phone and he is across the room from her."
skade88 notes an interesting new piece of tactile feedback technology unveiled in Japan. Officials of Miraisens, a high-tech firm based outside Tokyo, said the technology, which can be used to improve the gaming experience or allow someone to physically shape objects that exist only on a computer, will soon be available for purchase. "Touching is an important part of human communication, but until now virtual reality has lacked it," Chief Executive Natsuo Koda said. "This technology will give you a sense that you can touch objects in the 3-D world," said Koda, a former virtual reality researcher for Sony Corp. It works by fooling the brain, blending what the eye sees with different patterns of vibration created by a small fingertip device, said Norio Nakamura, the inventor of so-called 3D-Haptics Technology and chief technical officer at the firm. In one demonstration of a prototype head-mounted display, the company showed how the wearer can feel resistance by pushing virtual buttons.
Zothecula writes The problem with nuclear waste is that it needs to be stored for many thousands of years before it's safe, which is a tricky commitment for even the most stable civilization. To make this situation a bit more manageable, Hitachi, in partnership with MIT, the University of Michigan, and the University of California, Berkeley, is working on new reactor designs that use transuranic nuclear waste for fuel; leaving behind only short-lived radioactive elements.
An anonymous reader writes Verizon has agreed to pay $7.4 million because it did not notify customers before using their personal information in marketing campaigns. The FCC discovered that Verizon failed to alert around two million customers of rights that include telling customers how to opt out from having their personal information used. "In today's increasingly connected world, it is critical that every phone company honor its duty to inform customers of their privacy choices and then to respect those choices," Travis LeBlanc, Acting Chief of the FCC's Enforcement Bureau said.
Lasrick writes Mark Gubrud has a fascinating piece arguing for the U.S. to lead the way in calling for a ban on the testing of hypersonic missiles, a technology that the U.S. has been developing for decades. China has also started testing these weapons, which proponents optimistically claim would not be used to deliver nuclear weapons. Russia, India, and a few other countries are also joining in the fray, so a ban on testing would stop an arms race in its tracks. The article discusses the two types of hypersonic technology, and whether that technology has civilian applications.
pbahra writes One of the greatest emotional triggers at any auto-racing event is the noise. In Nascar, it is the earthshaking growl of V8 American muscle. In Formula One, it is the chest-rattling wail of 15,000 rpm. To some the sound is repellent. To others it is like an opera. But what if there is no sound at all? Welcome to the quiet world of Formula E, a global racing series for electric cars, which debuts this month in Beijing.
First time accepted submitter Mikenan writes Tesla has finally decided that it will build its battery "gigafactory" in Nevada, sources say. "That's a go, but they are still negotiating the specifics of the contract," a source within the Nevada's governor's office told CNBC Wednesday afternoon. The source noted that it could be a week before the deal is official. Nevada is planning a press conference Thursday in Carson City.
An anonymous reader writes Samsung has launched a virtual reality headset called Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition. It uses the new Galaxy Note 4 for a screen and technology from Oculus VR. The headset comes with four visual settings that simulate experiences such as sitting in a theater or being on stage. Despite partnering with Oculus, the Gear VR won't run Oculus apps, but Samsung says porting titles over shouldn't be too hard. From the article: "This is Oculus' first consumer product and, bizarrely, it's on a Samsung device. Oculus VR CTO John Carmack personally led the mobile software development team at Oculus, and the software interface is all built in collaboration with Samsung. It's basic: Point a reticle in the middle of the screen at what you want to select and tap the touchpad to select it. The options are sparse and base level, and the only content management that exists right now is a store of sorts. It looks like the Google Play store to an extent, except it's floating in space.
jjp9999 writes A college degree may not the best route when it comes to jobs in coding. Jobs for computer science majors flow aplenty, yet employers (and job-seekers) often learn quickly that the college grads don't have the skills. "This is because the courses taught in virtually all computer science curriculums focus on theory, and they only dabble in teaching practical programming skills," says Cody Scholberg on Epoch Times. This ties into a unique factoid in the world of programmers. Nearly half of the software developers in the United States do not have a college degree. Many never even graduated from high school. Instead, many aspiring programmers are turning to open source learning materials, or to the new programming bootcamps popping up around the United States. While theory does have its place, the situation raises the question of whether colleges are teaching the right skills people need to join the workforce, and what its place is amid the rise of open source learning.
astroengine writes Using a new mapping technique that takes into account the motions — and not just the distances — of nearby galaxies, astronomers discovered that the Milky Way is located in the suburb of a massive, previously unknown super-cluster they named Laniakea, a term from Hawaiian words meaning "immeasurable heaven." Actually, Laniakea's girth is measurable, though difficult to conceptualize. The super-cluster spans 520 million light-years in diameter, more than five times larger than the cluster previously believed to be the Milky Way's cosmic home.
IonOtter (629215) writes Matt Haughey, founder of MetaFilter, has challenged a Cease & Desist letter from Sundance Vacations, a seller of time-shares with a reputation for aggressive sales tactics and suppression of criticism. Only this time, it seems that the plaintiff may have forged court documents ordering Mr. Haughey, Facebook, Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines to remove any and all mentions of the links and posts in question. Legal blog Popehat has picked this up as well, prompting Ken White to wryly note, "...Sundance Vacations is about to learn about the Streisand Effect." The story is gaining traction, and being picked up by Boing-Boing, as well as hitting the first page of search results on Google.
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Once stashed in warehouses in Maryland and North Carolina, images and video captured from orbit by some of NASA's first environmental satellites in the mid-1960s are now yielding a trove of scientific data. The Nimbus satellites, originally intended to monitor Earth's clouds in visible and infrared wavelengths, also would have captured images of sea ice, researchers at the University of Colorado's National Snow and Ice Data Center realized when they heard about the long-lost film canisters in 2009. After acquiring the film—and then tracking down the proper equipment to read and digitize its 16-shades-of-gray images, which had been taken once every 90 seconds or so—the team set about scanning and then stitching the images together using sophisticated software. So far, more than 250,000 images have been made public, including the first image taken by Nimbus-1 on 31 August 1964, of an area near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. Besides yielding a wealth of sea ice data, the data recovery project, which will end early next year, could also be used to extend satellite records of deforestation and sea surface temperatures."
MTorrice (2611475) writes "Researchers have harnessed that heat from a computer CPU to run the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to amplify DNA in a blood sample. The team developed software that cycles the temperature of the CPU to drive PCR's three distinct steps.The method allowed them to detect miniscule amounts of DNA from a pathogenic parasite that causes Chagas disease. They hope their technique will lead to low-cost diagnostic tests in developing countries." (Always good to put waste heat to a practical purpose.)
An anonymous reader writes Akamai Technologies is alerting enterprises to a high-risk threat of IptabLes and IptabLex infections on Linux systems. Malicious actors may use infected Linux systems to launch DDoS attacks against the entertainment industry and other verticals. The mass infestation of IptabLes and IptabLex seems to have been driven by a large number of Linux-based web servers being compromised, mainly by exploits of Apache Struts, Tomcat and Elasticsearch vulnerabilities. Attackers have used the Linux vulnerabilities on unmaintained servers to gain access, escalate privileges to allow remote control of the machine, and then drop malicious code into the system and run it. As a result, a system could then be controlled remotely as part of a DDoS botnet. The full advisory is available for download only with registration, but the (Akamai-owned) Prolexic page to do so is quite detailed.
New submitter yorgo writes The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) will soon publish part 4 of a 5 part series of software testing standards. According to the website, "ISO/IEC/IEEE 29119 Software Testing is an internationally agreed set of standards for software testing that can be used within any software development life cycle or organisation." However, many in the testing community are against it. Some wonder how the ISO/IEC/IEEE achieved consensus without their input. James Bach speculates that exclusion helped build consensus. Others, such as Iain McCowatt, argue that something as variable as software testing cannot be standardized, at all. And others believe that the motive behind the standards is not increased quality, but economic benefit, instead. Michael Bolton explains "rent-seeking" as he builds on James Christie's CAST 2014 presentation, "Standards – promoting quality or restricting competition?"
A comprehensive list of many other arguments, viewpoints, and information has been collected by Huib Schoots. Opponents of ISO 29119 have even started a petition aimed at suspending publication of the standard. Even so, this might be an losing battle. Gil Zilberfeld thinks that companies will take the path of least resistance and accept ISO 29119.
So, where do you stand? What constitutes a consensus? Can a standard be honored without consensus? Can an inherently sapient activity, such as testing, be standardized, at all? What is the real purpose of a standard? Will companies acquiesce and adopt the standard without question?
Hamsterdan notes that Apple has posted an update to its investigation into the recently celebrity photo leak, which was attributed to a breach of iCloud. Apple says the leak was not due to any flaw in iCloud or Find My iPhone, but rather the result of "a targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions." Despite this, Wired reports that hackers on an anonymous web board have been openly discussing a piece of software designed for use by law enforcement. Whether it was involved in the celebrity attacks or not, it's currently being used to impersonate a user's device in order to download iCloud backups.
"For Apple, the use of government forensic tools by criminal hackers raises questions about how cooperative it may be with Elcomsoft. The Russian company’s tool, as Zdziarski describes it, doesn't depend on any 'backdoor' agreement with Apple and instead required Elcomsoft to fully reverse engineer Apple’s protocol for communicating between iCloud and its iOS devices. But Zdziarski argues that Apple could still have done more to make that reverse engineering more difficult or impossible." Meanwhile, Nik Cubrilovic has waded into the data leak subculture that led to this incident and provides insight into the tech and the thinking behind it.
Czech37 writes SELinux lead Dan Walsh wrote last month that Docker "containers do not contain" and that the host system isn't completely protected. Today, Walsh details the steps that Docker, Red Hat, and the open source community are taking to make Docker more secure: "Basically, we want to put in as many security barriers to break out as possible. If a privileged process can break out of one containment tool, we want to block them with the next. With Docker, we are want to take advantage of as many security components of Linux as possible. If "Docker" isn't a familiar word, the project's website is informative; the very short version is that it's a Linux-based "open platform for developers and sysadmins to build, ship, and run distributed applications"; Wikipedia has a good explanation, too.
Bennett Haselton writes: I would be in favor of a regulation requiring cell phone stores to have replacement phones on hand, for any phone model covered by a customer's insurance policy. Then customers who have insurance protection on their phones could get the damaged phones replaced instantly, and the replacement phones that are normally mailed out by overnight mail to customers under their protection plan, could instead be mailed to the stores to replace the one they just gave out to the customer. Read on for the rest of Bennett's thoughts
Randy Davis sends analysis of Amazon's acquisition of Twitch.tv, a move that indicates higher ambitions than simply another avenue for putting products in front of consumers. The Daily Herald think this is a sign Amazon is bulking up for a fight with cable companies, strengthening is bargaining position for getting (and maintaining) access to subscribers. "There are very few places in the U.S. where these four giant carriers allow independent networks carrying traffic from the data centers run by Amazon (and future Twitch.tv successors) to put that data on the carriers' controlled networks."
A related article at the NY Times argues Amazon is "betting on content," not wanting to fall behind the surge of new media productions from companies like Netflix. "There is a huge land grab for nontraditional models of programming. DreamWorks Animation bought AwesomenessTV, a popular YouTube channel, last year, and in March, Disney snatched up Maker Studios, a video supplier for YouTube, while Peter Chernin, formerly president of News Corporation, has invested in Crunchyroll, a streaming hub of anime. All of these deals are about content, but they are also a hedge, a way of exploring other production protocols that don’t involve prominent stars, agents and expensive producers." A different piece at The Motley Fool takes the acquisition as confirmation Amazon is developing its own ad network.
jfruh writes A U.S. appeals court cleared Yelp of charges of extortion related to its interaction with several small businesses who claim Yelp demanded that they pay for advertising or face negative reviews. While Yelp says it never altered a business rating for money, the court's finding was instead based on a strict reading of the U.S. extortion law, classifying Yelp's behavior as, at most, "hard bargaining." Interestingly, the EFF supported Yelp here, arguing that "Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) protects online service providers from liability and lawsuits over user-generated content, except in very narrow circumstances where the providers created or developed content themselves. In its amicus brief, EFF argued that mere conjecture about contributing content – like there was in this case – is not enough to allow a lawsuit to go forward."
An anonymous reader writes The Google Quantum AI Team has announced that they're bringing in a team from the University of California at Santa Barbara to build quantum information processors within the company. "With an integrated hardware group the Quantum AI team will now be able to implement and test new designs for quantum optimization and inference processors based on recent theoretical insights as well as our learnings from the D-Wave quantum annealing architecture." Google will continue to work with D-Wave, but the UC Santa Barbara group brings its own areas of expertise with superconducting qubit arrays.
An anonymous reader writes "Moon+ Pro Reader, FBReader, Kindle, you name it--many popular Android e-book apps can run on a smartphone available for $20 and shipping. The trick is to respect the device's limits and keep down the number of apps you install. This fun isn't for eager multitaskers. On the bright side, the $20 phone can do Acapela TTS, includes a 4GB memory card and works with cards of up to 32GB--easily enough for scads of pre-loaded books. Plus, the WiFi is great. And the screen of 3.2 inches isn't that much smaller than the 3.5 inchers on the older iPads. What could cell phone e-reading mean in the many "book deserts" of the U.S.? And how about the U.K. where miserly pols are closing libraries even though the Guardian says "a third of UK children do not own a single book and three-quarters claim never to read outside school"? The smartphone post on the LibraryCity site tells how librarians and others could start "cell phone book clubs" to promote the discovery and absorption of books as well as smarter use of technology."
An anonymous reader writes: The second of two lawsuits filed against the U.S. government regarding domestic mass surveillance, ACLU vs. Clapper, was heard on Tuesday by "a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit." The proceeding took an unprecedented two hours (the norm is about 30 minutes), and C-SPAN was allowed to record the whole thing and make the footage available online (video). ACLU's lawyers argued that mass surveillance without warrants violates the 4th Amendment, while lawyers for the federal government argued that provisions within the Patriot Act that legalize mass surveillance without warrants have already been carefully considered and approved by all three branches of government. The judges have yet to issue their ruling.
aarondubrow writes: We're entering an era where we'll increasingly coexist with robots and other intelligent machines — some of which may look like us. Not only is there a growing number of industrial robots (about 1.5 million today), there are 10 million Roombas in our homes, porter-bots in our hospitals and hotels, social robots in our nursing homes and even robot spectators at baseball games in Japan, tele-operated by remote fans.
Theater is not an arena that we typically associate with robots, however, artists, musicians and producers are often early adopters and innovative users of emerging technologies. In fact, robots got their name from the 1920 play, R.U.R., by the Czech playwright, Karel Capek. An article in the Huffington Post describes a panel discussion at the National Academy of Science in June that featured the producers of three recent plays that starred robots. The plays highlight our robot anxieties, while offering new visions for human-robot interactions in the future.