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  • Plant Breeders Release 'Open Source Seeds'

    mr crypto (229724) writes "A group of scientists and food activists are launching a campaign to change the rules that govern seeds. They're releasing 29 new varieties of crops under a new 'open source pledge' that's intended to safeguard the ability of farmers, gardeners and plant breeders to share those seeds freely."

    130 comments | yesterday

  • Lack of US Cybersecurity Across the Electric Grid

    Lasrick writes: "Meghan McGuinness of the Bipartisan Policy Center writes about the Electric Grid Cybersecurity Initiative, a collaborative effort between the center's Energy and Homeland Security Projects. She points out that over half the attacks on U.S. critical infrastructure sectors last year were on the energy sector. Cyber attacks could come from a variety of sources, and 'a large-scale cyber attack or combined cyber and physical attack could lead to enormous costs, potentially triggering sustained power outages over large portions of the electric grid and prolonged disruptions in communications, food and water supplies, and health care delivery.' ECGI is recommending the creation of a new, industry-supported model that would create incentives for the continual improvement and adaptation needed to respond effectively to rapidly evolving cyber threats. The vulnerability of the grid has been much discussed this last week; McGuinness's recommendations are a good place to start."

    95 comments | 3 days ago

  • CSIRO Scientists' Aquaculture Holy Grail: Fish-Free Prawn Food

    An anonymous reader writes "A team of CSIRO scientists has discovered the holy grail of aquaculture by developing the world's first fish-free prawn food: Novaq. According to the article there is intense global interest in Novaq because it solves one of the farmed prawn industry's biggest problems — its reliance on wild fisheries as a core ingredient in prawn food. The Novaq formula is a closely guarded secret, but it is known that the product is based on microscopic marine organisms. Not only will the new feed introduce greater sustainability into a growth industry but prawns fed on the new diet grow 40% faster and are healthier and more robust."

    116 comments | about a week ago

  • NYC Considers Google Glass For Restaurant Inspections

    New submitter TchrBabe writes: "NYC is now considering equipping its Health Department inspectors with Google Glass to provide a record of restaurant inspections. 'A yearlong pilot program would require 10 percent of the 160 health inspectors to wear video devices — including, possibly, the much-maligned Google goggles — under legislation to be proposed Thursday. "I think it would limit the abuses on both sides of the table, and it would allow for a more objective view by the judge on the violations that have been cited," said bill sponsor Vincent Ignizio.'"

    104 comments | about a week ago

  • To Reduce the Health Risk of Barbecuing Meat, Just Add Beer

    PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) writes "Grilling meat gives it great flavour. This taste, though, comes at a price, since the process creates molecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) which damage DNA and thus increase the eater's chances of developing colon cancer. But a group of researchers led by Isabel Ferreira of the University of Porto, in Portugal, think they have found a way around the problem. When barbecuing meat, they suggest, you should add beer. The PAHs created by grilling form from molecules called free radicals which, in turn, form from fat and protein in the intense heat of this type of cooking. One way of stopping PAH-formation, then, might be to apply chemicals called antioxidants that mop up free radicals. And beer is rich in these, in the shape of melanoidins, which form when barley is roasted." (The paper on which this report is based, sadly paywalled.)

    179 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Study: Exposure To Morning Sunlight Helps Managing Weight

    jones_supa (887896) writes "A new Northwestern Medicine study reports the timing, intensity and duration of your light exposure during the day is linked to your weight — the first time this has been shown. People who had most of their daily exposure to even moderately bright light in the morning had a significantly lower body mass index (BMI) than those who had most of their light exposure later in the day, the study found. It accounted for about 20 percent of a person's BMI and was independent of an individual's physical activity level, caloric intake, sleep timing, age or season. About 20 to 30 minutes of morning light is enough to affect BMI. The senior author Phyllis C. Zee rationalizes this by saying that light is the most potent agent to synchronize your internal body clock that regulates circadian rhythms, which in turn also regulate energy balance. The study was small and short. It included 54 participants (26 males, 28 females), an average age of 30. They wore a wrist actigraphy monitor that measured their light exposure and sleep parameters for seven days in normal-living conditions. Their caloric intake was determined from seven days of food logs. The study was published April 2 in the journal PLOS ONE. Giovanni Santostasi, a research fellow in neurology at Feinberg, is a co-lead author."

    137 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Single-Celled Organism Converted Into Electronic Oscillator For Bio-Computing

    KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "The single-celled organism slime mold, or Physarum polycephalum, is an extraordinary creature. It explores its world by extending protoplasmic tubes into its surroundings in search of food and it does this rather well. Various researchers have exploited this process to show how Physarum can find optimal routes between different places and even solve mazes. Now one researcher has worked out how to use these protoplasmic tubes as clock-like electronic oscillators. His experiment was straightforward. He encouraged the growth of protoplasmic tubes between two blobs of agar sitting on electrical contacts. He then measured the resistance of the tubes at various voltages. This turns out to be about 6 megaohms. But the results show something else too: that the resistance oscillates over a period of about 73 seconds. That's due to the tubes contracting as waves of calcium ions pass through them. So altering the period of oscillation should be possible by influencing the production of calcium ions, perhaps using light or biochemistry. Electronic oscillators are significant because they are basic drivers of almost all active electronic devices. But this guy's goal is bigger than this. The plan is to grow a "Physarum chip" that acts as a general purpose computer, a device that will need some kind of oscillator or clock to co-ordinate activity, just as in an ordinary processor, although speed will not be its chief characteristic."

    34 comments | about two weeks ago

  • FWD.us Wants More H-1B Visas, But 50% Go To Offshore Firms

    theodp writes: "On the day the U.S. began accepting H-1B visa applications for FY2015, Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC stepped up its lobbying efforts for more tech visas even as ComputerWorld reported that the major share of H-1B visas go to offshore outsourcing firms that use visa holders to displace U.S. workers. 'The two largest H-1B users,' notes ComputerWorld, 'are Indian-based, Infosys, with 6,298 visas, and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), with 6,258.' ComputerWorld adds that food and agricultural company Cargill is outsourcing IT jobs to TCS, including 300 in Minnesota, the home of Sen. Amy Klobuchar, sponsor of the I-Squared Act of 2013, which would allow H-1B visa caps to rise to 300,000 annually."

    325 comments | about two weeks ago

  • UN Report: Climate Changes Overwhelming

    iONiUM (530420) writes "'The impacts of global warming are likely to be "severe, pervasive and irreversible", a major report by the UN has warned.' A document was released by the IPCC outlining the current affects on climate change, and they are not good. For specific effects on humans: 'Food security is highlighted as an area of significant concern. Crop yields for maize, rice and wheat are all hit in the period up to 2050, with around a tenth of projections showing losses over 25%.'"

    987 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Million Jars of Peanut Butter Dumped In New Mexico Landfill

    Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "The Guardian reports that a million jars of peanut butter are going to be dumped in a New Mexico landfill and bulldozed over after retailer Costco refused to take shipment of the peanut butter and declined requests to let it be donated to food banks or repackaged or sold to brokers who provide food to institutions like prisons. The peanut butter comes from a bankrupt peanut-processing plant that was at the heart of a salmonella outbreak in 2012 and although 'all parties agreed there's nothing wrong with the peanut butter from a health and safety issue,' court records show that on a 19 March conference call Costco said 'it would not agree to any disposition ... other than destruction.'

    The product was tested extensively and determined to be safe. Costco initially agreed to allowing the peanut butter to be sold, but rejected it as 'not merchantable' because of leaking peanut oil. So instead of selling or donating the peanut butter, with a value estimated at $2.6m, the estate is paying about $60,000 to transport 950,000 jars – or about 25 tons – to the Curry County landfill in Clovis, where public works director Clint Bunch says it 'will go in with our regular waste and covered with dirt'. Despite the peanut butter being safe, Curry County landfill employee Tim Stacy says that no one will be able to consume the peanut butter once it's dumped because it will be immediately rolled over with a bulldozer, destroying the supply. Stacy added more trash will then be dumped on top of the pile. Sonya Warwick, spokeswoman for New Mexico's largest food bank, declined to comment directly on the situation, but she noted that rescued food accounted for 74% of what Roadrunner Food Bank distributed across New Mexico last year. 'Access to rescued food allows us to provide a more well-rounded and balanced meal to New Mexicans experiencing hunger.'"

    440 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Homeopathic Remedies Recalled For Containing Real Medicine

    ananyo (2519492) writes "The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recalled homeopathic remedies made by a company called Terra-Medica because they may contain actual medicine — possibly penicillin or derivatives of the antibiotic." Diluted enough times with pure water, though, maybe these traces would be even more powerful.

    173 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Job Automation and the Minimum Wage Debate

    An anonymous reader writes "An article at FiveThirtyEight looks at the likelihood of various occupations being replaced by automation. It mentions President Obama's proposed increase to the federal minimum wage, saying big leaps in automation could reshape that debate. '[The wage increase] from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour could make it worthwhile for employers to adopt emerging technologies to do the work of their low-wage workers. But can a robot really do a janitor's job? Can software fully replace a fast-food worker? Economists have long considered these low-skilled, non-routine jobs as less vulnerable to technological replacement, but until now, quantitative estimates of a job's vulnerability have been missing from the debate.' Many minimum-wage jobs are reportedly at high risk, including restaurant workers, cashiers, and telemarketers. A study rated the probability of computerization within 20 years (PDF): 92% for retail salespeople, 97% for cashiers, and 94% for waitstaff. There are other jobs with a high likelihood, but they employ fewer people and generally have a higher pay rate: tax preparers (99%), freight workers (99%), and legal secretaries (98%)."

    870 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Ask Slashdot: Moving From Tech Support To Development?

    An anonymous reader writes "My eastern European tech-support job will be outsourced in 6 months to a nearby country. I do not wish to move, having relationship and roots here, and as such I stand at a crossroads. I could take my current hobby more seriously and focus on Java development. I have no degree, no professional experience in the field, and as such, I do not hold much market value for an employer. However, I find joy in the creative problem solving that programming provides. Seeing the cogs finally turn after hours invested gives me pleasures my mundane work could never do. The second option is Linux system administration with a specialization in VMware virtualisation. I have no certificates, but I have been around enterprise environments (with limited support of VMware) for 21 months now, so at the end of my contract with 27 months under my belt, I could convince a company to hire me based on willingness to learn and improve. All the literature is freely available, and I've been playing with VDIs in Debian already.

    My situation is as follows: all living expenses except food, luxuries and entertainment is covered by the wage of my girlfriend. That would leave me in a situation where we would be financially alright, but not well off, if I were to earn significantly less than I do now. I am convinced that I would be able to make it in system administration, however, that is not my passion. I am at an age where children are not a concern, and risks seem to be, at first sight, easier to take. I would like to hear the opinion and experience of fellow readers who might have been in a similar situation."

    133 comments | about a month ago

  • IPCC's "Darkest Yet" Climate Report Warns of Food, Water Shortages

    The Australian reports that "UN scientists are set to deliver their darkest report yet on the impacts of climate change, pointing to a future stalked by floods, drought, conflict and economic damage if carbon emissions go untamed. A draft of their report, seen by the news organisation AFP, is part of a massive overview by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, likely to shape policies and climate talks for years to come. Scientists and government representatives will meet in Yokohama, Japan, from tomorrow to hammer out a 29-page summary. It will be unveiled with the full report on March 31. 'We have a lot clearer picture of impacts and their consequences ... including the implications for security,' said Chris Field of the US’s Carnegie Institution, who headed the probe.

    The work comes six months after the first volume in the long-awaited Fifth Assessment Report declared scientists were more certain than ever that humans caused global warming. It predicted global temperatures would rise 0.3C-4.8C this century, adding to roughly 0.7C since the Industrial Revolution. Seas will creep up by 26cm-82cm by 2100. The draft warns costs will spiral with each additional degree, although it is hard to forecast by how much."

    703 comments | about a month ago

  • Why Buy Microsoft Milk When the Google Cow Is Free?

    theodp writes "Touring a high school with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt informed students they're eating Google 'dog food' because Microsoft's costs money. 'Why would we use Google Docs over like Microsoft Word?' a teacher asked the class. 'Because it's free!' exclaimed a grinning Schmidt. 'Schmidt's comment,' writes GeekWire's Blair Hanley Frank, 'highlights one of the risks Microsoft faces in the academic world. While Microsoft has started offering schools incentives to use Office 365, including free licenses for their pupils, the company is under greater pressure from its competitors. As more schools like Chicago's face budget shortfalls, free and discounted products from companies like Google and Apple, especially when attached to financial assistance, start looking better and better.' Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis said she'd rather see companies pay more in taxes and fund schools that way, rather than relying on their charity or free software."

    409 comments | about a month ago

  • Overuse of Bioengineered Corn Gives Rise To Resistant Pests

    An anonymous reader writes "Though warned by scientists that overuse of a variety of corn engineered to be toxic to corn rootworms would eventually breed rootworms with resistance to its engineered toxicity, the agricultural industry went ahead and overused the corn anyway with little EPA intervention. The corn was planted in 1996. The first reports of rootworm resistance were officially documented in 2011, though agricultural scientists weren't allowed by seed companies to study the engineered corn until 2010. Now, a recent study has clearly shown how the rootworms have successfully adapted to the engineered corn. The corn's continued over-use is predicted, given current trends, and as resistance eventually spreads to the whole rootworm population, farmers will be forced to start using pesticides once more, thus negating the economic benefits of the engineered corn. 'Rootworm resistance was expected from the outset, but the Bt seed industry, seeking to maximize short-term profits, ignored outside scientists.'"

    259 comments | about a month ago

  • Gates Warns of Software Replacing People; Greenspan Says H-1Bs Fix Inequity

    dcblogs writes "Bill Gates and Alan Greenspan, in separate forums, offered outlooks and prescriptions for fixing jobs and income. Gates is concerned that graduates of U.S. secondary schools may not be able stay ahead of software automation. 'These things are coming fast,' said Gates, in an interview with the American Enterprise Institute 'Twenty years from now labor demand for a lots of skill sets will be substantially lower, and I don't think people have that in their mental model.' Meanwhile, former Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan believes one way to attack income inequity is to raise the H-1B cap. If the program were expanded, income wouldn't necessarily go down much, but it would go down enough to make an impact. Income inequality is a relative concept, he argued. People who are absolutely at the top of the scale in 1925, for instance, would be getting food stamps today, said Greenspan. 'You don't have to necessarily bring up the bottom if you bring the top down.'"

    516 comments | about a month ago

  • Conservation Communities Takes Root Across US

    Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Kate Murphy reports at the NYT about a growing number of so-called agrihoods, residential developments where a working farm is the central feature, in the same way that other communities may cluster around a golf course, pool or fitness center. At least a dozen projects across the country are thriving, enlisting thousands of home buyers who crave access to open space, verdant fields and fresh food. 'I hear from developers all the time about this,' says Ed McMahon. 'They've figured out that unlike a golf course, which costs millions to build and millions to maintain, they can provide green space that actually earns a profit.'

    Agritopia, outside Phoenix, has sixteen acres of certified organic farmland, with row crops (artichokes to zucchini), fruit trees (citrus, nectarine, peach, apple, olive and date) and livestock (chickens and sheep). Fences gripped by grapevines and blackberry bushes separate the farm from the community's 452 single-family homes, each with a wide front porch and sidewalks close enough to encourage conversation. The hub of neighborhood life is a small square overlooking the farm, with a coffeehouse, farm-to-table restaurant and honor-system farm stand. The square is also where residents line up on Wednesday evenings to claim their bulging boxes of just-harvested produce, eggs and honey, which come with a $100-a-month membership in the community-supported agriculture, or CSA, program.

    'Wednesday is the highlight of my week,' says Ben Wyffels. 'To be able to walk down the street with my kids and get fresh, healthy food is amazing.' Because the Agritopia farm is self-sustaining, no fees are charged to support it, other than the cost of buying produce at the farm stand or joining the CSA. Agritopia was among the first agrihoods — like Serenbe in Chattahoochee Hills, Ga.; Prairie Crossing in Grayslake, Ill.; South Village in South Burlington, Vt.; and Hidden Springs in Boise, Idaho. 'The interest is so great, we're kind of terrified trying to catch up with all the calls,' says Quint Redmond adding that in addition to developers, he hears from homeowners' associations and golf course operators who want to transform their costly-to-maintain green spaces into revenue-generating farms. Driving the demand, Redmond says, are the local-food movement and the aspirations of many Americans to be gentlemen (or gentlewomen) farmers. 'Everybody wants to be Thomas Jefferson these days.'"
    The city of Detroit is planning a 26.9-acre urban farm project on one of its vacant high school properties. Produce from the project will be included in meals for students in the district and later to the larger community.

    116 comments | about a month ago

  • Meat Makes Our Planet Thirsty

    Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Mames McWilliams writes in the NYT that with California experiencing one of its worst droughts on record, attention has naturally focused on the water required to grow popular foods such as walnuts, broccoli, lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, almonds and grapes. 'Who knew, for example, that it took 5.4 gallons to produce a head of broccoli, or 3.3 gallons to grow a single tomato? This information about the water footprint of food products — that is, the amount of water required to produce them — is important to understand, especially for a state that dedicates about 80 percent of its water to agriculture.' But for those truly interested in lowering their water footprint, those numbers pale next to the water required to fatten livestock. Beef turns out to have an overall water footprint of roughly four million gallons per ton produced (PDF). By contrast, the water footprint for "sugar crops" like sugar beets is about 52,000 gallons per ton; for vegetables it's 85,000 gallons per ton; and for starchy roots it's about 102,200 gallons per ton.

    There's also one single plant that's leading California's water consumption and it's one that's not generally cultivated for humans: alfalfa. Grown on over a million acres in California, alfalfa sucks up more water than any other crop in the state. And it has one primary destination: cattle. 'If Californians were eating all the beef they produced, one might write off alfalfa's water footprint as the cost of nurturing local food systems. But that's not what's happening. Californians are sending their alfalfa, and thus their water, to Asia.' Alfalfa growers are now exporting some 100 billion gallons of water a year from this drought-ridden region to the other side of the world in the form of alfalfa.

    Beef eaters are already paying more. Water-starved ranches are devoid of natural grasses that cattle need to fatten up so ranchers have been buying supplemental feed at escalating prices or thinning their herds to stretch their feed dollars. But McWilliams says that in the case of agriculture and drought, there's a clear and accessible actions most citizens can take: Changing one's diet to replace 50 percent of animal products with edible plants like legumes, nuts and tubers results in a 30 percent reduction in an individual's food-related water footprint. Going vegetarian reduces that water footprint by almost 60 percent. 'It's seductive to think that we can continue along our carnivorous route, even in this era of climate instability. The environmental impact of cattle in California, however, reminds us how mistaken this idea is coming to seem.'"

    545 comments | about a month ago

  • Low-Protein Diet May Extend Lifespan

    sciencehabit writes "A new theory about the foods that can extend life is taking shape, and it's sure to be a controversial one. Two studies out this week, one in mice (PDF) and another primarily in people (PDF), suggest that eating relatively little protein and lots of carbohydrates — the opposite of what's urged by many human diet plans, including the popular Atkins Diet — extends life and fortifies health."

    459 comments | about a month and a half ago

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