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Mathematicians Study Effects of Gerrymandering On 2012 Election

samzenpus posted 5 hours ago | from the fix-is-in dept.

Math 227

HughPickens.com writes Gerrymandering is the practice of establishing a political advantage for a particular party by manipulating district boundaries to concentrate all your opponents' votes in a few districts while keeping your party's supporters as a majority in the remaining districts. For example, in North Carolina in 2012 Republicans ended up winning nine out of 13 congressional seats even though more North Carolinians voted for Democrats than Republicans statewide. Now Jessica Jones reports that researchers at Duke are studying the mathematical explanation for the discrepancy. Mathematicians Jonathan Mattingly and Christy Vaughn created a series of district maps using the same vote totals from 2012, but with different borders. Their work was governed by two principles of redistricting: a federal rule requires each district have roughly the same population and a state rule requires congressional districts to be compact. Using those principles as a guide, they created a mathematical algorithm to randomly redraw the boundaries of the state's 13 congressional districts. "We just used the actual vote counts from 2012 and just retabulated them under the different districtings," says Vaughn. "If someone voted for a particular candidate in the 2012 election and one of our redrawn maps assigned where they live to a new congressional district, we assumed that they would still vote for the same political party."

The results were startling. After re-running the election 100 times with a randomly drawn nonpartisan map each time, the average simulated election result was 7 or 8 U.S. House seats for the Democrats and 5 or 6 for Republicans. The maximum number of Republican seats that emerged from any of the simulations was eight. The actual outcome of the election — four Democratic representatives and nine Republicans – did not occur in any of the simulations. "If we really want our elections to reflect the will of the people, then I think we have to put in safeguards to protect our democracy so redistrictings don't end up so biased that they essentially fix the elections before they get started," says Mattingly. But North Carolina State Senator Bob Rucho is unimpressed. "I'm saying these maps aren't gerrymandered," says Rucho. "It was a matter of what the candidates actually was able to tell the voters and if the voters agreed with them. Why would you call that uncompetitive?"

Google Should Be Broken Up, Say European MPs

samzenpus posted yesterday | from the breaking-things-up dept.

Google 204

An anonymous reader is one of many to send word that the European Parliament has voted 384 to 174 in favor of unbundling search engines from other commercial services in order to ensure competition. "The European Parliament has voted in favor of breaking Google up, as a solution to complaints that it favors is own services in search results. Politicians have no power to enforce a break-up, but the landmark vote sends a clear message to European regulators to get tough on the net giant. US politicians and trade bodies have voiced their dismay at the vote. The ultimate decision will rest with EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager. She has inherited the anti-competitive case lodged by Google's rivals in 2010. Google has around 90% market share for search in Europe. The Commission has never before ordered the break-up of any company, and many believe it is unlikely to do so now. But politicians are desperate to find a solution to the long-running anti-competitive dispute with Google."

Uber's Android App Caught Reporting Data Back Without Permission

timothy posted yesterday | from the distinguish-from-government dept.

Privacy 218

Zothecula writes Security researcher GironSec has pulled Uber's Android app apart and discovered that it's sending a huge amount of personal data back to base – including your call logs, what apps you've got installed, whether your phone is vulnerable to certain malware, whether your phone is rooted, and your SMS and MMS logs, which it explicitly doesn't have permission to do. It's the latest in a series of big-time missteps for a company whose core business model is, frankly, illegal in most of its markets as well.

Windows 10 To Feature Native Support For MKV and FLAC

timothy posted yesterday | from the upgrades-always-welcome dept.

Media 265

jones_supa writes Windows Media Player is going to become a more useful media player for those who want to play geeky file formats. Microsoft has earlier confirmed that Windows 10 will come with native support for Matroska Video, but the company now talks about also adding FLAC support. Microsoft's Gabriel Aul posted a teaser screenshot in Twitter showing support for this particular format. It can be expected to arrive in a future update for people running the Windows 10 Technical Preview. Not many GUI changes seem to be happening around Media Player, but work is done under the hood.

Health Advisor: Ebola Still Spreading, Worst Outbreak We've Ever Seen

samzenpus posted 2 days ago | from the like-wildfire dept.

Medicine 225

Lasrick writes After four decades of confining Ebola outbreaks to small areas, experts acknowledged in an October 9 New England Journal of Medicine article that "we were wrong" about the scope of the current situation. At the present transmission rate, the number of Ebola cases in West Africa doubles every two to three weeks. Early diagnosis is the key to controlling the epidemic, but that's far easier said than done: "And there are several complicating factors. For one thing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 60 percent of all Ebola patients remain undiagnosed in their communities." A transmission rate below 1 is necessary to keep the outbreak under control (instead of the current rate of 1.5 to 2), and the authors detail what's in the works to help achieve early detection, which is crucial to reducing the current transmission rate.

Is Ruby On Rails Losing Steam?

Soulskill posted 2 days ago | from the only-among-left-handed-geriatric-haberdashers dept.

Ruby 279

itwbennett writes: In a post last week, Quartz ranked the most valuable programming skills, based on job listing data from Burning Glass and the Brookings Institution. Ruby on Rails came out on top, with an average salary of $109,460. And that may have been true in the first quarter of 2013 when the data was collected, but "before you run out and buy Ruby on Rails for Dummies, you might want to consider some other data which indicate that Rails (and Ruby) usage is not trending upwards," writes Phil Johnson. He looked at recent trends in the usage of Ruby (as a proxy for Rails usage) across MS Gooroo, the TIOBE index, the PYPL index, Redmonk's language rankings, and GitHut and found that "demand by U.S. employers for engineers with Rails skills has been on the decline, at least for the last year."

Ask Slashdot: Why Is the Power Grid So Crummy In So Many Places?

Soulskill posted 2 days ago | from the it's-not,-the-power-company-just-hates-you dept.

Power 504

An anonymous reader writes: I live in a relatively large college town that's within easy driving distance of several major metropolitan centers. In many ways, the infrastructure around here is top-notch. The major exception is the electrical grid. Lightning storm? Power outage. Heavy winds? Power outage. Lots of rain? Power outage. Some areas around town are immune to this — like around the hospital, for obvious reasons. But others seem to lose power at the drop of hat. Why is this? If it were a tiny village or in the middle of nowhere, it would make sense to me. What problems do the utility companies face that they can't keep service steady? Do you deal with a lot of outages where you live? I'm not sure if it's just an investment issue or a technological one. It hasn't gotten better in the decade I've lived here, and I can imagine it will only get worse as the infrastructure ages.

Is LTO Tape On Its Way Out?

Soulskill posted 2 days ago | from the IT-no-longer-caught-on-tape dept.

Data Storage 275

storagedude writes: With LTO media sales down by 50% in the last six years, is the end near for tape? With such a large installed base, it may not be imminent, but the time is coming when vendors will find it increasingly difficult to justify continued investment in tape technology, writes Henry Newman at Enterprise Storage Forum.

"If multiple vendors invest in a technology, it has a good chance of winning over the long haul," writes Newman, a long-time proponent of tape technology. "If multiple vendors have a technology they're not investing in, it will eventually lose over time. Of course, over time market requirements can change. It is these interactions that I fear that are playing out in the tape market."

How Intel and Micron May Finally Kill the Hard Disk Drive

Soulskill posted 2 days ago | from the it-was-the-SSD-in-the-enclosure-with-the-massive-IOPS dept.

Data Storage 428

itwbennett writes: For too long, it looked like SSD capacity would always lag well behind hard disk drives, which were pushing into the 6TB and 8TB territory while SSDs were primarily 256GB to 512GB. That seems to be ending. In September, Samsung announced a 3.2TB SSD drive. And during an investor webcast last week, Intel announced it will begin offering 3D NAND drives in the second half of next year as part of its joint flash venture with Micron. Meanwhile, hard drive technology has hit the wall in many ways. They can't really spin the drives faster than 7,200 RPM without increasing heat and the rate of failure. All hard drives have now is the capacity argument; speed is all gone. Oh, and price. We'll have to wait and see on that.

The Schizophrenic Programmer Who Built an OS To Talk To God

Soulskill posted 2 days ago | from the there's-an-app-for-everything-these-days dept.

Operating Systems 449

rossgneumann writes: Terry Davis, a schizophrenic programmer, has spent 10 years building an operating system to talk to God. He's done this work because God told him to. According to the TempleOS charter, it is "God's official temple. Just like Solomon's temple, this is a community focal point where offerings are made and God's oracle is consulted." [The TempleOS V2.17 welcome screen] greets the user with a riot of 16-color, scrolling, blinking text; depending on your frame of reference, it might recall DESQview, the Commodore 64, or a host of early DOS-based graphical user interfaces. In style if not in specifics, it evokes a particular era, a time when the then-new concept of "personal computing" necessarily meant programming and tinkering and breaking things.

Top Counter-Strike Players Embroiled In Hacking Scandal

timothy posted 3 days ago | from the people-actually-get-excited dept.

Games 219

An anonymous reader writes Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is one of the world's fastest growing eSports, but the community has been rocked by scandal in the last week, with several top players being banned by Valve for using various hacking tools to improve their performance. With the huge Dreamhack Winter tournament taking place this weekend, the purge could not have come at a worse time for the game, and fans are now poring over the archives for other signs of foul play in top tier games — be sure to look out for these tell tale signs while playing.

Two Google Engineers Say Renewables Can't Cure Climate Change

timothy posted 3 days ago | from the mined-all-mined dept.

Google 629

_Sharp'r_ writes Two Stanford PhDs, Ross Koningstein and David Fork, worked for Google on the RE<C project to figure out how to make renewables cheaper than coal and solve climate change. After four years of study they gave up, determining "Renewable energy technologies simply won't work; we need a fundamentally different approach." As a result, is nuclear going to be acknowledged as the future of energy production?

Researchers Say the Tech Worker Shortage Doesn't Really Exist

Soulskill posted 3 days ago | from the just-like-a-healthcare-system-that-everyone-enjoys dept.

Businesses 434

Beeftopia sends this excerpt from an article at BusinessWeek: "There’s no evidence of any way, shape, or form that there’s a shortage in the conventional sense," says Hal Salzman, a professor of planning and public policy at Rutgers University. "They may not be able to find them at the price they want. But I’m not sure that qualifies as a shortage, any more than my not being able to find a half-priced TV." ... The real issue, say Salzman and others, is the industry’s desire for lower-wage, more-exploitable guest workers, not a lack of available American staff. "It seems pretty clear that the industry just wants lower-cost labor," Dean Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, wrote in an e-mail. A 2011 review (PDF) by the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that the H-1B visa program, which is what industry groups are lobbying to expand, had "fragmented and restricted" oversight that weakened its ostensible labor standards. "Many in the tech industry are using it for cheaper, indentured labor," says Rochester Institute of Technology public policy associate professor Ron Hira, an EPI research associate and co-author of the book Outsourcing America.

Officer Not Charged In Michael Brown Shooting

Soulskill posted 3 days ago | from the completely-non-controversial-topics dept.

The Courts 1087

An anonymous reader writes: A grand jury in Missouri has decided there is no probable cause to charge police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown. "A grand jury of nine whites and three blacks had been meeting weekly since Aug. 20 to consider evidence. At least nine votes would have been required to indict Wilson. The Justice Department is conducting an investigation into possible civil rights violations that could result in federal charges." Government officials and Brown's family are urging calm in Ferguson after the contentious protests that followed Brown's death.

Complex Life May Be Possible In Only 10% of All Galaxies

samzenpus posted 3 days ago | from the living-the-odds dept.

Space 305

sciencehabit writes The universe may be a lonelier place than previously thought. Of the estimated 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe, only one in 10 can support complex life like that on Earth, a pair of astrophysicists argues. Everywhere else, stellar explosions known as gamma ray bursts would regularly wipe out any life forms more elaborate than microbes. The detonations also kept the universe lifeless for billions of years after the big bang, the researchers say.

LinkedIn Study: US Attracting Fewer Educated, Highly Skilled Migrants

samzenpus posted 3 days ago | from the best-and-brightest dept.

Businesses 323

vinces99 writes The U.S. economy has long been powered in part by the nation's ability to attract the world's most educated and skilled people to its shores. But a new study of the worldwide migration of professionals to the U.S. shows a sharp drop-off in its proportional share of those workers – raising the question of whether the nation will remain competitive in attracting top talent in an increasingly globalized economy. The study, which used a novel method of tracking people through data from the social media site LinkedIn, is believed to be the first to monitor global migrations of professionals to the U.S., said co-author Emilio Zagheni, a University of Washington assistant professor of sociology and fellow of the UW eScience Institute. Among other things, the study, presented recently in Barcelona, Spain, found that just 13 percent of migrating professionals in the sample group chose the U.S. as a destination in 2012, down from 27 percent in 2000.

Multiple Manufacturers Push Hydrogen Fuel Cell Cars, But Can They Catch Tesla?

samzenpus posted 4 days ago | from the it's-in-the-air dept.

Transportation 281

MojoKid writes After years of working on prototype vehicles, multiple car companies have announced a major push for hydrogen fuel cell automobiles. At the LA Auto Show last week, Toyota showed off its Mirai, a four-door passenger sedan with a $57,500 base sticker price and a hydrogen-only fuel system. Honda recently delayed its hydrogen-powered FCX Clarity Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle until 2016, while Hyundai is planning to build 1000 fuel-cell powered Tucson's by the end of the year. Currently, most proposed hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are actually combined hydrogen-electric designs. Hydrogen gas, under enormous pressure, is used to drive a generator, which then charges a lithium-ion battery. Toyota plans to sell up to 3,000 Mirai a year by 2017, which would put it well below Tesla's own sales projections for its Model S — but at a lower overall price point. The pressurized fuel tanks in the Mirai can hold a total of 122 liters of hydrogen for an estimated range of 300 miles. A standard gasoline-powered car with a 122L capacity at 30mpg would be capable of traveling 960 miles. Proponents of hydrogen point to the vastly improved fueling time (roughly equal that of gasoline) as opposed to the 20-60 minutes required to recharge a vehicle like Tesla's Model S.

Cops 101: NYC High School Teaches How To Behave During Stop-and-Frisk

samzenpus posted 4 days ago | from the hold-perfectly-still-and-live-in-a-good-neighborhood dept.

Crime 474

HughPickens.com writes Kate Briquelet reports in the NY Post that Principal Mark Federman of East Side Community HS has invited the New York Civil Liberties Union to give a two-day training session to 450 students on interacting with police. "We're not going to candy-coat things — we have a problem in our city that's affecting young men of color and all of our students," says Federman. "It's not about the police being bad. This isn't anti-police as much as it's pro-young people ... It's about what to do when kids are put in a position where they feel powerless and uncomfortable." The hourlong workshops — held in small classroom sessions during advisory periods — focused on the NYPD's stop-and-frisk program and how to exercise Fourth Amendment rights when being stopped and questioned in a car or at home.

Some law-enforcement experts say the NYCLU is going beyond civics lessons and doling out criminal-defense advice. "It's unlikely that a high school student would come away with any other conclusion than the police are a fearful group to be avoided at all costs," says Eugene O'Donnell, a former police officer and professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. NYCLU representatives told kids to be polite and to keep their hands out of their pockets. But they also told students they don't have to show ID or consent to searches, that it's best to remain silent, and how to file a complaint against an officer. Candis Tolliver, NYCLU's associate director for advocacy, says was the first time she trained an entire high school. "This is not about teaching kids how to get away with a crime or being disrespectful. This is about making sure both sides are walking away from the situation safe and in control."

Alva Noe: Don't Worry About the Singularity, We Can't Even Copy an Amoeba

samzenpus posted 4 days ago | from the I-for-one-don't-worry-about-our-new-robotic-overlords dept.

AI 446

An anonymous reader writes "Writer and professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley Alva Noe isn't worried that we will soon be under the rule of shiny metal overlords. He says that currently we can't produce "machines that exhibit the agency and awareness of an amoeba." He writes at NPR: "One reason I'm not worried about the possibility that we will soon make machines that are smarter than us, is that we haven't managed to make machines until now that are smart at all. Artificial intelligence isn't synthetic intelligence: It's pseudo-intelligence. This really ought to be obvious. Clocks may keep time, but they don't know what time it is. And strictly speaking, it is we who use them to tell time. But the same is true of Watson, the IBM supercomputer that supposedly played Jeopardy! and dominated the human competition. Watson answered no questions. It participated in no competition. It didn't do anything. All the doing was on our side. We played Jeopordy! with Watson. We used 'it' the way we use clocks.""

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