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Mathematicians Study Effects of Gerrymandering On 2012 Election

samzenpus posted about half an hour ago | from the fix-is-in dept.

Math 24

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?"

Ubisoft Apologizes For Assassin's Creed

samzenpus posted 3 hours ago | from the mea-culpa dept.

Businesses 67

BarbaraHudson writes in with the latest in the Assassin's Creed Unity debacle. This time it's good news. "As an acknowledgment of the botched launch of Assassin's Creed Unity, Ubisoft has offered free additional content to everyone who purchased the title, cancelled the game's season pass and offered a free game to users who purchased the pass. The anticipation for Assassin's Creed Unity was such that the myriad of bugs and technical issues experienced at launch felt like an even greater slap in the face for gamers. In a blog posted yesterday, Yannis Mallat, CEO of Ubisoft Montreal & Toronto said: 'Unfortunately, at launch, the overall quality of the game was diminished by bugs and unexpected technical issues. I want to sincerely apologize on behalf of Ubisoft and the entire Assassin's Creed team. These problems took away from your enjoyment of the game, and kept many of you from experiencing the game at its fullest potential.'"

Renewables Are Now Scotland's Biggest Energy Source

samzenpus posted 5 hours ago | from the going-green dept.

Earth 97

AmiMoJo writes Government figures revealed that Scotland is now generating more power from "clean" technologies than nuclear, coal and gas. The combination of wind, solar and hydroelectric, along with less-publicized sources such as landfill gas and biomass, produced 10.3TWh in the first half of 2014. Over the same period, Scotland generated 7.8TWh from nuclear, 5.6TWh from coal and 1.4TWh from gas, according to figures supplied by National Grid. Renewable sources tend to fluctuate throughout the year, especially in Scotland where the weather is notoriously volatile, but in six-month chunks the country has consistently increased its renewable output.

Researchers Discover an "Off Switch" For Pain In the Brain

samzenpus posted 8 hours ago | from the I-didn't-feel-that dept.

Medicine 52

concertina226 writes Scientists working together from several international universities have discovered that it is possible to block a pathway in the brain of animals suffering from neuropathic pain, which could have a huge impact on improving pain relief in humans. So far, the most successful ways to treat chronic pain from a pharmacological point of view are to create drugs that that interact or interfere with various channels in the brain to decrease pain, including adrenergic, opioid and calcium receptors. However, there is another way – a chemical stimulator called adenosine that binds to brain receptors to trigger a biological response. Adenosine has shown potential for killing pain in humans, but so far, no one has managed to harness this pain pathway successfully without causing a myriad of side effects. Led by Dr Daniela Salvemini of SLU, the researchers discovered that by activating the A3 adenosine receptor in the rodents' brains and spinal cords, the receptor was able to prevent or reverse pain from nerve damage (the cause of chronic pain).

Ask Slashdot: Best Drone For $100-$150?

samzenpus posted 10 hours ago | from the eye-in-the-sky dept.

Technology 85

andyring writes With Christmas fast approaching, and me being notoriously hard to buy for, I thought a camera drone would be great to suggest for Christmas. But the options are dizzying, and it's nearly impossible to find something and know it'll be decent. What are Slashdotters suggestions/recommendations/experiences with a basic camera drone in the $100-150 range? Looks like all of them do video but I'm more interested in high-res stills although that may be a moot point.

Scientists Develop "Paint" To Help Cool the Planet

samzenpus posted 12 hours ago | from the it's-getting-hot-in-here dept.

Earth 115

AaronW writes Engineers at Stanford University have developed an ultrathin, multilayered, nanophotonic material that not only reflects heat away from buildings but also directs internal heat away using a system called "photonic radiative cooling." The coating is capable of reflecting away 97% of incoming sunlight and when combined with the photonic radiative cooling system it becomes cooler than the surrounding air by around 9F (5C). The material is designed to radiate heat into space at a precise frequency that allows it to pass through the atmosphere without warming it.

Google Should Be Broken Up, Say European MPs

samzenpus posted 13 hours ago | from the breaking-things-up dept.

Google 173

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."

Kim Dotcom Says Legal Fight Has Left Him Broke

timothy posted yesterday | from the broke-the-bench dept.

Piracy 89

mrspoonsi writes Kim Dotcom, the founder of the seized file-sharing site Megaupload, has declared himself "broke". The entrepreneur said he had spent $10m (£6.4m) on legal costs since being arrested in New Zealand in 2012 and accused of internet piracy. Mr Dotcom had employed a local law firm to fight the US's attempt to extradite him, but his defence team stepped down a fortnight ago without explaining why. Mr Dotcom said he would now represent himself at a bail hearing on Thursday. He denies charges of racketeering, conspiring to commit copyright infringement and money laundering. He told a conference in London, via a video link, that his lawyers had resigned because he had run out of money. "The [US authorities] have certainly managed to drain my resources and dehydrate me, and without lawyers I am defenceless," he said. "They used that opportunity to try and get my bail revoked and that's what I'm facing."

Behind Apple's Sapphire Screen Debacle

timothy posted yesterday | from the creative-managment dept.

Businesses 153

Frankie70 (803801) writes Apple invested more than $1 billion in an effort to make sapphire one of iPhone 6's selling point. But the iPhone 6 was released without the sapphire screen. GT Advanced Technologies, the small company chosen to supply Apple with enormous quantities of cheap sapphire, declared bankruptcy a month later. Recent documents from GT's bankruptcy proceedings, and conversations with people familiar with operations at Apple and GT, provide several clues as to what went wrong. GT said that to save costs, Apple decided not to install backup power supplies, and multiple outages ruined whole batches of sapphire. The terms Apple negotiated committed GT to supplying a huge amount of sapphire, but put Apple under no obligation to buy it. In its bankruptcy documents, GT would later accuse Apple of using "bait-and-switch" tactics, and said the terms of the deal were "onerous and massively one-sided."

Syrian Electronic Army Takes Credit For News Site Hacking

timothy posted yesterday | from the how-to-win-no-friends-and-influence-people dept.

Security 18

New submitter ddtmm writes The Syrian Electronic Army is claiming responsibility for the hacking of multiple news websites, including CBC News. Some users trying to access the CBC website reported seeing a pop-up message reading: "You've been hacked by the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA)." It appears the hack targeted a network used by many news organizations and businesses. A tweet from an account appearing to belong to the Syrian Electronic Army suggested the attacks were meant to coincide with the U.S. Thanksgiving on Thursday. The group claimed to have used the domain Gigya.com, a company that offers businesses a customer identity management platform, to hack into other sites via GoDaddy, its domain registrar. Gigya is "trusted by more than 700 leading brands," according to its website. The hacker or hackers redirected sites to the Syrian Electronic Army image that users saw. Gigya's operations team released a statement Thursday morning saying that it identified an issue with its domai registrar at 6:45 a.m. ET. The breach "resulted in the redirect of the Gigya.com domain for a subset of users," the company said. Among the websites known to be hacked so far are New York Times, Chicago Tribune, CNBC, PC World, Forbes, The Telegraph, Walmart and Facebook.

Apple and Amazon Launch Black Friday Price War

timothy posted yesterday | from the you-can-win-the-race-to-the-bottom dept.

Handhelds 36

An anonymous reader writes Forbes magazine points out that tablet computers are receiving some of the biggest discounts for this year's day-after-Thanksgiving sales. "With slowing growth in the tablet market and an increasing array of choices, some of the strongest bargains will come in that sector," they report, noting that Target is giving away a $140 gift card with purcahses of an iPad Air 2 (and a $100 gift card with the iPad Mini or first-generation iPad Air). But Amazon has already launched a counter-strike, posting big discounts online on Thanksgiving day for their entire line of Kindles, including a black-and-white Kindle for just $49, and their 6-inch color/high-definition HD6 for just $79.

Riecoin Breaks World Record For Largest Prime Sextuplet, Twice

timothy posted yesterday | from the well-the-sextuplet-was-just-sitting-there dept.

Math 46

An anonymous reader writes Last week, Riecoin – a project that doubles as decentralized virtual currency and a distributed computing system — quietly broke the record for the largest prime number sextuplet. This happened on November 17, 2014 at 19:50 GMT and the calculation took only 70 minutes using the massive distributed computing power of its network. This week the feat was outdone and the project beat its own record on November 24, 2014 at 20:28 GMT achieving numbers 654 digits long, 21 more than its previous record.

Edsac Goes Live, At UK's National Museum of Computing

timothy posted yesterday | from the sometimes-things-get-lost-in-the-mail dept.

United Kingdom 35

Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes "Britain's National Museum of Computing has flipped the switch on the venerable Edsac computer. The arduous task of reconstructing the 1949 behemoth, fraught with little in terms of the original hardware or documentation, was brought to fruition on Wednesday. As project lead Andrew Herbert is quoted as saying, "We face the same challenges as those remarkable pioneers who succeeded in building a machine that transformed computing." A remarkably shaky video of the event, replete with excellent views of the floor at the videographer's feet, can be found here."

Uber's Android App Caught Reporting Data Back Without Permission

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

Privacy 208

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.

Google Told To Expand Right To Be Forgotten

timothy posted yesterday | from the what-about-the-right-to-remember? dept.

Censorship 166

mpicpp writes with this news from the BBC: Google is under fresh pressure to expand the 'right to be forgotten' to its international .com search tool. A panel of EU data protection watchdogs said the move was necessary to prevent the law from being circumvented. Google currently de-lists results that appear in the European versions of its search engines, but not the international one. The panel said it would advise member states' data protection agencies of its view in new guidelines. However, a link is provided at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen offering an option to switch to the international .com version. This link does not appear if the users attempted to go to a regional version in the first place. Even so, it means it is possible for people in Europe to easily opt out of the censored lists.

Windows 10 To Feature Native Support For MKV and FLAC

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

Media 256

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.

Wikipedia's "Complicated" Relationship With Net Neutrality

samzenpus posted yesterday | from the playing-favorites dept.

Wikipedia 109

HughPickens.com writes Brian Fung writes in the Washington Post that Wikipedia has been a little hesitant to weigh in on net neutrality, the idea that all Web traffic should be treated equally by Internet service providers such as Comcast or Time Warner Cable. That's because the folks behind Wikipedia actually see a non-neutral Internet as one way to spread information cheaply to users in developing countries. With Wikipedia Zero, users in places like Pakistan and Malaysia can browse the site without it counting against the data caps on their cellphones or tablets. This preferential treatment for Wikipedia's site helps those who can't afford to pay for pricey data — but it sets the precedent for deals that cut against the net neutrality principle. "We believe in net neutrality in America," says Gayle Karen Young, adding that Wikipedia Zero requires a different perspective elsewhere. "Partnering with telecom companies in the near term, it blurs the net neutrality line in those areas. It fulfills our overall mission, though, which is providing free knowledge."

Facebook and Google also operate programs internationally that are exempted from users' data caps — a tactic known somewhat cryptically as "zero rating". Facebook in particular has made "Facebook Zero" not just a sales pitch in developing markets but also part of an Internet.org initiative to expand access "to the two thirds of the world's population that doesn't have it." But a surprising decision in Chile shows what happens when policies of neutrality are applied without nuance. Chile recently put an end to the practice, widespread in developing countries, of big companies "zero-rating" access to their services. "That might seem perverse," says Glyn Moody, "since it means that Chilean mobile users must now pay to access those services, but it is nonetheless exactly what governments that have mandated net neutrality need to do."

Australia Elaborates On a New Drift Model To Find MH370

samzenpus posted yesterday | from the still-looking dept.

Australia 136

hcs_$reboot writes Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 disappeared on Saturday, 8 March 2014, while flying from Malaysia to Beijing with 239 people on board. And 8 months later, after millions of dollars invested in a gigantic search operation, there is still no sign of the aircraft. Now, Australia is developing a new model to predict where the debris of the missing MH370 could wash up. Authorities had initially predicted that the plane's wreckage could drift and come ashore on Indonesia's West Sumatra island after about 4 months of Flight MH370's disappearance. "We are currently working... to see if we can get an updated drift model for a much wider area where there might be possibilities of debris washing ashore," search co-ordinator Peter Foley told reporters in Perth.

UK Announces Hybrid Work/Study Undergraduate Program To Fill Digital Gap

samzenpus posted yesterday | from the get-a-job dept.

Education 104

An anonymous reader writes The UK's Digital Economy Minister Ed Vaizey today revealed a new scheme where undergraduates will be able to avoid student fees and student loans by working for companies for three years whilst simultaneously undertaking academic studies with participating universities, resulting in a degree at the end of their successful involvement in the scheme. The British government will fund two-thirds of the cost of tuition and the host employer the remainder. The "Digital Apprenticeship" scheme will remunerate students at an unspecified level of pay, and though details are currently sketchy, is reported to obviate the need for student loans. The initiative is targeting the skills gap in the digital sector, particularly in the field of web-development and technical analysis.

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