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A Worm's Mind In a Lego Body

Beeftopia They've made something that mimics C. elegans (200 comments)

It's fascinating but it's not C. elegans. It doesn't reproduce. It doesn't die. It's not alive.

The sensors are implemented in large, electro-mechanical hardware. Not biochemical systems. It has no telomeres. No cells.

Humans have several subsystems: digestive, endocrine, pulmonary (pneumatic and hydraulic), muscular, skeletal, nervous. If they manage to create an electro-mechanical system to mimic the nervous subsystem, it's just that - mimicking the subsystem. It would be an amazing feat, and what's been done here is fascinating, but we're still quite some distance away from stating that a human - or C. elegans - is 2^n nand gates.

Is something that mimics a nervous subsystem via an electro-mechanical system equivalent to the nervous system? Be it the 302 neurons of the C. elegans or the approximately 100 billion of the H. sapiens? It might become very intelligent... more intelligent than us... and then we'd have a problem... Frankenstein didn't appreciate being locked in his form...

Would it really feel emotions? Pain, rage, joy, fear, ennui? Or is it just mimicking them?

Fascinating stuff.

about two weeks ago
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Ask Slashdot: Programming Education Resources For a Year Offline?

Beeftopia Stroustrup's book (223 comments)

Bjarne Stroustrup's "The C++ Programming Language", updated for C++11 (4th edition). Seriously. His books are surprisingly easy to read, yet information dense. Because it covers the standard template library and the current paradigms, the information will apply to the interpreted languages. This is if you know the basics of programming, and it really helps have done a bit of C++. He's got another book that's an overview of C++, if you're completely unfamiliar with the language.

For books "about" software, try 'Joel On Software' by Joel Spolsky. I liked it.

I have "JavaScript The Definitive Guide" by Flanagan, but I keep hearing "JavaScript The Good Parts" by Crockford is an easy an informative read. The Definitive Guide is great but it kind of reads like a textbook. I've not read 'The Good Parts' but that's the impression I got from this site.

"Code Complete", "The Mythical Man Month", "The Psychology of Computer Programming" are the standard "about programming" books which are commonly recommended.

"Computer Networks" by Tannenbaum is interesting, although it can get a bit dense at time. It is a textbook.

about two weeks ago
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Bounties vs. Extreme Internet Harassment

Beeftopia Re:Wait.. (716 comments)

On Usenet, there was a strong culture of using one's real name, and often one's institutional affiliation was readily visible from the network one posted from.

Maybe in the rec. or comp. hierarchy for the more staid groups, but in the alt. hierarchy, especially in the controversial areas, definitely not. It simply wasn't done. Also, I was able to pick an anonymous login when I got my school account. Maybe later, people were assigned firstinitial_lastname@school.edu (probably mid to late 90s when computer accounts became more common), but then one would have to be much more judicious about which groups one posted to.

about three weeks ago
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Bounties vs. Extreme Internet Harassment

Beeftopia Re:Wait.. (716 comments)

Making a credible threat against someone's life ought not to be treated like a prank. I've frequented the deeper sewers of Usenet, before the web came to universities, and that simply was not done. Nor was posting anyone's personal information. It was crossing a line. Granted people were much more guarded about their personal information as it was considered folly to post it. But the online world has changed and so has access to information.

Secondly, holding individuals accountable for making credible death threats against other individuals and posting others' personal information online has little in common with political opposition to a totalitarian government.

about three weeks ago
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Russia Takes Down Steve Jobs Memorial After Apple's Tim Cook Comes Out

Beeftopia Re:No thought (or logic) in your experiment (430 comments)

Any heterosexual man has the same basic physical capabilites as a homosexual man, so he could easily engage in homosexual acts... [...] Face it: There is no "gay gene".

1) There is the concept of physical attraction. Looking at a woman's breasts or thighs or buttocks and being attracted. Versus looking at a man's buttocks, biceps or chest and being attracted.

2) There are simple measurable physical tests for both attraction and arousal.

For a bisexual, he can probably be aroused by another man and get an erection. For a pure heterosexual, this is simply not going to happen.

I'm sure there are porn stars who have such will and control over their erections that they can generate an erection on demand. But my suspicion is most mail porn stars are bisexuals. Ron Jeremy said, "At any given time there are about 24 reliable woodsmen, guys who keep good erections in the American porn scene. You know, myself, Randy West, Peter North, Tom Byron." But let's say they are pure hetero - that's 24 people he's talking about in the 300 million strong US population.

You're right in that there is a lot of variation in sexuality. Serial killers are aroused by murdering the objects of their attraction. I've seen estimates of up to 50 active serial killers in the US at any one time.

I'm sure there is pretty much any variation of sexuality out there one can imagine. In tiny numbers. Focusing on those instead of the larger groups is an inability to see the forest because of the trees.

about three weeks ago
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Russia Takes Down Steve Jobs Memorial After Apple's Tim Cook Comes Out

Beeftopia Re:Terrible (430 comments)

"However, to date there are no replicated scientific studies supporting any specific biological etiology for homosexuality."

A simple thought experiment to see if homosexuality is a choice: If it really is a choice, try being gay for a week. Try engaging in gay physical intimacy with another man.

Q.E.D.

Caveat: For a bisexual, this won't be a problem. For a heterosexual, it will be extremely difficult if not impossible. I suspect those who believe homosexuality is a choice are probably bisexuals.

about three weeks ago
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Solving the Mystery of Declining Female CS Enrollment

Beeftopia Re:This is an easy one ... (608 comments)

Consider the possibility that women just aren't interested.

Yes, but why? It might lead to some insights about ourselves and the field itself.

Could it be something biological, as politically incorrect as that might be? Autism for example, is much more prevalent in males than females: "ASD is almost 5 times more common among boys (1 in 42) than among girls (1 in 189)." [3rd bullet point from top]

So it seems like there are brain differences between males and females, when viewed as a group. And the brain creates personality.

If the reason is purely sociological, we can fix that and open the field to women. If the reason is in fact biological, we can stop trying to hammer square pegs into round holes.

about a month ago
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The Problem With Positive Thinking

Beeftopia Re:Thought it was just me... (158 comments)

I thought it was just me that was was motivated solely by fear and worry, but apparently it's most people if not everyone! Of course if you expect things to go great already then wtf are you working so hard for, things are going to turn out great anyway remember?

Anxiety energizes and motivates people. Too much will paralyze them. Gotta reach the optimal amount that energizes, but does not enervate. Along the lines of "eustress" not "distress."

about a month ago
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Will the Google Car Turn Out To Be the Apple Newton of Automobiles?

Beeftopia Humans have rules for driving (287 comments)

Humans have rules for driving. For example:

-> If you see a traffic light, identify what color it is, then continue, slow down, or stop based on one of those 3 colors.

So the Google Car cannot identify a traffic light? Or if it does, it cannot identify its color? If so, is that a weakness in the computing power? Like, a supercomputer could do these things, but a reasonably sized onboard computer cannot? Or a weakness in "vision" sensors?

-> Paper versus rock in the road: This, I can understand. There are a myriad things in the road. The decision here is, can the car safely pass over it? Inability to determine this is due to vision sensors or limitations in computing power?

I saw an interesting problem the other day: a piece of wood baseboard trim (for a wall) blew off a truck. It seemingly hung suspended in air then came down. I hit my brakes but kept going straight, hoping for the best. It hit the ground, bounced and lay flat. I imagine that might legitimately freak out an autonomous car.

A moron can drive safely, through city traffic, if he's highly motivated, manages to keep his attention on the road and his speed down. I guess a moron is still more capable of navigating the world than a computer.

about a month ago
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Ask Slashdot: Event Sign-Up Software Options For a Non-Profit?

Beeftopia Maybe they do have custom needs (104 comments)

That's the problem. Maybe they have fields that are not available on any of the other sites. Maybe they want to run reports off the site. Let me tell you what I think their goal probably is: A few weeks before the event, they want to lock the registration, get a report of all registrants, when they get in, when they leave, if they have any dietary restrictions, who requests lodging. Then they give that to their office manager who starts contacting local hotels and caterers.

I wrote a web-based event management program a few years ago on a LAMP plus JavaScript. It's been rock-solid and has handled thousands of registrants. Having said that, here's the way to determine if their needs are truly specific (you're going to need a management module and a registrant facing module):

1) What fields do they want to display to registrants? To event planners? Problem here: clients don't know what they want till they start playing with the site.

2) What fields do they want registrants to fill in after they click on the invitation link and reach the registration page? Do registrants request lodging? Do they arrive on different days? Do they leave on different days? Do they have dietary restrictions?

3) How will registrants be allowed to edit their information until the "lock" date? Probably a combination of unique pin generated for them, plus their email address.

4) How do they want to contact the registrants and ask them to sign up? The site I created created a custom URL for each event, and they were mailed to the invitees for that event. So, you create the event, and you email all the registrants (in the BCC field) with the link.

5) You're getting PII - personally identifiable information. You need a secure server. You'll need an SSL certificate to encrypt the connection.

Fortunately, your organization has a few years of experience with this. So they know what they want to do generally. That's a very big deal - a client who actually knows what he wants.

THEN - you can check out some of the available commercial options, or see if they really need something from scratch.

about a month ago
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'Microsoft Lumia' Will Replace the Nokia Brand

Beeftopia Like the Ford Taurus brand being retired (150 comments)

Brands are a big deal. They have value. Nokia had a storied history. Something like "Nokia (by Microsoft)" or just leaving "Microsoft" off entirely (like BMW does with Rolls Royce, or Tata does with Jaguar) would have allowed the brand value to be preserved.

Some years ago, Ford decided to get rid of the Taurus line and rename it the '500'. They quickly realized the error of their ways and brought the Taurus name back.

about a month ago
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In UK, Internet Trolls Could Face Two Years In Jail

Beeftopia Trolling is a very broad term (489 comments)

Imprecise laws give authorities a great deal of discretion about the threat of prosecution. And discretion here is another name for arbitrary power.

Do they mean targeted harassment or libel? Or theft or fraud? Or do they mean playing devil's advocate?

Conflating the harassment of the McCanns with "trolling", a broad term, is just a power grab by an opportunist. It might sound politically beneficial right now but curbs on basic freedoms have blowback. Consequences.

The article reads like satire. I'd expect it out of a backward or totalitarian regime, but not the UK.

about a month ago
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Pentagon Reportedly Hushed Up Chemical Weapons Finds In Iraq

Beeftopia Re:Designed in US, Built in EU, Filled in Iraq (376 comments)

This war is a muslim war, if we charge in now boots and all it will revert to a muslim vs the west war which is precisely what ISIS wants, they want us to try and root them out because they believe that would line up the tribes behind them (better the devil you know and all that).

There were few more provocative ways to lure us into a brutal and expensive war of attrition than to start beheading American hostages on film. After public resistance to putting heavy infantry on the ground in Syria and Iraq again, this seemed like an excellent way to change the public's mind. But then what you stated would once again be the outcome. Insightful.

If you want the Americans to leave you alone, and they want to leave you alone, you produce slick films showing you cuddling puppy dogs and planting flowers. Not beheading hostages. It seemed so obvious, and I thought, is ISIS that stupid? No, they're not.

about a month and a half ago
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Pentagon Reportedly Hushed Up Chemical Weapons Finds In Iraq

Beeftopia Re:Designed in US, Built in EU, Filled in Iraq (376 comments)

More from the NYT:

"Then, during the long occupation, American troops began encountering old chemical munitions in hidden caches and roadside bombs. Typically 155-millimeter artillery shells or 122-millimeter rockets, they were remnants of an arms program Iraq had rushed into production in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war.

All had been manufactured before 1991, participants said. Filthy, rusty or corroded, a large fraction of them could not be readily identified as chemical weapons at all. Some were empty, though many of them still contained potent mustard agent or residual sarin. Most could not have been used as designed, and when they ruptured dispersed the chemical agents over a limited area, according to those who collected the majority of them.
[...]
But nearly a decade of wartime experience showed that old Iraqi chemical munitions often remained dangerous when repurposed for local attacks in makeshift bombs, as insurgents did starting by 2004.
[...]
Participants in the chemical weapons discoveries said the United States suppressed knowledge of finds for multiple reasons [...]"

about a month and a half ago
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Is an Octopus Too Smart For Us To Eat?

Beeftopia We empathize with that which is like us (481 comments)

We empathize with that which we perceive to be like us. People who look and act like me from my tribe? The halest, heartiest of the bunch, worthy of respect and honor. People who don't look like me but act like me... still, hearty mates. Animals which have emotions like me? Puppies, dogs, cats? Can't hurt them. Chickens? Well... they seem to be pretty different. They're okay to eat. Cows. Wow they're dumb and utterly unlike me - they're okay to kill. Fish? Utterly unlike me. No question, okay to kill. Octopi... wait, you're telling me they're like me? Hmmm, let me consider this.

about 2 months ago
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The Secret Goldman Sachs Tapes

Beeftopia Re:is anyone really surprised here (201 comments)

The financial collapse was a result of mistakes, not crimes.

Absolutely false.

-> In America there have been just a handful of criminal charges brought against senior executives of banks, and even fewer successful convictions. This is very different from the response of prosecutors in earlier banking crises, such as the meltdown of Savings & Loans institutions in America in the 1980s. In that case more than 1,000 bankers were convicted for their misdeeds.

-> William K. Black [senior regulator who pursued offenders during the savings and loan crisis] tells Bill Moyers on the JOURNAL that the tool at the very center of mortgage collapse, creating triple-A rated bonds out of "liars' loans" — loans issued without verifying income, assets or employment — was a fraud, and the banks knew it. And while there is no law against liars' loans, Black points out that there are, "many laws against fraud, and liars' loans are fraudulent. [...] They involve deceit, which is the essence of fraud. "

-> Winner of the Oscar for Best Documentary in 2010, The Inside Job chronicles the fraud behavior which led to the financial crisis of 2008 and the recession.

The key word is "control fraud."

about 2 months ago
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The Secret Goldman Sachs Tapes

Beeftopia Re:is anyone really surprised here (201 comments)

Banning revolving door employment deals isn't a good solution either. The government already has enough trouble attracting good people. If you want people that know how the system works, you need to hire people that have worked in the system. After their stint in government is over, those people expect to continue in their profession.

This is a common misconception. The financial system is mathematical but nowhere near rocket science. The majors of Wall Street executives clearly indicate this (I knew a fellow who became a senior executive at GS. A hypercompetitive jock with average intelligence).

Another case in point: Hank Paulson, former Goldman Sachs CEO, and former Treasury Secretary who crafted the bailouts. His undergraduate major? English.

End the revolving door. And firewall regulators from politicians.

about 2 months ago

Submissions

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Researchers Find The Tech Worker Shortage Doesn't Really Exist

Beeftopia Beeftopia writes  |  3 days ago

Beeftopia (1846720) writes "From the article: "For a real-life example of an actual worker shortage, Salzman points to the case of petroleum engineers, where the supply of workers has failed to keep up with the growth in oil exploration. The result, says Salzman, was just what economists would have predicted: Employers started offering more money, more people started becoming petroleum engineers, and the shortage was solved. In contrast, Salzman concluded in a paper released last year by the liberal Economic Policy Institute, real IT wages are about the same as they were in 1999. Further, he and his co-authors found, only half of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) college graduates each year get hired into STEM jobs. “We don’t dispute the fact at all that Facebook (FB) and Microsoft (MSFT) would like to have more, cheaper workers,” says Salzman’s co-author Daniel Kuehn, now a research associate at the Urban Institute. “But that doesn’t constitute a shortage.”"
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Researcher proposes "multicompiler" to prevent instruction-level exploits

Beeftopia Beeftopia writes  |  about 5 months ago

Beeftopia (1846720) writes "A researcher proposes the concept of a "multicompiler" to generate a unique, slightly different set of binary instructions in each compiled output file in order to disable instruction-level attacks. From the article: "Dr Franz has already built a prototype that can diversify programs such as Firefox and Apache Linux. Test attacks designed to take over computers running the resulting machine code always failed. The worst thing that happened was that the attack crashed the target machine, requiring a reboot. The rest of the time it simply had no perceptible effect. Dr Franz puts the chance of a hacker successfully penetrating one of his randomised application programs at about one in a billion.""
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200 million social security numbers possibly stolen in Experian breach

Beeftopia Beeftopia writes  |  about 8 months ago

Beeftopia (1846720) writes "A 2012 breach at credit reporting company Experian may be much larger than first reported. The article states, "In what could be one of the biggest data breaches in history, the federal government and authorities in several states are investigating the criminal sale of Social Security numbers, bank account data and other personal information for up to 200 million U.S. citizens."

The investigations stem from the 2012 case of Hieu Minh Ngo, who sold names, addresses, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, places of work, duration of work, dates of employment, state driver's license numbers, mother's maiden names, bank account numbers, bank routing numbers, email account names and addresses and other account passwords, court records show."

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Traumatically injured patients to be put in suspended animation

Beeftopia Beeftopia writes  |  about 8 months ago

Beeftopia (1846720) writes "A new procedure will be tested on traumatically injured patients by doctors at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh. The patient's blood will be replaced with cold saline solution, dropping body temperature to 10 C. Brain activity and respiration will cease, indicating the patient is clinically dead. Surgeons will repair the damage then slowly refill them with warm blood at which point vital signs will reappear.

"Every day at work I declare people dead. They have no signs of life, no heartbeat, no brain activity. I sign a piece of paper knowing in my heart that they are not actually dead. I could, right then and there, suspend them. But I have to put them in a body bag. It's frustrating to know there's a solution," says surgeon Peter Rhee. "[After our animal experiments] the definition of 'dead' changed," he said."

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IBM's Watson to be used for cancer treatment

Beeftopia Beeftopia writes  |  about 8 months ago

Beeftopia (1846720) writes "The New York Genome Center and IBM will investigate whether Watson can be used to parse cancer genome data and then recommend treatments. The trial involves 20 to 25 glioblastoma patients with poor prognoses. The article states, "It should theoretically be possible to analyze [genomic] data and use it to customize a treatment that targets the specific mutations present in tumor cells. But right now, doing so requires a squad of highly trained geneticists, genomics experts, and clinicians. It's a situation that can't scale to handle the [number of] patients with glioblastoma, much less other cancers. Instead, that gusher of information is going to be pointed at Watson... Watson will figure out which mutations are distinct to the tumor, what protein networks they effect, and which drugs target proteins that are part of those networks. The net result will be a picture of the biochemical landscape inside the tumor cells, along with some suggestions on how clinicians might consider intervening to change the landscape."
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Gut bacteria in slim people extract more nutrients

Beeftopia Beeftopia writes  |  about a year ago

Beeftopia (1846720) writes "Researchers discovered that inserting gut bacteria from obese people into mice without gut bacteria led to the mice becoming obese. Gut bacteria from slim people inserted into the same mice did not lead to mouse obesity. The researchers concluded that gut bacteria from the slim people were more efficient at extracting nutrients from food than those of the obese."
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Major Automaker Sets Delivery Date For Autonomous Car

Beeftopia Beeftopia writes  |  about a year ago

Beeftopia (1846720) writes "Nissan has set 2020 as the anticipated delivery date of its first autonomous car. It becomes the first major automaker to set a delivery date. Nissan states that "it is working with major universities including MIT, Stanford, Oxford, Carnegie Mellon and the University of Tokyo on the technology. Work also is underway on a special-purpose test track in Japan that Nissan says features "real townscapes.""
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Paper: Evolution favors cooperation over selfishness

Beeftopia Beeftopia writes  |  about a year ago

Beeftopia (1846720) writes "Conventional wisdom has suggested selfishness is most beneficial evolutionary strategy for humans, while cooperation is suboptimal. This dovetailed with a political undercurrent dating back more than a century, starting with social Darwinism and more commonly seen today as a Randian philosophy. A new paper in the journal Nature Communications casts doubt on this school of thought. The paper shows that while selfishness is optimal in the short term, it fails in the long term. Cooperation is seen as the most effective long term human evolutionary strategy."
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Patent trolls finally bite the wrong organization

Beeftopia Beeftopia writes  |  about a year ago

Beeftopia (1846720) writes "Patent trolls have long been a thorn in the side of the tech industry. No serious effort has taken place in Washington DC to rein them in. Until now. It seems that a patent troll has decided to lock horns with the 5th largest all time contributor to federal politicians, the National Association of Realtors. It is this unfortunate choice of target that has encouraged federal politicians to act. From the article:

Several lawmakers have introduced legislation to curb patent abuses, and President Obama has also moved on the administrative front, but comprehensive legislation is really what’s required to curb the practice. And that’s what NAR is calling for in the letter with its partners.

"

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Puzzling disconnect between greenhouse gas emissions and surface temperature

Beeftopia Beeftopia writes  |  about a year and a half ago

Beeftopia (1846720) writes "From The Economist magazine: A puzzling disconnect between carbon emissions and surface air temperatures has become apparent. Over the past 15 years, surface air temperatures have been flat while greenhouse gas emissions have continued soaring. While temperatures fluctuate over short periods, this lack of warming is a surprise. The mismatch between greenhouse gas emissions and non-rising temperatures is among the biggest current puzzles in climate science. If temperatures remain flat, they will fall outside of the predicted temperature models in a few years."
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Scientist removed from EPA panel due to industry opposition

Beeftopia Beeftopia writes  |  about 2 years ago

Beeftopia (1846720) writes "The relationship between regulator and regulated is once again called into question as industry pressure leads to a scientist's removal from an EPA regulatory panel. From the article:

"In 2007, when Deborah Rice was appointed chair of an Environmental Protection Agency panel assessing the safety levels of flame retardants, she arrived as a respected Maine toxicologist with no ties to industry. Yet the EPA removed Rice from the panel after an intense push by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), an industry lobbying group that accused her of bias. Her supposed conflict of interest? She had publicly raised questions about the safety of a flame retardant under EPA review."

"

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Homeland Security warns to disable Java amid zero-day flaw

Beeftopia Beeftopia writes  |  about 2 years ago

Beeftopia (1846720) writes "From the article: "The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has warned users to disable or uninstall Java software on their computers, amid continuing fears and an escalation in warnings from security experts that hundreds of millions of business and consumer users are vulnerable to a serious flaw."

Hackers have discovered a weakness in Java 7 security, but "due to the number and severity of this and prior Java vulnerabilities, it is recommended that Java be disabled temporarily in web browsers as described in the "Solution" section of the US-CERT Alert."

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Majority of landmark cancer studies cannot be replicated

Beeftopia Beeftopia writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Beeftopia (1846720) writes ""NEW YORK (Reuters) — A former researcher at Amgen Inc has found that many basic studies on cancer — a high proportion of them from university labs — are unreliable, with grim consequences for producing new medicines in the future.

During a decade as head of global cancer research at Amgen, C. Glenn Begley identified 53 "landmark" publications — papers in top journals, from reputable labs — for his team to reproduce. Begley sought to double-check the findings before trying to build on them for drug development. Result: 47 of the 53 could not be replicated. He described his findings in a commentary piece published on Wednesday in the journal Nature.

[...] But they and others fear the phenomenon is the product of a skewed system of incentives that has academics cutting corners to further their careers.""

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Intellectual Ventures starts anti-reform campaign

Beeftopia Beeftopia writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Beeftopia (1846720) writes "Intellectual Ventures begins running radio ads equating patent reform with big bank thievery, on DC news radio. A new bill, HR 1249, called the American Invents Act, will scale back business method patents. Naturally, they are opposed (warning: PDF)"
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