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Submission + - UK government to rush in emergency surveillance laws (theguardian.com) 2

beaker_72 writes: The Guardian reports that the UK government has unveiled plans to introduce emergency surveillance laws into the UK parliament at the beginning of next week. These are aimed at reinforcing the powers of security services in the UK to force service providers to retain records of their customers phone calls and emails. The laws, which have been introduced after the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that existing laws invaded individual privacy, will receive cross-party support and so will not be subjected to scrutiny or challenged in Parliament before entering the statute books. But as Tom Watson (Labour backbench MP and one of few dissenting voices) has pointed out, the ECJ ruling was six weeks ago, so why has the government waited until now to railroad something through. Unless of course they don't want it scrutinised too closely.

Submission + - The Emerging Revolution In The Science Of Deflector Shields

KentuckyFC writes: One curious feature on the Moon's surface are “lunar swirls”, wisp-like regions that are whiter than surrounding areas and that, until recently, astronomers could not explain. But one team of physicists recently showed that these areas are protected by weak magnetic fields that deflect high energy particles from the Sun and so prevent the darkening effect this radiation has. The problem they had to solve was how a weak field could offer so much protection, when numerous studies of long duration spaceflight have shown that only very powerful fields can act like radiation shields. The team now says that these previous studies have failed to take into account an important factor: the low density plasma that exists in space. It turns out that this plasma is swept up by a weak magnetic field moving through space, creating a layer of higher density plasma. That's important because the separation of charge within this layer creates an electric field. And it is this field that deflects the high energy particles from the Sun. That explains the lunar swirls but it also suggests that the same effect could be exploited to protect astronauts on long duration missions to the moon, to nearby asteroids and beyond. This team has now produced the first study of such a shield and how it might work. Their shield would use superconducting coils to create a relatively weak field only when it is needed, during solar storms, for example. And it would create a plasma by pumping xenon into the vacuum around the vehicle, where it would be ionised by UV light. The entire device would weigh around 1.5 tonnes and use about 20 KW of power. That's probably more than mission planners could currently accommodate but it is significantly less than the science fiction-type power requirements of previous designs. And who knows what other tricks of plasma physics engineers might be able to exploit to refine this design. All of a sudden, long duration space flight looks a little more feasible.

Submission + - "Turing Test Passed" was just a load of hype?

beaker_72 writes: On Sunday we saw a story on /. alerting us to the news that the Turing Test had finally been passed: http://developers.slashdot.org.... The same story was picked up by most of the mainstream media and reported all over the place over the weekend and yesterday. However, today we see an article in TechDirt telling us that in fact the original press release was just a load of hype from someone who has previous in the area: https://www.techdirt.com/artic... So who's right? Have researchers at a well established university managed to beat this test for the first time, or should we believe TechDirt who have pointed out some aspects of the story which, if true, are pretty damning?

Submission + - Facebook shuts down their email system (bbc.co.uk)

beaker_72 writes: The BBC are reporting that Facebook will end their email system which provided users an @facebook.com email address in March. The official line from Facebook is that not many people have been using the service. Is that really the case or have they found it too challenging to monetise that part of their service? Did users stay away from this "service" because they've become more savvy and recognised it for what it was — another way to harvest their data? Or is it the case that the market is currently saturated with free webmail services and there wasn't room for another one?

Comment Re:In the Netherlands.. (Score 1) 280

That's interesting - I started using it to communicate internationally with friends in the Netherlands, when they told me about it. I know virtually nobody in the UK that uses it, most people that bother at all with an app for communicating (that isn't Facebook) use Viber. I also use that but only to communicate with friends in ROI. I'm an older user user though and it could well be that the kids are all on WhatsApp or Viber or something else like that for all I know.

Comment Re:Journals are failing (Score 1) 136

I don't disagree with either hubie or the gnat that we need quality control in scientific publishing and that peer review, if correctly implemented would be the best way to go about this. My point (and I don't believe that either of you are disagreeing with me) is that it currently doesn't work. Based on that I think it isn't all that surprising that people look for alternative ways of getting their ideas out there. In an ideal world, peer review is definitely the best way to maintain the quality of publication, but I come back to my original statement - that system is broken.

Comment Journals are failing (Score 5, Insightful) 136

The peer review system for scientific journals is broken. It was supposed to ensure that only valid research which takes a field forward would actually get published. Techniques such as blind and double blind reviewing were supposed to help in ensuring that there was no bias towards specific researchers such as those who were considered to be leaders in the field. However what happens in practice is usually a long way from that ideal, vested interests and group think often result in new, fresh ideas not being published (older academics pulling up the ladder) and mutual back scratching is very common. Reviewing is rarely blind let alone double blind and so all the abuses those are supposed to prevent can (and do) take place. New approaches to publishing ideas and possibly even research results should be encouraged. Blogs are also far from ideal, but if it helps get ideas out to a wider audience then they're a step in the right direction.

Submission + - SPAM: Big Bad Wolves

Comment Re:My experience (Score 1) 237

This is very true. I'm working in academia just now, I wanted to do something similar to the OP but found the only route open to me was to study for a PhD which I'm now doing. If you really want to go down that route you'll probably have to do something similar. Not sure where the OP is based but this website might help if in the UK, I'm sure there are similar things around the world: http://www.jobs.ac.uk/

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