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The Billionaires Privatizing American Science
Posted by News Fetcher on March 16 '14 at 04:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's easy-funding-in-four-words:-lab-rat-reality-show department:
An anonymous reader writes "Government-funded science is struggling in the United States. With the unstable economy over the past decade and the growing hostility to science in popular rhetoric, basic research money is getting hard to find. Part of the gap is being filled by billionaire philanthropists. Steven Edwards of the American Association for the Advancement of Science says, 'For better or worse, the practice of science in the 21st century is becoming shaped less by national priorities or by peer-review groups and more by the particular preferences of individuals with huge amounts of money.' Vast amounts of research are now driven by names like Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, David Koch, and Eric Schmidt. While this helps in some ways, it can hurt in others. 'Many of the patrons, they say, are ignoring basic research — the kind that investigates the riddles of nature and has produced centuries of breakthroughs, even whole industries — for a jumble of popular, feel-good fields like environmental studies and space exploration. ... Fundamentally at stake, the critics say, is the social contract that cultivates science for the common good.'"

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Measuring the Xbox One Against PCs With Titanfall
Posted by News Fetcher on March 16 '14 at 02:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's now-you're-thinking-with-death-robots department:
An anonymous reader writes "Earlier this week, Respawn Entertainment launched Titanfall, a futuristic first-person shooter with mechs that has been held up as the poster child for the Xbox One. The Digital Foundry blog took the opportunity to compare how the game plays on the Xbox One to its performance on a well-appointed PC. Naturally, the PC version outperforms, but the compromises are bigger than you'd expect for a newly-released console. For example, it runs at an odd resolution (1408x792), the frame rate 'clearly isn't anywhere near locked' to 60fps, and there's some unavoidable screen tear. Reviews for the game are generally positive — RPS says most of the individual systems in Titanfall are fun, but the forced multiplayer interaction is offputting. Giant Bomb puts it more succinctly: 'Titanfall is a very specific game built for a specific type of person.' Side note: the game has a 48GB install footprint on PCs, owing largely to 35GB of uncompressed audio."

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Solar-Powered Toilet Torches Waste For Public Health
Posted by News Fetcher on March 15 '14 at 10:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's not-just-for-something-and-grins department:
Daniel_Stuckey writes "With funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Reinvent the Toilet challenge, [a] team has developed a toilet that uses concentrated solar power to scorch and disinfect human waste, turning feces into a useful byproduct called biochar ... a sanitary charcoal material that is good for soils and agriculture. By converting solid waste to biochar (liquid waste is diverted elsewhere, as it's easier to deal with), the toilet thus allows for sanitary waste disposal without huge infrastructure investments. The toilet itself, called the Sol-Char, is a fascinating bit of engineering. In order to sanitize waste without the help of massive treatment facilities, Linden's team instead designed the toilet to scorch waste in a chamber heated by fiber optic cables that pipe in heat from solar collectors on the toilet's roof. 'A solar concentrator has all this light focused in on one centimeter. It'd be fine if we could bring everyone's fecal waste up to that one point, like burning it with a magnifying glass,' Linden said. 'But that's not practical, so we were thinking of other ways to concentrate that light.'"

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The Era of Facebook Is an Anomaly
Posted by News Fetcher on March 15 '14 at 07:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's let's-get-back-to-business-as-usual department:
An anonymous reader writes "Speaking to The Verge, author and Microsoft Researcher Danah Boyd put words to a feeling I've had about Facebook and other social networking sites for a while, now: 'The era of Facebook is an anomaly.' She continues, 'The idea of everybody going to one site is just weird. Give me one other part of history where everybody shows up to the same social space. Fragmentation is a more natural state of being. Is your social dynamic interest-driven or is it friendship-driven? Are you going there because there's this place where other folks are really into anime, or is this the place you're going because it's where your pals from school are hanging out? That first [question] is a driving function.' Personally, I hope this idea continues to propagate — it's always seemed odd that our social network identities are locked into certain websites. Imagine being a Comcast customer and being unable to email somebody using Time Warner, or a T-Mobile subscriber who can't call somebody who's on Verizon. Why do we allow this with our social networks?"

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Firefox Was the Most Attacked & Exploited Browser At Pwn2own 2014
Posted by News Fetcher on March 15 '14 at 04:45 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's foxes-provide-the-best-sport department:
darthcamaro writes "Though IE, Chrome and Safari were all attacked and all were exploited, no single web browser was exploited at this year's Pwn2own hacking challenge as Mozilla Firefox. A fully patched version of Firefox was exploited four different times by attackers, each revealing new zero-day vulnerabilities in the open-source web browser. When asked why Mozilla was attacked so much this year, Sid Stamm, senior engineering manager of security and privacy said, 'Pwn2Own offers very large financial incentives to researchers to expose vulnerabilities, and that may have contributed in part to the researchers' decision to wait until now to share their work and help protect Firefox users.' The Pwn2own event paid researchers $50,000 for each Firefox vulnerability. Mozilla now pays researcher only $3,000 per vulnerability."

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Transformer-Style Scooter Lets You Ride Your Briefcase To Work
Posted by News Fetcher on March 15 '14 at 03:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's pretty-much-what-meets-the-eye department:
cartechboy writes "If you're going to sell a brief case for $6,000, there better be a pony inside — or at least an electric scooter. Who wouldn't want to transform their boring old briefcase into an electric scooter and zip off to (or away from) work? The Commute-Case, as it's known, is essentially a briefcase you can ride to work. While in briefcase mode, if you extend sections of the front and back, wheels, handlebars and a step for your feet pop out. In 3 to 5 seconds, your briefcase is now an electric scooter that can go up to 25 miles on a single charge and weighs 27 pounds. Don't count on actually carrying stuff to work with this briefcase (there's a scooter inside)."

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Medicine Delivered By Flying Drones
Posted by News Fetcher on March 15 '14 at 02:00 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's because-walking-down-the-block-is-too-much-effort department:
A company has launched a service in San Francisco to deliver medicine and other drug store items via airborne drone. The company, QuiQui, chose the Mission district of San Francisco for its lack of tall buildings and generally flat landscape, which makes it much easier for the flying drones to get around. They're working with pharmacies to deliver medicine because the packages are typically very small and easy for the drones to carry. QuiQui has been working on the concept for two years even though they knew it was likely to be illegal. They were surprised when the FAA lost its lawsuit earlier this month to block commercial drone use, but they're taking the opportunity to push forward. They haven't yet resolved what to do about delivering regulated substances.

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Steam Controller Drops Touchscreen
Posted by News Fetcher on March 15 '14 at 01:00 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's walking-back-innovation department:
An anonymous reader writes "Last year Valve announced a new game controller that was trying to innovate on the designs that have been with us for over a decade now. The biggest changes were replacing analog sticks with circular touchpads and plopping a small touchscreen into the middle of the controller. Valve has now revamped their prototype hardware, and the touchscreen is nowhere to be seen. In its place are stop/play buttons (which appear similar to start/select buttons) and a bigger Steam logo button. They've also moved around the directional and ABXY buttons, reverting to a more traditional layout (picture). They'll be demonstrating the latest prototype next week at GDC."

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Forests Around Chernobyl Aren't Decaying Properly
Posted by News Fetcher on March 15 '14 at 12:15 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's this-is-what-happens-when-forests-aren't-educated-properly department:
An anonymous reader writes "Smithsonian Magazine has an article about one of the non-obvious effects of the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown: dead organisms are not decomposing correctly. 'According to a new study (abstract) published in Oecologia, decomposers—organisms such as microbes, fungi and some types of insects that drive the process of decay—have also suffered from the contamination. These creatures are responsible for an essential component of any ecosystem: recycling organic matter back into the soil. Issues with such a basic-level process, the authors of the study think, could have compounding effects for the entire ecosystem.' The scientists took bags of fallen leaves to various areas around Chernobyl and found that locations with more radiation caused the leaves to retain more than half of their original weight after almost a year. They're now beginning to worry that almost three decades of dead brush buildup is contributing to the area's fire risk, and a large fire could distribute radioactive material beyond Chernobyl's exclusion zone."

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You Can't Kid a Kidder: Comcast's Cohen May Have Met His Match In FCC's Wheeler
Posted by News Fetcher on March 15 '14 at 11:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's until-comcast-hires-wheeler-away department:
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Comcast's top lobbyist, David Cohen, is known to be a savvy political operator, having pushed through the No. 1 U.S. cable operator's landmark acquisition of media giant NBC Universal in 2011. But Alina Selyukh And Liana B. Baker write at Reuters that although Comcast ranks among the top-ten corporate influencers in Washington, having spent $18.8 million on lobbying last year, Cohen may have met his match in Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler. Wheeler headed the cable trade group from 1979 to 1984 and ran the wireless industry association from 1992 to 2004. Since taking over the FCC last November, however, Wheeler has not shied away from stances that have roiled past allies. Wheeler publicly expressed skepticism about a potential merger between wireless carriers Sprint and T-Mobile in one of his most attention-grabbing moves last February.

< article continued at Slashdot >

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NASA-Funded Study Investigates Collapse of Industrial Civilization
Posted by News Fetcher on March 15 '14 at 10:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's gotta-clear-out-the-barbarians-before-settling-another-city department:
Snirt writes "A new study (PDF) sponsored by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilization could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution. Noting that warnings of 'collapse' are often seen to be fringe or controversial, the study attempts to make sense of compelling historical data showing that 'the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history.' Cases of severe civilizational disruption due to 'precipitous collapse — often lasting centuries — have been quite common.' They say, 'Technological change can raise the efficiency of resource use, but it also tends to raise both per capita resource consumption and the scale of resource extraction, so that, absent policy effects, the increases in consumption often compensate for the increased efficiency of resource use.' After running simulations on the survivability of various types of civilizations, the researchers found that for the type most resembling ours, 'collapse is difficult to avoid.'"

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Controversial Torrent Streaming App 'Popcorn Time' Shuts Down, Then Gets Reborn
Posted by News Fetcher on March 15 '14 at 09:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's why-buy-the-cow department:
An anonymous reader writes "A piece of software called 'Popcorn Time' drew a lot of attention last week for encapsulating movie torrents within a slick, stream-based UI that made watching pirated films as easy as firing up Netflix. The app ran into trouble a few days ago when it was pulled from its hosting provider, Mega, and now Popcorn Time's creators say they're shutting it down altogether. They say it was mainly an experiment: 'Piracy is not a people problem. It's a service problem. A problem created by an industry that portrays innovation as a threat to their antique recipe to collect value. It seems to everyone that they just don't care. But people do. We've shown that people will risk fines, lawsuits and whatever consequences that may come just to be able to watch a recent movie in slippers. Just to get the kind of experience they deserve.' However, the software itself isn't a complete loss — the project is being picked up by the founder of a torrent site, and he says development will continue."

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Snowden A Hero? Gates Says No, Woz Says Yes
Posted by News Fetcher on March 15 '14 at 08:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's time-for-a-cage-match department:
hcs_$reboot writes "In a lengthy interview from Rolling Stone, Bill Gates, was asked: 'Do you consider [Snowden] a hero or a traitor?' The Microsoft founder responded, 'I certainly wouldn't characterize him as a hero. ... You won't find much admiration from me'. What about government surveillance? 'The government has such ability to do these things. ... But the specific techniques they use become unavailable if they're discussed in detail. Rolling Stone retorts that privacy can be an issue: 'We want safety, but we also want privacy,' says the journalist. Bill Gates tells his main priority focuses on stopping the bad guys: 'Let's say you knew nothing was going on. How would you feel? I mean, seriously. I would be very worried. Technology arms the bad guys with orders of magnitude more [power]. Not just bad guys. Crazy guys.' Meanwhile, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak expressed the opposite opinion about Snowden at a tech conference in Germany. 'He is a hero to me, but he may be a traitor to other people and I understand the reasons for them to think that way. I believe that Snowden believed, like I do, that the U.S. has a right to freedom. '"

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Why Are There More Old Songs On iTunes Than Old eBooks?
Posted by News Fetcher on March 15 '14 at 07:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's i-blame-the-schools department:
New submitter Paul J Heald writes "The vast majority of books and songs from the 20th Century are out-of-print. New data show music publishers doing an admirable job of digitizing older content, but book publishers fail miserably at putting old works in eBook form. I've done some research in an attempt to explain why: 'Music publishers can proceed with the digitization of their back catalog without competing to re-sign authors or hiring lawyers to renegotiate and write new contracts. Research has revealed no cases holding that music publishers must renegotiate in order to digitize their vinyl back catalogs. The situation for book publishers is substantially the opposite. In the landmark case of Random House v. Rosetta Books, the Second Circuit held that Random House had to renegotiate deals with its authors in order to publish their hard copy books in eBook format. ... Another advantage that the music industry may have is the lower cost of digitization. A vinyl album or audio master tape can be converted directly to a consumable digital form and be made available almost immediately. A book, on the other hand, can be scanned quite easily, but in order to be marketed as a professional-looking eBook (as opposed to a low quality, camera-like image of the original book), the scanned text needs to be manipulated with word processing software to reset the fonts and improve the appearance of the text.'"

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Malaysian Flight Disappearance 'Deliberate'
Posted by News Fetcher on March 15 '14 at 05:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's hope-dwindling department:
An anonymous reader writes "Malaysia's Prime Minister announced at a press conference that Flight 370, which disappeared a week ago, was diverted as a result of 'deliberate action.' The investigation has now focused in two ways: first, they're looking more closely at the passengers and crew, and second, they've narrowed the search for the plane down to two corridors. One stretches from Kazakhstan to northern Thailand, and the other goes from Indonesia to the southern Indian Ocean. 'That conclusion was based on a final signal from the plane picked up on satellite at 8:11 a.m. on March 8, nearly seven hours after ground control lost contact with the jet, he said.'

The Prime Minister said the plane's communications system and the transponder system were both disabled early on during the flight. The time of the plane's final satellite contact would have put its fuel reserves very low. 'Police on Saturday morning drove into the residential compound where the missing plane's pilot lives in Kuala Lumpur, according a guard and several local reporters who were barred from entering the complex. ... Experts have previously said that whoever disabled the plane's communication systems and then flew the jet must have had a high degree of technical knowledge and flying experience. One possibility they have raised was that one of the pilots wanted to commit suicide."


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Religion Is Good For Your Brain
Posted by News Fetcher on March 15 '14 at 04:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's still-looking-for-a-nice-atheist-church department:
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Sheila M. Elred writes in Discovery Magazine that a recent study has found that people at risk of depression were much less vulnerable if they identified as religious. Brain MRIs revealed that religious participants had thicker brain cortices than those who weren't as religious. 'One of the worst killers of brain cells is stress,' says Dr. Majid Fotuhi. 'Stress causes high levels of cortisol, and cortisol is toxic to the hippocampus. One way to reduce stress is through prayer. When you're praying and in the zone you feel a peace of mind and tranquility.' The reports concluded that a thicker cortex associated with a high importance of religion or spirituality may confer resilience to the development of depressive illness in individuals at high familial risk for major depression. The social element of attending religious services has also been linked to healthy brains. 'There's something magical about socializing,' says Fotuhi. 'It releases endorphins in the brain. It's hard to know whether it's through religion or a gathering of friends, but it improves brain health in the long term.'" (Read more, below.)

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Ask Slashdot: Best Management Interface On an IT Appliance?
Posted by News Fetcher on March 15 '14 at 03:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's one-you-never-need department:
tippen writes "The management user interface on most networking and storage appliances are, shall we say, not up to the snuff compared to modern websites or consumer products. What are the best examples of good UX design on an IT appliance that you've managed? What was it that made you love it? What should companies (or designers) developing new products look to as best-in-class that they should be striving for?"

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Goodbye, Google Voice
Posted by News Fetcher on March 15 '14 at 03:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's your-mileage-may-vary department:
itwbennett writes "The trouble with Google Voice is that the way we use phones has changed — and it hasn't kept up with the times: 'Fewer people have a mobile phone and a business line and a home line that might make One Number For All so. Text message costs (which are actually close to nothing) are almost always bundled into contract costs. Automatic voice transcription, while still a mean feat, is no longer such a magic trick,' writes Kevin Purdy in a blog post explaining why he's breaking up with Google Voice. The main problem is that, despite some very cool features, Google Voice doesn't play well with others — even apps in its own family. And it doesn't look as though that's going to get better anytime soon." I've been very happy with Google Voice for a few years now, and one reason is the transcribed voice messages, which may get hilariously garbled sometimes, but are almost always correct enough to be useful.

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Hungarian Law Says Photogs Must Ask Permission To Take Pictures
Posted by News Fetcher on March 14 '14 at 11:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's ok-mom-stop-running-away department:
An anonymous reader writes "Those planning a weekend break in Budapest take note. From 15 March anyone taking photographs in Hungary is technically breaking the law if someone wanders into shot, under a new civil code that outlaws taking pictures without the permission of everyone in the photograph. According to the justice ministry, people taking pictures should look out for those 'who are not waving, or who are trying to hide or running out of shot.' Officials say expanding the law on consent to include the taking of photographs, in addition to their publication, merely codifies existing court practice. However, Hungary's photographers call the law vague and obstructive, saying it has left the country of Joseph Pulitzer and photography legend Robert Capa out of step with Europe."

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How Data Storage Has Grown In the Past 60 Years
Posted by News Fetcher on March 14 '14 at 09:01 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's megaleaps-and-gigabounds department:
Lucas123 writes "Imagine that in 1952, an IBM RAMAC 350 disk drive would have been able to hold only one .MP3 song. Today, a 4TB 3.5-in desktop drive (soon to be 5TB) can hold 760,000 songs. As much data as the digital age creates (2.16 Zettabytes and growing), data storage technology has always found a way to keep up. It is the fastest growing semiconductor technology there is. Consider a microSD card that in 2005 could store 128MB of capacity. Last month, SanDisk launched a 128GB microSD card — 1,000 times the storage in under a decade. While planar NAND flash is running up against a capacity wall, technology such as 3D NAND and Resistive Random Access Memory (RRAM) hold the promise of quadrupling of solid state capacity. Here are some photos of what was and what is in data storage."

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