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First Evidence That Google's Quantum Computer May Not Be Quantum After All
Posted by News Fetcher on February 03 '14 at 08:30 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's emperor's-new-keyboard department:
KentuckyFC writes "In May last year, Google and NASA paid a reported $15 million for a quantum computer from the controversial Canadian start up D-Wave Systems. One question mark over the device is whether it really is quantum or just a conventional computer in disguise. That's harder to answer than it sounds, not least because any direct measurement of a quantum state destroys it. So physicists have to take an indirect approach. They assume the computer is a black box in which they can input data and receive an output. Given this input and output, the question is whether this computing behavior can be best reproduced by a classical or a quantum algorithm. Last summer, an international team of scientists compared a number of classical algorithms against an algorithm that relies on a process called quantum annealing. Their conclusion was that quantum annealing best reproduces the D-Wave computer's behavior, a result that was a huge boon for the company. Now a group from UC Berkeley and IBM's Watson Research Lab says it has a found a classical algorithm that explains the results just as well, or even better, than quantum annealing. In other words, the results from the D-Wave machine could just as easily be explained if it was entirely classical. That comes on the back of mounting evidence that the D-Wave computer may not cut the quantum mustard in other ways too. Could it be that Google and NASA have forked out millions for a classical calculator?"

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Pwn2own 2014 Set To Hunt Unicorns
Posted by News Fetcher on February 03 '14 at 07:45 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's crack-it-if-you-can department:
darthcamaro writes "The annual Pwn2own hacking competition has always made short work of all browser vendors' security, shredding perception of safety by hacking IE, Firefox, Safari and Chrome in minutes. This year the competition is adding a twist — for IE on Windows 8.1, hackers will also have to bypass Microsoft EMET, which is a seemingly bulletproof type of sandbox. The competition is calling this the 'Unicorn Exploit' and the first researcher to successful exploit it will pocket $150,000."

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Ask Slashdot: What Do You Do If You're Given a Broken Project?
Posted by News Fetcher on February 03 '14 at 07:30 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's cleaning-up-the-mess department:
X10 writes "Suppose you're assigned to a project that someone else has created. It's an app, you'll work on it alone. You think 'how hard can it be,' you don't check out the source code before you accept the assignment. But then, it turns out the code is not robust. You create a small new feature, and the app breaks down in unexpected ways. You fix a bug, and new bugs pop up all over the place. The person who worked on the project before you is well respected in the company, and you are 'just a contractor,' hired a few months ago. The easy way out is to just quit, as there's plenty of jobs you can take. But that doesn't feel right. What else can you do?"

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James Dyson: We Should Pay Students To Study Engineering
Posted by News Fetcher on February 03 '14 at 07:00 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's change-your-major department:
DavidGilbert99 writes "The inventor of the bagless vacuum cleaner believes there is an engineering crisis in the UK and that 61,000 vacancies in the area will go unfilled in 2014. To address this Dyson believes says he wants the UK government to offer monetary incentives to students with an interest and aptitude in science — as well as changing the current visa system to make it easier for foreign students to remain in the country and get work once they have completed their education in the UK."

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Crypto Legend Quisquater Targeted - But NSA May Not Be To Blame
Posted by News Fetcher on February 03 '14 at 06:00 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's it-wasn't-us-this-time department:
judgecorp writes "Reports that the NSA and/or Britain's GCHQ deliberately targeted Belgian cryptography professor Jea-Jacques Quisquater may be jumping to conclusions, the professor has said. Investigation of an apparent NSA/GCHQ hack of Belgian ISP Belgacom uncovered evidence that Quisquater's PC had been infected with malware and had data extracted. However the two incidents might be coincidence: similar malware is used by Asian attackers, he said"

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Researchers Try To "Close the Nutrient Cycle" Through Better Waste Recycling
Posted by News Fetcher on February 03 '14 at 05:15 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's using-everything department:
An anonymous reader writes "Converting human waste into usable fertilizer may become the next important development in sustainable living. 'Most conventional farms invest in synthetic fertilizer, which requires energy to produce and is associated with many environmental problems of its own. But by separating out human urine before it gets to the wastewater plant, Rich Earth cofounder Kim Nace says they can turn it into a robust fertilizer alternative: a "local, accessible, free, sanitary source of nitrogen and phosphorous."'"

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Apple Reportedly Testing Inductive, Solar and Motion Charging For Its Smartwatch
Posted by News Fetcher on February 03 '14 at 02:30 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's riddle-wrapped-in-a-mystery-inside-an-enigma department:
An anonymous reader writes in with the latest from the rumor mill about a possible Apple smartwatch. "We've heard that when Apple reveals its first smartwatch product, there's going to be a heavy focus on health and fitness, but There might also be a way to charge the wearable without plugging it in, according to a report from the New York Times. Inductive charging came in a wave of smartphones last year, including Google's Nexus 4 and Nokia's Lumia 920 range, although we don't often see it in anything smaller than a phone (or camera) form-factor. Apple, however, is looking into cramming the same technology into its iWatch, or whatever it eventually calls its debut wearable."

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Atlas of US Historical Geography Digitized
Posted by News Fetcher on February 02 '14 at 11:30 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's over-time department:
memnock writes "Charles O. Paullin and John K. Wright's Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States, first published in 1932, has been digitized by The Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond. From the website: 'Here you will find one of the greatest historical atlases: Charles O. Paullin and John K. Wright's Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States, first published in 1932. This digital edition reproduces all of the atlas's nearly 700 maps. Many of these beautiful maps are enhanced here in ways impossible in print, animated to show change over time or made clickable to view the underlying data—remarkable maps produced eight decades ago with the functionality of the twenty-first century.'"

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Australia OKs Dumping Dredge Waste In Barrier Reef
Posted by News Fetcher on February 02 '14 at 08:15 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's put-that-anywhere department:
An anonymous reader writes "Australia's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has approved the dumping of 3 million cubic meters of dredge waste in park waters. The decision has been blasted by environmentalists. 'This is a sad day for the reef and anyone who cares about its future,' said WWF Great Barrier Reef campaigner Richard Leck. 'The World Heritage Committee will take a dim view of this decision, which is in direct contravention of one of its recommendations.'"

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Through a Face Scanner Darkly
Posted by News Fetcher on February 02 '14 at 06:00 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's I-know-you department:
An anonymous reader writes in with a story that raises the issue of how public anonymity is quickly disappearing thanks to facial recognition technology. "NameTag, an app built for Google Glass by a company called FacialNetwork.com, offers a face scanner for encounters with strangers. You see somebody on the sidewalk and, slipping on your high-tech spectacles, select the app. Snap a photo of a passerby, then wait a minute as the image is sent up to the company's database and a match is hunted down. The results load in front of your left eye, a selection of personal details that might include someone's name, occupation, Facebook and/or Twitter profile, and, conveniently, whether there's a corresponding entry in the national sex-offender registry."

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Super Bowl Ads: Worth the Price Or Waste of Time?
Posted by News Fetcher on February 02 '14 at 04:45 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's did-you-see-that? department:
samzenpus writes "Every year companies are willing to dish out big bucks to reach tens of millions of consumers with their Super Bowl ads. With an average price tag of $4 million for a 30-second commercial, this year is no exception. We've seen: beer obsessed frogs, field goal kicking horses, celebrities drinking various beverages, explosions of all sizes, homages to 1984, and day trading babies in the past. Since talking about the commercials has become almost as popular as the game itself, here's a place to do just that. What have you liked and what do you think would have been better left on the cutting room floor."

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Press Used To Print Millions of US Banknotes Seized In Quebec
Posted by News Fetcher on February 02 '14 at 03:45 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's close-to-perfect department:
An anonymous reader writes "The Canadian Royal Mounted Police report: An offset printing press used to manufacture counterfeit $20 banknotes was seized by the RCMP and US Secret Service. This significant seizure was made earlier today in the Trois-Rivières area. The authorities had been looking for this offset press for several years. A large quantity of paper was also seized by police, that could have been used by the counterfeiters to manufacture from $40-$200 million. The very high quality counterfeit notes were virtually undetectable to the naked eye. Some of the features they had were uncommon, including the type of paper used, which was especially made with a Jackson watermark and a dark vertical stripe imitating the security thread found in authentic notes."

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Windows 8.1 Passes Windows Vista In Market Share
Posted by News Fetcher on February 02 '14 at 02:15 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's growing-everyday department:
An anonymous reader writes "With the release of Windows 8.1 to the world in October, January was the third full month of availability for Microsoft's latest operating system version, which was just enough time for it to pass Windows Vista in market share. While Windows 8.1 is certainly growing steadily and eating into Windows 8s share, the duo only managed to end 2013 with 10 percent market share, barely impacting Windows 7."

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Sound System Simulates the Roar of a Rocket Launch
Posted by News Fetcher on February 02 '14 at 01:00 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's can-you-hear-anything-now? department:
retroworks writes "Located in Noordwijk, Netherlands, and part of ESA's ESTEDC Test Center, is the Large European Acoustic Facility (LEAF), a sound amplification system 'powerful enough to kill a human being.' LEAF is capable of generating more than 154 decibels, the sound equivalent to standing next to several jets taking off. It is used to blast satellites and spacecraft with sound. Large horns are housed in a sound-proofed room that is 16.4meters tall. One wall of horns stands 11 m wide by 9 m deep and 16.4 m high. LEAF requires all the doors to be closed, operating in steel-reinforced concrete walls to contain the noise. The walls are coated with an epoxy resin to reflect noise, producing a uniform sound field within the chamber."

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Ultrasound Technique Provides a New Radiation Free Way To Visualize Tumors
Posted by News Fetcher on February 02 '14 at 12:45 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's building-it-better department:
FirephoxRising writes "Traditionally ultrasound has seen limited use in cancer treatment due to clarity and resolution issues. But researchers at the UNC School of Medicine have overcome this limitation by combining ultrasound with a contrast agent composed of tiny bubbles that pair with an antibody that many cancer cells produce at higher levels than do normal cells. 'The SFRP2-moleculary targeted contrast agent showed specific visualization of the tumor vasculature,' said Klauber-DeMore. 'In contrast, there was no visualization of normal blood vessels. This suggests that the contrast agent may help distinguish malignant from benign masses found on imaging.'"

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Environmental Report Raises Pressure On Obama To Approve Keystone Pipeline
Posted by News Fetcher on February 02 '14 at 11:00 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's not-so-bad department:
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Reuters reports that pressure on President Obama to approve the Keystone XL pipeline increased on Friday after a State Department report played down the impact it would have on climate change, irking environmentalists and delighting proponents of the project. The long-awaited environmental impact statement concludes that the Keystone XL pipeline would not substantially worsen carbon pollution, leaving an opening for Obama to approve the politically divisive project as it appears to indicate that the project could pass the criteria Obama set forth in a speech last summer when he said he would approve the 1,700-mile pipeline if it would not 'significantly exacerbate' the problem of greenhouse gas emissions. The oil industry applauded the review. 'After five years and five environmental reviews, time and time again the Department of State analysis has shown that the pipeline is safe for the environment,' says Cindy Schild, the senior manager of refining and oil sands programs at the American Petroleum Institute, which lobbies for the oil industry. Environmentalists say they are dismayed at some of the report's conclusions and disputed its objectivity, and add that the report also offers Obama reasons to reject the pipeline. The report concludes that the process used for producing the oil — by extracting what are called tar sands or oil sands from the Alberta forest — creates about 17 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than traditional oil (PDF). But the report concludes that this heavily polluting oil will still be brought to market. Energy companies are already moving the oil out of Canada by rail. 'At the end of the day, there's a consensus among most energy experts that the oil will get shipped to market no matter what,' says Robert McNally. 'It's less important than I think it was perceived to be a year ago, both politically and on oil markets.'"

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Mysterious Underwater Circles Off the Coast of Denmark Explained
Posted by News Fetcher on February 02 '14 at 10:00 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's round-and-round department:
sciencehabit writes "The truth behind the mysterious underwater circles that periodically appear off the coast of Denmark has been discovered, and sadly it doesn't involve aliens, fairies, or the fabled lost city of Atlantis. In 2008, a tourist snapped photos of several large dark rings that appeared near the white cliffs of Denmark's island of Møn in the Baltic Sea. The circles, several as large as a tennis courts, sparked numerous theories of their origin—some more outlandish than others. In 2011, when the formations reappeared, scientists discovered they were actually round bands of marine eelgrass, similar to rings of mushrooms known as fairy rings. Because eelgrass usually grows as continuous underwater meadows, scientists were still baffled by the rims of lush eelgrass with barren cores. Now, researchers say they at last know the rings' true cause."

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Can Wolfram Alpha Tell Which Team Will Win the Super Bowl?
Posted by News Fetcher on February 02 '14 at 09:00 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's and-the-answer-is department:
Nerval's Lobster writes "Which football team will win the Super Bowl this weekend? That's a multi-million-dollar question, given the amount of cash people will bet on either the Seattle Seahawks or the Denver Broncos to win. Fortunately, Wolfram Alpha (the self-billed "computational knowledge engine") can analyze the historical statistics for both teams and throw out some potentially useful numbers. Developed by Stephen Wolfram and based his Wolfram Research's Mathematica analytical platform, Wolfram Alpha is an altogether different search engine from Bing or Google, which generally return pages of blue hyperlinks in response to queries. Instead of multiple results leading to still other Webpages, Wolfram Alpha usually returns set of definitive, numerical answers. (A lengthy rundown of the engine's capabilities is found on its 'About' page.) So how does Wolfram's engine, which features sophisticated algorithms chewing through trillions of pieces of data, break down the potentials for Sunday's game? Out of the 38 times the two teams have met on the field, the Broncos have triumphed 25 times (versus 12 wins for the Seahawks), scoring 98 total touchdowns to the Seahawks' 84. It's definitely advantage Broncos, in that sense. But the teams' percentages are fairly close with regard to total yardage, penalties, penalty yards, and other metrics, although the Seahawks have managed to nab more interceptions (47, versus the Broncos' 37). But while Wolfram Alpha can crunch all the historical data it wants, and that data can suggest one team will likely triumph over another, there's always the likelihood that something random—a freak injury, or a tweak to the player lineup—can change the course of the game in ways that nobody can anticipate. Also, given how player and coaching rosters vary from year to year, the teams taking the field can change radically between meetings." EA has correctly predicted eight of the last ten Super Bowl winners using the latest Madden game.

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Rome Police Use Twitter To Battle Illegal Parking
Posted by News Fetcher on February 02 '14 at 07:45 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's shame-your-neighbor department:
cartechboy writes "Illegal parking has always been a major problem in Rome. More than half of Rome's 2.7 million residents use private vehicles, and the ancient city has a staggering ratio of 70 cars per 100 residents. So many residents park, uh, creatively. But now authorities think they've found a way to fight bad parking using social media. Basically, they've asked residents to post photos of bad parking jobs to Twitter. In December, the Italian cops began encouraging smart phone users to snap pics of illegally parked cars and tweet those photos to the department's Twitter account. The new system, which was created by Raffaele Clemente, Rome's chief of traffic police, seems to be working. In the first 30 days, police received more than 1,000 complaints tweeted to their account., (one example is here). Officials were able to respond to around 740 and hand out citations."

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Astronomers Investigating Unknown Object That Hit the Earth In 773 AD
Posted by News Fetcher on February 02 '14 at 06:45 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's what-could-it-be department:
KentuckyFC writes "In November 2012, a group of Japanese scientists discovered that the concentration of carbon-14 in Japanese cedar trees suddenly rose between 774 AD and 775 AD. Others have since found similar evidence and narrowed the date to 773 AD. Astronomers think this stuff must have come from space so now the quest is on to find the extraterrestrial culprit. Carbon-14 is continually generated in the atmosphere by cosmic rays hitting nitrogen atoms. But because carbon-14 is radioactive, it naturally decays back into nitrogen with a half-life of about 5700 years. This constant process of production and decay leaves the amount of carbon-14 in the atmosphere relatively constant at about one part in a trillion will be carbon-14. One possible reason for the increase is that the Sun belched a superflare our way, engulfing the planet in huge cloud of high energy protons. Recent calculations suggest this could happen once every 3000 years and so seems unlikely. Another possibility is a nearby supernova, which bathed the entire Solar System in additional cosmic rays. However, astronomers cannot see any likely candidates nearby and there are no historical observations of a supernova from that time. Yet another possibility is that a comet may have hit the Earth, dumping the extra carbon-14 in the atmosphere. But astronomers have ruled that out on the basis that a comet carrying enough carbon-14 must have been over 100 km in diameter and would surely have left other evidence such as an impact crater. So for the moment, astronomers are stumped."

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