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Google's Megan Smith Would Be First US CTO Worthy of the Title
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '14 at 02:15 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's knows-how-to-program-her-VCR department:
theodp writes: Bloomberg is reporting that Google X's Megan Smith is the top candidate for U.S. Chief Technology Officer. With a BS/MS in Mechanical Engineering from MIT, and experience ranging from General Magic to Google, Smith would arguably be the first U.S. CTO worthy of the title (the outgoing U.S. CTO has a bachelor's in Econ; his predecessor has a master's in Public Policy). "Smith joined Google in 2003. As vice president of business development, she oversaw many of its most important acquisitions, like Keyhole, the service that underlies Google Earth. She has led the company’s philanthropic division, Google.org, and served as a co-host for Google’s Solve for X forum, where distinguished thinkers and scientists brainstorm radical technology ideas with Google executives."

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States Allowing Medical Marijuana Have Fewer Painkiller Deaths
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '14 at 12:45 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's but-more-dorito-related-injuries department:
An anonymous reader writes: Narcotic painkillers aren't one of the biggest killers in the U.S., but overdoses do claim over 15,000 lives per year and send hundreds of thousands to the emergency room. Because of this, it's interesting that a new study (abstract) has found states that allow the use of medical marijuana have seen a dramatic reduction in opioid overdose fatalities. "Previous studies hint at why marijuana use might help reduce reliance on opioid painkillers. Many drugs with abuse potential such as nicotine and opiates, as well as marijuana, pump up the brain's dopamine levels, which can induce feelings of euphoria. The biological reasons that people might use marijuana instead of opioids aren't exactly clear, because marijuana doesn't replace the pain relief of opiates. However, it does seem to distract from the pain by making it less bothersome." This research comes at a time when the country is furiously debating the costs and benefits of marijuana use, and opponents of the idea are paying researchers to paint it in an unfavorable light.

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NASA's Competition For Dollars
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '14 at 11:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's all-about-the-benjamins department:
An anonymous reader writes: We often decry the state of funding to NASA. Its limited scope has kept us from returning to the moon for over four decades, maintained only a minimal presence in low-Earth orbit, and failed to develop a capable asteroid defense system. But why is funding such a problem? Jason Callahan, who has worked on several of NASA's annual budgets, says it's not just NASA's small percentage of the federal budget that keeps those projects on the back burner, but also competition for funding between different parts of NASA as well. "[NASA's activities include] space science, including aeronautics research (the first A in NASA), technology development, education, center and agency management, construction, maintenance, and the entire human spaceflight program. The total space science budget has rarely exceeded $5 billion, and has averaged just over half that amount. Remember that space science is more than just planetary: astrophysics, heliophysics, and Earth science are all funded in this number. Despite this, space science accounts for an average of 17 percent of NASA's total budget, though it has significant fluctuations. In the 1980s, space science was a mere 11 ½ percent of NASA's budget, but in the 2000s, it made up 27 percent."

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Ask Slashdot: Best Phone Apps?
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '14 at 10:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's there's-an-app-for-picking-apps-that-pick-apps department:
An anonymous reader writes: The phone app ecosystem has matured nicely over the past several years. There are apps for just about everything I need to do on my phone. But I've noticed that once an app fills a particular need, I don't tend to look for newer or potentially better apps that would replace it. In a lot of areas, I'm two or three years out of date — maybe there's something better, maybe not. Since few people relish the thought of installing, testing, and uninstalling literally hundreds of apps, I thought I'd put the question to the Slashdot community: what interesting, useful new(ish) apps are you aware of? This can be anything from incredibly slick, well-designed single purpose apps to powerful multi-function apps to entertainment-oriented apps.

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Hidden Obstacles For Google's Self-Driving Cars
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '14 at 09:15 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's not-looking-forward-to-denial-of-driving-attacks department:
Paul Fernhout writes: Lee Gomes at MIT's Technology Review wrote an article on the current limits of Google self-driving car technology: "Would you buy a self-driving car that couldn't drive itself in 99 percent of the country? Or that knew nearly nothing about parking, couldn't be taken out in snow or heavy rain, and would drive straight over a gaping pothole? If your answer is yes, then check out the Google Self-Driving Car, model year 2014. Google often leaves the impression that, as a Google executive once wrote, the cars can 'drive anywhere a car can legally drive.' However, that's true only if intricate preparations have been made beforehand, with the car's exact route, including driveways, extensively mapped. Data from multiple passes by a special sensor vehicle must later be pored over, meter by meter, by both computers and humans. It's vastly more effort than what's needed for Google Maps. ... Among other unsolved problems, Google has yet to drive in snow, and Urmson says safety concerns preclude testing during heavy rains. Nor has it tackled big, open parking lots or multilevel garages. ... Pedestrians are detected simply as moving, column-shaped blurs of pixels — meaning, Urmson agrees, that the car wouldn't be able to spot a police officer at the side of the road frantically waving for traffic to stop."

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Reformatting a Machine 125 Million Miles Away
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '14 at 08:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's red-rover-red-rover-send-updates-right-over department:
An anonymous reader writes: NASA's Opportunity rover has been rolling around the surface of Mars for over 10 years. It's still performing scientific observations, but the mission team has been dealing with a problem: the rover keeps rebooting. It's happened a dozen times this month, and the process is a bit more involved than rebooting a typical computer. It takes a day or two to get back into operation every time. To try and fix this, the Opportunity team is planning a tricky operation: reformatting the flash memory from 125 million miles away. "Preparations include downloading to Earth all useful data remaining in the flash memory and switching the rover to an operating mode that does not use flash memory. Also, the team is restructuring the rover's communication sessions to use a slower data rate, which may add resilience in case of a reset during these preparations." The team suspects some of the flash memory cells are simply wearing out. The reformat operation is scheduled for some time in September.

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Judge Allows L.A. Cops To Keep License Plate Reader Data Secret
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '14 at 07:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's you-can-trust-us department:
An anonymous reader writes:
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has ruled that the Los Angeles Police Department is not required to hand over a week's worth of license plate reader data to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). He cited the potential of compromising criminal investigations and giving (un-charged) criminals the ability to determine whether or not they were being targeted by law enforcement (PDF). The ACLU and the EFF sought the data under the California Public Records Act, but the judge invoked Section 6254(f), "which protects investigatory files." ACLU attorney Peter Bibring notes, "New surveillance techniques may function better if people don't know about them, but that kind of secrecy is inconsistent with democratic policing."

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Scientists Found the Origin of the Ebola Outbreak
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '14 at 05:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's it-was-the-butler-with-the-candlestick-in-the-library department:
Taco Cowboy sends this report from Vox:
One of the big mysteries in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is where the virus came from in the first place — and whether it's changed in any significant ways. ... In a new paper in Science (abstract), researchers reveal that they have sequenced the genomes of Ebola from 78 patients in Sierra Leone who contracted the disease in May and June. Those sequences revealed some 300 mutations specific to this outbreak. Among their findings, the researchers discovered that the current viral strains come from a related strain that left Central Africa within the past ten years. ... Using genetic sequences from current and previous outbreaks, the researchers mapped out a family tree that puts a common ancestor of the recent West African outbreak some place in Central Africa roughly around 2004. This contradicts an earlier hypothesis that the virus had been hanging around West Africa for much longer than that. Researchers are also planning to study the mutations to see if any of them are affecting Ebola's recent behavior. For example, this outbreak has had a higher transmission rate and lower death rate than others, and researchers are curious if any of these mutations are related to that. ... The scientific paper on Ebola is also a sad reminder of the toll that the virus has taken on those working on the front lines. Five of the authors died of Ebola before it was published.

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MIPS Tempts Hackers With Raspbery Pi-like Dev Board
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '14 at 04:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's do-what-thou-will department:
DeviceGuru (1136715) writes "In a bid to harness the energy and enthusiasm swirling around today's open, hackable single board computers, Imagination Technologies, licensor of the MIPS ISA, has unveiled the Creator C120 development board, the ISA's counter to ARM's popular Raspberry Pi and BeagleBone Black SBCs. The MIPS dev board is based on a 1.2GHz dual-core MIPS32 system-on-chip and has 1GB RAM and 8GB flash, and there's also an SD card slot for expansion. Ports include video, audio, Ethernet, both WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0, and a bunch more. OS images are already available for Debian 7, Gentoo, Yocto, and Arch Linux, and Android v4.4 is expected to be available soon. Perhaps the most interesting feature of the board is that there's no pricing listed yet, because the company is starting out by giving the boards away free to developers who submit the most interesting projects."

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Dell's New Alienware Case Goes to Extremes To Prevent Overheating
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '14 at 03:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's pvc-and-tape-would-cost-less department:
MojoKid writes Dell's enthusiast Alienware brand has always stood out for its unique, other-worldly looks (sometimes good, sometimes, not so good) and there's such a thing as taking things to the next level, this might be it. However, there's more to this refresh than just shock value. It's actually a futuristic aesthetic with a rather purposeful design behind it. Today Alienware gave a sneak peek at their completely redesigned Alienware Area 51 desktop system. This refreshed system is unlike any previous Alienware rig you've seen. With a trapezoidal shape to its chassis, Dell-Alienware says you can place the Area-51 against a wall and not have to worry about thermals getting out of the control. That's because there's a controlled gap and a sharp angle to the chassis that ensures only a small part of the system actually rests near the wall, leaving extra room for hot air to escape up and away. This design also offers users easy access to rear IO ports. Despite the unique design, there's plenty of room for high end components inside. The retooled chassis can swallow up to three 300W double-wide full-length graphics cards. It also brings to the table Intel's latest and greatest Haswell-E in six-core or eight-core options, liquid cooled and nestled into Intel's X99 chipset. No word from Dell on the price but the new Area-51 is slated to start shipping in October.

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Watch UK Inventor Colin Furze Survive a Fireworks Blast In a Metal Suit
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '14 at 01:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's could-substitute-cherry-bombs-in-the-basement department:
Nerval's Lobster writes Labor Day is nigh, and with it the official end of summer. It's time to pack away the umbrellas and beach towels, and perhaps spend a few minutes flipping through photos of all the fun times you had over the past couple months: the grilling, the trips, the fireworks oh yes, the fireworks Chances are pretty good that you've set off more than a few fireworks in your time. But Colin Furze, the British inventor and YouTube celebrity who once co-hosted Sky1's Gadget Geeks? Well, he puts everybody's love of fireworks to shame. He loves fireworks so much, in fact, that he built a giant metal suit so he could stand in the middle of an epic pyrotechnic display. No matter how good your own engineering skills (or strong your courage), it's inadvisable to try this at home. But it's sure fun to watch.

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Hal Finney, PGP and Bitcoin Pioneer, Dies At 58
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '14 at 11:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's that's-a-legacy department:
New submitter brokenin2 writes Hal Finney, the number two programmer for PGP and the first person to receive a Bitcoin transaction, has passed away. From the article on Coindesk: "Shortly after collaborating with Nakamoto on early bitcoin code in 2009, Finney announced he was suffering from ALS. Increasing paralysis, which eventually became near-total, forced him to retire from work in early 2011."

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Google Introduces HTML 5.1 Tag To Chrome
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '14 at 08:30 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's tagging-wars-ensue department:
darthcamaro (735685) writes "Forget about HTML5, that's already passe — Google is already moving on to HTML5.1 support for the upcoming Chrome 38 release. Currently only a beta, one of the biggest things that web developers will notice is the use of the new "picture" tag which is a container for multiple image sizes/formats. Bottom line is it's a new way to think about the "IMG" tag that has existed since the first HTML spec."

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Anti-Ebola Drug ZMapp Makes Clean Sweep: 18 of 18 Monkeys Survive Infection
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '14 at 06:00 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's not-that-kind-of-monkey-trial department:
Scientific American reports, based on a study published today in Nature, that ZMapp, the drug that has been used to treat seven patients during the current Ebola epidemic in West Africa, can completely protect monkeys against the virus, research has found. ... The drug — a cocktail of three purified immune proteins, or monoclonal antibodies, that target the Ebola virus — has been given to seven people: two US and three African health-care workers, a British nurse and a Spanish priest. The priest and a Liberian health-care worker who got the drug have since died. There is no way to tell whether ZMapp has been effective in the patients who survived, because they received the drug at different times during the course of their disease and received various levels of medical care.

NPR also has an interview with study lead Gary Kobinger, who says that (very cautious) human trials are in the works, and emphasizes the difficulites of producing the drug in quantity.

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Islamic State "Laptop of Doom" Hints At Plots Including Bubonic Plague
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '14 at 04:00 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's theocrat's-cookbook department:
Foreign Policy has an in-depth look at the contents of a laptop reportedly seized this year in Syria from a stronghold of the organization now known as the Islamic State, and described as belonging to a Tunisian national ("Muhammed S."). The "hidden documents" folder of the machine, says the report, contained a vast number of documents, including ones describing and justifying biological weapons:

The laptop's contents turn out to be a treasure trove of documents that provide ideological justifications for jihadi organizations -- and practical training on how to carry out the Islamic State's deadly campaigns. They include videos of Osama bin Laden, manuals on how to make bombs, instructions for stealing cars, and lessons on how to use disguises in order to avoid getting arrested while traveling from one jihadi hot spot to another. ... The information on the laptop makes clear that its owner is a Tunisian national named Muhammed S. who joined ISIS in Syria and who studied chemistry and physics at two universities in Tunisia's northeast. Even more disturbing is how he planned to use that education: The ISIS laptop contains a 19-page document in Arabic on how to develop biological weapons and how to weaponize the bubonic plague from infected animals. ... "The advantage of biological weapons is that they do not cost a lot of money, while the human casualties can be huge," the document states.

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Ask Slashdot: What Old Technology Can't You Give Up?
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '14 at 03:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's don't-touch-that-dial department:
An anonymous reader writes: It's the year 2014, and I still have a floppy drive installed on my computer. I don't know why; I don't own any floppy disks, and I haven't used one in probably a decade. But every time I put together a PC, it feels incomplete if I don't have one. I also have a Laserdisc player collecting dust at the bottom of my entertainment center, and I still use IRC to talk to a few friends. Software, hardware, or otherwise, what technology have you had a hard time letting go? (I don't want to put a hard limit on age, so you folks using flip-phones or playing on Dreamcasts or still inexplicably coding in Perl 4, feel free to contribute.)

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Study: Social Networks Have Negative Effect On Individual Welfare
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '14 at 02:45 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's tweeting-can-cause-polio department:
An anonymous reader writes: A study of 50,000 people in Italy has found the impact of social networking on individual welfare to be "significantly negative." The researchers found that improvements in self-reported well-being occurred when online networking led to face-to-face interactions, but this effect was overwhelmed by the perceived losses in well-being (PDF) generated by interaction strictly through social networks. The researchers "highlight the role of discrimination and hate speech on social media which they say play a significant role in trust and well-being. Better moderation could significantly improve the well-being of the people who use social networks, they conclude."

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Particle Physics To Aid Nuclear Cleanup
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '14 at 01:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's baby-steps-to-a-tricorder department:
mdsolar sends this report from Symmetry Magazine:
Cosmic rays can help scientists do something no one else can: safely image the interior of the nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. ... [M]uon tomography is similar to taking an X-ray, only it uses naturally produced muons. These particles don't damage the imaged materials and, because they already stream through everything on Earth, they can be used to image even the most sensitive objects. Better yet, a huge amount of shielding is needed to stop muons from passing through an object, making it nearly impossible to hide from muon tomography. ... By determining how muons scatter as they interact with electrons and nuclei within the item, the team's software creates a three-dimensional picture of what's inside. ... To prove the technology, the Los Alamos team shipped a demo detector system to a small, working nuclear reactor in a Toshiba facility in Kawasaki, Japan. There, they placed one detector on either side of the reactor core. "When we analyzed our data we discovered that in addition to the fuel in the reactor core, they had put a few fuel bundles off to the side that we didn't know about," says Morris. "They were really impressed that not only could we image the core, but that we also found those bundles."

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Mozilla To Support Public Key Pinning In Firefox 32
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '14 at 01:00 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's pin-the-key-on-the-fox department:
Trailrunner7 writes: Mozilla is planning to add support for public-key pinning in its Firefox browser in an upcoming version. In version 32, which would be the next stable version of the browser, Firefox will have key pins for a long list of sites, including many of Mozilla's own sites, all of the sites pinned in Google Chrome and several Twitter sites. Public-key pinning has emerged as an important defense against a variety of attacks, especially man-in-the-middle attacks and the issuance of fraudulent certificates. The function essentially ties a public key, or set of keys, issued by known-good certificate authorities to a given domain. So if a user's browser encounters a site that's presenting a certificate that isn't included in the set of pinned public keys for that domain, it will then reject the connection. The idea is to prevent attackers from using fake certificates in order to intercept secure traffic between a user and the target site.

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This 'SimCity 4' Region With 107 Million People Took Eight Months of Planning
Posted by News Fetcher on August 29 '14 at 12:15 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's go-big-or-go-home department:
Jason Koebler writes: Peter Richie spent eight months planning and building a megacity in vanilla SimCity 4, and the end result is mind-boggling: 107.7 million people living in one massive, sprawling region (video). "Traffic is a nightmare, both above ground and under," Richie said. "The massive amount of subway lines and subway stations are still congested during all times of the day in all neighborhoods of each and every mega-city in the region. The roadways are clogged at all times, but people still persist in trying to use them."

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