Prehistory's Brilliant Future
Posted by News Fetcher on November 09 '14 at 11:15 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's what's-old-is-new department
An anonymous reader writes Senior Vice President and Provost of Science at the American Museum of Natural History, Michael J. Novacek, has written an op-ed piece about the glut of new dinosaurs recently discovered, including a fish fossils with flexible limbs which documents the transition from life in the water to life on land. In addition to the new species, a team has recently published its work on new skeletal remains of Spinosaurus, a 100-million-year-old carnivore. From the article: "As with any frontier of new knowledge, there are challenges as well as opportunities. Certain regions of the world, like North Africa, may hold the key to understanding the evolution of major groups, but remain poorly explored. Even as some regions become accessible thanks to political change, others can turn into conflict zones. Illegal fossil poaching is rampant in many areas and needs to be controlled before it does untold damage to our future knowledge. It is all the more important to deal with these challenges when we consider the unique contribution of paleontological evidence to human knowledge. From our study of living species, we could not have been predicted the existence of dragonflies as big as sea gulls or dinosaurs with the bulk of large whales that could support themselves on land. Such discoveries provide insights about the capacity of organisms to evolve, adapt and survive."Read Replies (0)
By samzenpus from Slashdot's a-safe-place-to-be department
An anonymous reader writes with this story about how Berlin has become a haven for Laura Poitras and other journalists who want to limit the amount of NSA disruption in their lives. "It's the not knowing that's the hardest thing, Laura Poitras tells me. 'Not knowing whether I'm in a private place or not.' Not knowing if someone's watching or not. Though she's under surveillance, she knows that. It makes working as a journalist 'hard but not impossible'. It's on a personal level that it's harder to process. 'I try not to let it get inside my head, but I still am not sure that my home is private. And if I really want to make sure I'm having a private conversation or something, I'll go outside.'
.....We're having this conversation in Berlin, her adopted city, where she'd moved to make a film about surveillance before she'd ever even made contact with Snowden. Because, in 2006, after making two films about the US war on terror, she found herself on a 'watch list'. Every time she entered the US – 'and I travel a lot' – she would be questioned. 'It got to the point where my plane would land and they would do what's called a hard stand, where they dispatch agents to the plane and make everyone show their passport and then I would be escorted to a room where they would question me and oftentimes take all my electronics, my notes, my credit cards, my computer, my camera, all that stuff.' She needed somewhere else to go, somewhere she hoped would be a safe haven. And that somewhere was Berlin."Read Replies (0)
Mayday PAC Goes 2 For 8
Posted by News Fetcher on November 09 '14 at 05:47 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's above-the-mendoza-line department
An anonymous reader writes: Lawrence Lessig's Mayday.us project had a bold goal: create a super PAC to end all super PACs. It generated significant support and raised over $10 million, which it spent endorsing a group of candidates for the recent mid-term elections and the primaries beforehand. The results weren't kind. Only two of the eight candidates backed by Mayday won their elections, and both of those candidates were quite likely to win anyway. Lessig was understandably displeased with the results. In a post on the Mayday site, he said, "What 2014 shows most clearly is the power of partisanship in our elections. Whatever else voters wanted, they wanted first their team to win."
Kenneth Vogel, author of Big Money, a recent book on the rise of super PACs, was critical of of Mayday's efforts, saying, "While voters do express high levels of disgust about the state of campaign finance and the level of corruption in Washington, they tend to actually cast votes more on bread-and-butter economic issues." Still, Lessig is hopeful for the future: "We moved voters on the basis of that message. Not enough. Not cheaply enough. But they moved."Read Replies (0)
By Soulskill from Slashdot's pleading-for-sanity department
An anonymous reader writes: The EFF, representing a coalition of computer scientists, filed an amicus brief with the Supreme Court yesterday hoping for a ruling that APIs can't be copyrighted. The names backing the brief include Bjarne Stroustrup, Ken Thompson, Guido van Rossum, and many other luminaries. "The brief explains that the freedom to re-implement and extend existing APIs has been the key to competition and progress in both hardware and software development. It made possible the emergence and success of many robust industries we now take for granted—for example, mainframes, PCs, and workstations/servers—by ensuring that competitors could challenge established players and advance the state of the art. The litigation began several years ago when Oracle sued Google over its use of Java APIs in the Android OS. Google wrote its own implementation of the Java APIs, but, in order to allow developers to write their own programs for Android, Google's implementation used the same names, organization, and functionality as the Java APIs."Read Replies (0)