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Ask The Bad Astronomer
Posted by News Fetcher on October 24 '11 at 10:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's but-nothing-dirty-this-time department:
Astronomer, author, columnist, and successful populizer of science Phil Plait, perhaps best known as The Bad Astronomer, is a regular sight on Slashdot for his unusual ability to find lucid explanations of esoteric scientific claims and controversies. Phil has graciously agreed to answer Slashdot readers' questions, so ask him below about space, science, debunking conspiracy claims, and anything else that makes sense. Asking more than one question is fine (and encouraged!), but please separate unrelated questions into separate posts, lest your questions be moderated down.

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Predicting When Space Junk Will Come Home To Earth
Posted by News Fetcher on October 24 '11 at 09:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's not-in-my-back-yard-unfortunately department:
Following up on recent news of a NASA satellite falling from the sky and a German satellite that did the same, new submitter blais writes "NPR has an interesting interview about space junk falling back to Earth — and the odds of it possibly hitting someone. I thought it might be of interest to the other space nerds out there. Quoting: '... it's very difficult to know exactly when a satellite's going to come down. The Earth's atmosphere is hard to model. It's very thin up there, 100 miles or more up, but it exists. And sometimes it's a little bit denser, sometimes not, and the satellite might be tumbling, and so it makes it very difficult to know exactly when it's ... going to come down."

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Linux 3.1 Released With Support for the OpenRISC CPU
Posted by News Fetcher on October 24 '11 at 09:00 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's hardware-wants-to-be-free-too department:
diegocg writes "Linux 3.1 has been released. The changes include support for the OpenRISC opensource CPU; performance improvements to the writeback throttling; some speedups in the slab allocator; a new iSCSI implementation; support for NFC chips; bad block management in the generic software RAID layer; a new 'cpupowerutils' utility for power management; filesystem barriers enabled by default in Ext3; Wii Controller support; and [the usual] new drivers and many small improvements."

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The 147 Corporations Controlling Most of the Global Economy
Posted by News Fetcher on October 24 '11 at 08:15 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's free-markets-for-the-rest-of-us department:
rubycodez writes "Researchers at the Swiss Federal Technology Institute in Zurich have identified a 'Capitalist Network' [PDF] of well-connected companies that control most of the global economy. They further identified the 147 'super-connected' companies that control forty percent or more of the global financial network. If one believes the mega-corporations have most governments of the west in their pockets, does this mean we have a global oligarchy?"

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Bug Opens Chrome to Easy Remote Code Execution
Posted by News Fetcher on October 24 '11 at 07:45 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's social-engineering-never-works department:
Orome1 writes "ACROS Security notified Google about a peculiar behavior of the Chrome browser that can be exploited for execution of remote code outside Chrome sandbox under specific conditions. It is another case of file planting, where an application loads a data file (as opposed to binary file, leading to binary planting) from the current working directory. Google decided that this was not a vulnerability, but rather a 'strange behavior that [they] should consider changing.' The reason they provided was that 'the social engineering level involved here is significantly higher than "Your computer is infected with a virus, download this free anti-virus software and run the exe file to fix it."'"

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Wikileaks Suspends Publishing Of Cables Due To "Financial Blockade"
Posted by News Fetcher on October 24 '11 at 07:00 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's gotta-pay-for-dem-oracle-licenses-somehow department:
lee1 writes "Wikileaks has had to cease publishing classified files due to what the organization calls a 'blockade by US-based finance companies' that, according to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has 'destroyed 95% of our revenue.' Assange also opined that 'A handful of US finance companies cannot be allowed to decide how the whole world votes with its pocket.' According to Assange the group was taking 'pre-litigation action' against the financial blockade in Iceland, Denmark, the UK, Brussels, the United States, and Australia. They have also filed an anti-trust complaint with the European Commission."

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Is Online Property Real? Lawyer Says Sort-Of
Posted by News Fetcher on October 24 '11 at 06:30 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's i-paid-10-btc-for-this-dire-wolf department:
Bob the Super Hamste writes "The St. Paul Pioneer Press is reporting on an analysis by lawyer Justin Kwong in the William Mitchell Law Review about virtual property and ownership. Justin Kwong asserts that virtual items are not real items (PDF) and that you do not own them but only have a license. The analysis stems from a 2008 case of a Blaine, MN man who filed a police report for the online theft of approximately $3800 of virtual goods. Justin Kwong compares virtual items to a mug club at a bar where patrons purchase rights to a specific numbered mug but cannot remove the mug from the premises. He does note that if in game items are purchased there needs to be clear language stating: 'the transaction is a license, not a sale, and that traditional consumer protections afforded by sales of goods do not necessarily apply'"

Justin Kwong also made a weblog entry responding to misconceptions expressed in comments on the St. Paul Pioneer Press article.

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Ron Paul Wants To End the Federal Student Loan Program
Posted by News Fetcher on October 24 '11 at 05:45 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's seems-about-right department:
On the heels of declaring his intent to axe a few department from the federal government, Ron Paul has revealed more plans should he becomes President. The_THOMAS writes "Ron Paul wants to end Federal student loans stating that the Government involvement artificially inflates the cost of a college education and that once the government is out of the situation, students will be able to work their way to a college degree. What do you think?"

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Microsoft Now Collects Royalties From Over Half of All Android Devices
Posted by News Fetcher on October 24 '11 at 05:00 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's where-can-i-get-me-some-patents department:
An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft has inked a deal with Compal Electronics, which pumps out gadgets that run Android and Chrome OS, for an undisclosed sum."

Microsoft has an explanatory weblog post; with this deal over half of all Android devices are licensing patents from Microsoft. Notably refusing to cooperate and instead opting for the court battle route are Motorola and Barnes and Noble.

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Solar Panel Trade War Heats Up
Posted by News Fetcher on October 24 '11 at 04:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's remember-to-only-accept-domestic-subsidies department:
Hugh Pickens writes "Reuters reports that Chinese solar companies could soon find themselves bereft of some of their biggest foreign markets as Western manufacturers intensify a solar trade war and seek stiff anti-dumping duties on low-cost Chinese products. German group SolarWorld says it is working on steps to curb alleged price dumping by Chinese rivals in Europe as a group of seven U.S. solar companies urges the U.S. government to slap anti-dumping duties on Chinese-made solar energy products. Western solar companies have been at odds with their Chinese counterparts for years, alleging they receive lavish credit lines to offer modules at cheaper prices. 'American solar operations should be rapidly expanding to keep pace with the skyrocketing demand for these products,' says Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon whose office authored a whitepaper called 'China's Grab for Green Jobs.' (PDF) 'But that is not what has been happening. There seems to be one primary explanation for this; that is, that China is cheating.'"

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UK Team Misses Balloon Altitude Record, But Beats a Few Others
Posted by News Fetcher on October 24 '11 at 01:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's good-show-and-congratulations department:
An anonymous reader writes with this report from Hackaday, which recently covered an attempt at the UK altitude record for an amateur balloon launch. Says the story: "Things don't always go as planned, but the APEX team did manage to beat the several other UK records, including ones for the longest distance and flight duration for a latex balloon." The balloon drifted east from its launching point England, being tracked by Ham radio operators for much of the way, but eventually fell out of range, and is suspected to have ended its flight in Poland or Russia: "The APEX team is offering a reward for finding Alpha, so if you see a small styrofoam box in Eastern Europe, drop the APEX boys a line."

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Rendering Synthetic Objects Into Old Photographs
Posted by News Fetcher on October 23 '11 at 10:30 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's improve-on-reality department:
First time accepted submitter IDarkISwordI writes "A new abstract headed to SIGGRAPH Asia 2011 provides a method for rapid execution of computer graphics, synthesized into photographs with accurate lighting and physics based on limited input from a user and interpretation by their code." The results are impressive; hard to watch the video demo (on linked page) without boggling.

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Sprint Cutting Unlimited 4G Data Plans
Posted by News Fetcher on October 23 '11 at 07:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's too-good-to-last department:
itwbennett writes "In a notice posted Thursday on the customer support section of its website, Sprint said it would impose monthly data caps on plans for all tablets, laptops, netbooks, USB and PC Card modems, and mobile hotspot devices — everything, that is, except smartphones. The caps will begin with each subscriber's next bill following notification, the carrier said."

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Android ICS Will Require 16GB RAM To Compile
Posted by News Fetcher on October 23 '11 at 04:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's all-that-dessert-makes-you-sluggish department:
ozmanjusri writes "New smartphones may be lightweight, compact objects, but their OSs are anything but. Ice Cream Sandwich will need workstations with no less than 16 GB RAM to build the source code, twice the amount Gingerbread needed. It will take 5 hours to compile on a dual quad-core 2+GHz workstation, and need 80GB disk space for all AOSP configs. Android developers are also being warned to be cautious of undocumented APIs: 'In almost every case, there's only one reason for leaving APIs undocumented: We're not sure that what we have now is the best solution, and we think we might have to improve it, and we're not prepared to make those commitments to testing and preservation. We're not claiming that they're "Private" or "Secret" — How could they be, when anyone in the world can discover them? We're also not claiming they're forbidden: If you use them, your code will compile and probably run.'"

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Hyperion Promises An AmigaOS Netbook
Posted by News Fetcher on October 23 '11 at 03:30 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's it-will-run-duke-nukem-forever-too department:
An anonymous reader writes with a report that an employee of Hyperion Entertainment has disclosed (but not officially announced) that there is a new portable computer with the Amiga name on it in the works, quoting: "Supposedly, the new netbook Amiga is will be 'sourced in a special configuration from an OEM.' The manufacturer in question is, just like the price tag, the launch date and the hardware specifications, currently unknown paving the way for further speculation and rumors. The netbook Amiga will set a mark in computer history as the first portable Amiga to see the light of the day since the Amiga 1000 was introduced to the U.S. market in 1985."

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NH Supreme Court To Rule On Bigfoot Video Shoot In Public Park
Posted by News Fetcher on October 23 '11 at 02:00 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's and-further-your-honor-arrrgghhhhhghghg department:
alphadogg writes with this excerpt from the Boston Globe: "On a whim two years ago, performance artist Jonathan Doyle paraded around the bustling peak of New Hampshire's Mount Monadnock in a $40 Bigfoot costume from iParty. He thought his deadpan video interviews with hikers describing their Bigfoot sightings would be worth a few chuckles on YouTube, and might boost the profile of his other artwork. But the staff at Monadnock State Park found the Yeti act abominable. When Doyle returned with friends to shoot a sequel, the park manger quashed the production and ordered Doyle off the mountain, insisting he needed a state permit to film a movie in the park. Bigfoot stepped up with a lawsuit, alleging that the park's permit regulations are unconstitutional. The New Hampshire Supreme Court next month will hear Doyle's complaint. Though many elements of the dispute border on the absurd, the case raises some serious free speech issues."

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A Decade of Apple Oddities
Posted by News Fetcher on October 23 '11 at 01:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's everything-doer department:
harrymcc writes "It's been exactly ten years since Steve Jobs stood on a stage at Apple and explained to a surprisingly small group of journalists that his company was going to make a music player and call it iPod. Technologizer's Benj Edwards celebrated the iPod's first decade by rounding up a dozen iPod-related oddities, including the iPod-powered tooth cleaner, an iPod mount for a semi-automatic sniper system, and the classic 1958 Dieter Rams Braun FM radio that may have helped inspire it all."

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Google Not Reciprocating On IFrame Usage?
Posted by News Fetcher on October 23 '11 at 12:00 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's embedded-wars department:
theodp writes "Over at the Google Web Search Community, posters are questioning why Google feels free to IFrame others' web pages, yet blocks attempts to IFrame pages on its own sites. 'Google has so much contradiction in what it wants for itself and what it does with other websites [e.g., Google frames Slashdot],' quipped one poster. 'Do no evil, right?' And over at the Google Maps Help Forum, developers are also begging for Google to allow them to IFrame entire pages again. 'I know there are other options (&embed etc.),' explains a poster, 'but then there is no sidebar which is useless. I really need the functionality like it was before.' Can any Googlers out there explain The Mystery of 'This content cannot be displayed in a frame'?"

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Why Computer Voices Are Mostly Female
Posted by News Fetcher on October 23 '11 at 10:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's because-females-are-smarter department:
PolygamousRanchKid writes with an article exploring the question posed in the headline, which says that "One answer may lie in biology. Scientific studies have shown that people generally find women's voices more pleasing than men's. 'It's much easier to find a female voice that everyone likes than a male voice that everyone likes,' said Stanford University Professor Clifford Nass, author of 'The Man Who Lied to His Laptop: What Machines Teach Us About Human Relationships. 'It's a well-established phenomenon that the human brain is developed to like female voices.' One notable exception has been Germany, where BMW was forced to recall a female-voiced navigation system on its 5 Series cars in the late 1990s after being flooded with calls from German men saying they refused to take directions from a woman. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on why the company gave Siri a female voice in the U.S. Nor would she say why Siri speaks like a man in the UK, where iPhone 4S owners have swarmed online forums to request a female voice instead."

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Ask Slashdot: How To Enter Private Space Industry As an Engineer?
Posted by News Fetcher on October 23 '11 at 09:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's marry-into-it department:
First time accepted submitter CtownNighrider writes "I'm in my senior year of high school currently in a selective program for future engineers. I have always been a good student and feel like I can get into most good schools (MIT is a long shot but RPI isn't). I plan on studying aerospace engineering (most likely getting a dual major with mechanical) in college and working for a company like SpaceX once I graduate. I would love any advice anyone can offer for my college search or being an engineer in general. I live in upstate NY and don't want to travel super far, I'm thinking about a 5 hour radius. I have the RPI medal so it's one of my top choices and MIT is my long shot but I'm having a tough time figuring out what schools are worth applying too. Academics come first hands down so male/female ratio and party scene aren't too important."

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