By EditorDavid from Slashdot's we-are-actually-alone department
Why haven't we heard from intelligent life elsewhere in the universe? wisebabo writes:
In the Science Daily article "Where is everybody? The Implications of Cosmic Silence," the retired astrophysicist Daniel Whitmire explains that using the principle of mediocracy (a statistical notion that says, in the absence of more data, that your one data point is likely to be "average"), that not only are we the first intelligent life on earth but that we will likely be the only (and thus the last) intelligent life on this planet... Unfortunately that isn't the worst of it.
Coupled with the "Great Silence", it implies that the reason we haven't heard from anyone is that intelligent life, when it happens anywhere else in the universe, doesn't last and when it does it flames out quickly and takes the biosphere with it (preventing any other intelligent life from reappearing. Sorry dolphins!). While this is depressing in a very deep sense both cosmically (no Star Trek/Wars/Valerian universes filled with alien civilizations) and locally (we're going to wipe ourselves out, and soon) it is perhaps understandable given our current progress towards reproducing the conditions of the greatest extinction event in earth's history.
That last link (reprinting a New York Times opinion piece) cites the "Great Dying" of 90% of all land-based life in 252 million B.C., which is believed to have been triggered by "gigantic emissions of carbon dioxide from volcanoes that erupted across a vast swath of Siberia." But if we're not headed to the same inexorable doom, that raises an inevitable follow-up question.
If intelligence-driven extinction doesn't explain this great cosmic silence, then what does? Why hasn't our species heard from other intelligent civilizations elsewhere in the universe?Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's art-of-programming department
An anonymous reader quotes Motherboard:
If the esoteric programming language Asciidots looks like a mess, it is at least a very different-looking and even aesthetically pleasing mess. Simply, its mechanics and syntax are based on Ascii art... Asciidots is a unique sort of programming language known as a dataflow language. In this sort of language, we can imagine units of data (like our variable x) following a data go-kart track that's interrupted in different places with pit stops that change the value of the data go-kart that's following the track around. One pit stop might add 1 to the variable, while another might chop it in half. At some points, the track might even split, with the data go-kart picking one fork depending on its current value. If, say, it's greater than 2 it might go left; otherwise, it goes right...
In Asciidots, the aforementioned go-kart track is represented by lines (|,-,/,)... Most of the other non-line symbols are mathematical operators, but there are also symbols that direct the program to request input from the user, set values, print values, and change the direction of the unit of data... Under the hood, Asciidots is a Python program. An Asciidots program is just fed into that underlying program and digested into normal Python code, which is then executed.
The article includes some examples, and argues that esoteric esolangs like Asciidots force programmers to consider fresh perspectives. And in addition, "it looks really cool."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's special-delivery department
Slashdot reader #16,185, Esther Schindler writes:
"By NASA's rules, not just any computer can go into space. Their components must be radiation hardened, especially the CPUs," reports HPE Insights. "Otherwise, they tend to fail due to the effects of ionizing radiation. The customized processors undergo years of design work and then more years of testing before they are certified for spaceflight." As a result, the ISS runs the station using two sets of three Command and Control Multiplexer DeMultiplexer computers whose processors are 20MHz Intel 80386SX CPUs, right out of 1988. "The traditional way to radiation-harden a spacecraft computer is to add redundancy to its circuits or by using insulating substrates instead of the usual semiconductor wafers on chips. That's expensive and time consuming. HPE scientists believe that simply slowing down a system in adverse conditions can avoid glitches and keep the computer running."
So, assuming the August 15 SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch goes well, there will be a supercomputer headed into space -- using off-the-shelf hardware. Let's see if the idea pans out. "We may discover a set of parameters with which a supercomputer can successfully run for at least a year without errors," says Dr. Mark R. Fernandez, the mission's co-principal investigator for software and SGI's HPC technology officer. "Alternately, one or more components of the system will fail, in which case we will then do the typical failure analysis on Earth. That will let us learn what to change to make the systems more reliable in the future."
The article points out that the New Horizons spacecraft that just flew past Pluto has a 12MHz Mongoose-V CPU, based on the MIPS R3000 CPU. "You may remember its much faster ancestor: the chip that took you on adventures in the original Sony PlayStation, circa 1994."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's developers-vs-dollars department
Saturday night TechCrunch reported the following about Bitcoin:
24 hours ago the cryptocurrency was trading below $3,700. About an hour ago it surged passed $4,000 and has no signs of stopping. It's now trading around $4,135.00. For reference, a week ago Bitcoin hit an all-time high as it passed $3,000 for the first time... So the million-bitcoin question is, why now...?
Two weeks ago Bitcoin went through a hard fork, and came out essentially unscathed... A few days later Bitcoin locked in SegWit, a code modification that fixes malleability issues and frees up space in blocks, allowing for more transactions to be stored in each one. These two code-related developments have helped boost conference in Bitcoin's future. Another reason -- the ICO frenzy. The amount recently raised via initial coin offerings have now (at least temporally) topped amount raised via early stage venture capital. Just last week Filecoin raised $180 million in a few hours. Most investors have to convert fiat currency to bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies to participate in ICOs, which could be driving up the price (and providing some investors with their first taste of bitcoin). Another reason -- Wall Street's new obsession is bitcoin.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's sky's-the-limit department
An anonymous reader quotes Engadget's new article on No Man's Sky:
Developer Hello Games has gone some way to giving the people what they've wanted Friday with the third major update since the title's launch. "Atlas Rises" (aka update 1.3) adds the beginnings of real-time multiplayer to the space exploration game, though admittedly, "interaction with others is currently very limited." Thanks to the update, up to 16 players can now exist together in the same space. Fellow pilots will appear as floating blue orbs moving about the terrain, and proximity-based voice chat will allow players to plan their next jump together. That's pretty much it, but Hello Games calls it "an important first step into the world of synchronous co-op in No Man's Sky."
Meeting up with other explorers should be a bit easier with the new portal system, which allows players to travel between planets instantly, including to random worlds. Taking a leaf out of Stargate lore, activating a sequence of glyphs on portals can designate specific exit points. Hello Games hopes the community will band together to create something of a database of glyph sequences... There's 30 hours of new storyline gameplay and a new mission system that lets you pick up all kinds of different odd jobs from a forever-updating list. Star systems now are now graded with "wealth, economy and conflict levels," giving you more information on desirable destinations (depending on what you're after). There's a new class of ships, new exotic planet types and a new "interdimensional race" to contend with. Terrain editing is now possible provided you have the appropriate Multi-Tool enhancement, and crashed freighters on the surface of planets serve as new scavenging hotspots... to its credit, Hello Games continues to push massive, free updates for the title, such that the game is now very different to what it was initially.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Apocalypse-.Net department
"The .NET ecosystem is affected by a similar flaw that has wreaked havoc among Java apps and developers in 2016," reports BleepingComputer. An anonymous reader writes:
The issue at hand is in how some .NET libraries deserialize JSON or XML data, doing it in a total unsecured way, but also how developers handle deserialization operations when working with libraries that offer optional secure systems to prevent deserialized data from accessing and running certain methods automatically. The issue is similar to a flaw known as Mad Gadget (or Java Apocalypse) that came to light in 2015 and 2016. The flaw rocked the Java ecosystem in 2016, as it affected the Java Commons Collection and 70 other Java libraries, and was even used to compromise PayPal's servers. Organizations such as Apache, Oracle, Cisco, Red Hat, Jenkins, VMWare, IBM, Intel, Adobe, HP, and SolarWinds , all issued security patches to fix their products. The Java deserialization flaw was so dangerous that Google engineers banded together in their free time to repair open-source Java libraries and limit the flaw's reach, patching over 2,600 projects.
Now a similar issue was discovered in .NET. This research has been presented at the Black Hat and DEF CON security conferences. On page 5 [of this PDF], researchers included reviews for all the .NET and Java apps they analyzed, pointing out which ones are safe and how developers should use them to avoid deserialization attacks when working with JSON data.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's art-of-the-open-source-fugue department
Slashdot reader DevNull127 writes: Robert Douglass's Kickstarter campaigns have resulted in free fan-funded open source recordings of Bach's Goldberg Variations and the 48 pieces in his Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1. "Even Richard Stallman found these recordings, and he promptly wrote an email encouraging us to drop the word 'Open' in favor of 'Free' or 'Libre'," Douglas tells BoingBoing (adding "when RMS writes you telling you to change the name of your music project, you change the name of your music project.")
Now Douglass is crowdfunding a libre recording of Bach's last masterpiece, 20 fugues developed from a single theme called "the Art of the Fugue". "He wanted to culminate in a final fugue that literally spells his name, B-A-C-H, in musical notation," remembers Douglass, but "unfortunately, Bach died before completing that work, and it has remained a musical mystery (and tragedy) for hundreds of years." Fortunately Kimiko Ishizaka completed the work in 2016, "based on the music that Bach left us... This new composition will also be released under a Creative Commons license as part of the new OpenScore.cc project... Kimiko is eminently grateful to her fans and supporters of free culture for allowing her to focus all of her energies on growing the public domain and bringing the music of J.S. Bach to a far broader audience than ever imagined."
They're also rewarding supporters with tickets to two live performances -- one at Carnegie Hall in New York City and one in Hamburg's new Elbphilharmonie.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's back-to-the-future department
In 1989 Mondo 2000 magazine ran an editorial promising they'd cover "the leading edge in hyperculture...the latest in human/technological interactive mutational forms as they happen." 28 years later, they're now heckling that editorial as they relaunch into a web site. Slashdot reader DevNull127 quotes Motherboard's interview with R.U. Sirius, the founder of Mondo 2000 (as well as its predecessors High Frontiers and Reality Hackers):
"It was my idea to merge psychedelics and emerging technologies, and the culture around technology," Sirius said, citing Timothy Leary, writer Robert Anton Wilson and counterculture magazine The Whole Earth Catalog among his inspirations... "I kind of found my way into that particular stream of bohemian culture. It was probably a minority, but there had always been that idea of letting robots replace human work." Soon High Frontiers evolved into a glossy magazine, Reality Hackers ("Some distributors at the time thought it was about hacking people up, and put it on the shelf next to murder mystery magazines"), and later Mondo 2000, which ran from 1989 till 1998...
"We really had to work to convince people that technology was defining the future. Nobody really got it. Doug Rushkoff wrote his book Cyberia, and his first book company cancelled its publication because they said the internet was a fad and that it would be over by the time the book came out"... While he uses Facebook and Twitter, Sirius is critical of their role in colonising what was once a more democratic and open space. "People are being herded into little buildings -- or huge ones -- in what was supposed to be a wide open space in which everybody created their own sites. It's a complete corporate takeover of the net, Facebook in particular... It's definitely not what we were expecting."
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's ghost-of-distros-past department
An anonymous reader quotes OpenSource.com:
A unique trait of open source is that it's never truly EOL (End of Life). The disc images mostly remain online, and their licenses don't expire, so going back and installing an old version of Linux in a virtual machine and getting a precise picture of what progress Linux has made over the years is relatively simple... Whether you're new to Linux, or whether you're such an old hand that most of these screenshots have been more biographical than historical, it's good to be able to look back at how one of the largest open source projects in the world has developed. More importantly, it's exciting to think of where Linux is headed and how we can all be a part of that, starting now, and for years to come.
The article looks at seven distros -- Slackware 1.01 (1993), Debian 0.91 (1994), Jurix/S.u.S.E. (1996), SUSE 5.1 (1998), Red Hat 6.0 (1999), Mandrake 8.0 (2001), and Fedora 1 (2003). Click through for some of the highlights.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's when-I-get-all-steamed-up department
Status Code 418 states that "Any attempt to brew coffee with a teapot should result in the error code '418 I'm a teapot'. The resulting entity body MAY be short and stout." An anonymous reader quotes Gizmodo: An anonymous reader quotes Gizmodo:
It started back in 1998 as an April Fool's Day gag. Written up by Larry Masinter of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), error code 418 -- "I'm a teapot" -- was nothing more than a poke at the "many bad HTTP extensions that had been proposed". Despite its existence as a joke, a number of major software projects, including Node.js, ASP.NET and Google's Go language, implemented it as an Easter egg. A recent attempt to excise the fictitious code from these projects ended up doing the opposite, cementing it as a "reserved" error by the IETF...
The Save 418 site argued that "the application of such an status code is boundless. Its utility, quite simply, is astonishingly unparalleled. It's a reminder that the underlying processes of computers are still made by humans. It'd be a real shame to see 418 go."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's myth-unbusters department
Ars Technica reports on a study suggesting that "Striking at a myth with facts may only shore it up." Applehu Akbar writes:
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh studied public attitudes toward vaccination in a group whose opinions on the subject were polled before and after being shown three different kinds of explanatory material that used settled scientific facts about vaccines to explain the pro-vaccination side of the debate. Not only was the anti-vax cohort not convinced by any of the three campaigns, but their attitudes hardened when another poll was taken a week later.
What seems to have happened was that the pro-vax campaign was taken by anti-vaxers as just another attempt to lie to them, and as reinforcement for their already made-up minds on the subject. A previous study at Dartmouth College in 2014 used similar methodology and except for the 'hardening' effect elicited similar results. What's really scary about this is that while the Dartmouth subjects were taken from a large general population, the Edinburgh subjects were college students.
"The researchers speculate that the mere repetition of a myth during the process of debunking may be enough to entrench the myth in a believerâ(TM)s mind," writes Ars Technica, with one of the study's authors attributing this to the "illusory truth" effect.
"People tend to mistake repetition for truth."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's first-they-came-for-the-videogamers department
An anonymous reader quotes the Verge:
Tonight during Valve's yearly Dota 2 tournament, a surprise segment introduced what could be the best new player in the world -- a bot from Elon Musk-backed startup OpenAI. Engineers from the nonprofit say the bot learned enough to beat Dota 2 pros in just two weeks of real-time learning, though in that training period they say it amassed "lifetimes" of experience, likely using a neural network judging by the company's prior efforts. Musk is hailing the achievement as the first time artificial intelligence has been able to beat pros in competitive e-sports... Elon Musk founded OpenAI as a nonprofit venture to prevent AI from destroying the world -- something Musk has been beating the drum about for years.
"Nobody likes being regulated," Musk wrote on Twitter Friday, "but everything (cars, planes, food, drugs, etc) that's a danger to the public is regulated. AI should be too."
Musk also thanked Microsoft on Twitter "for use of their Azure cloud computing platform. This required massive processing power."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's network-affect department
neutrino38 warns that iOS 10 includes a significant change "overlooked by the general public":
It deprecates an API that is crucial for VoIP and other instant messaging applications that enable keeping one socket active despite the fact that the application would run in the background. As a replacement, developers need to use PushKit: when an incoming call is to be forwarded to an iOS VoIP client, the VoIP infrastructure needs to:
- withold the call
- contact Apple push infrastructure using a proprietary protocol to wake up the client app remotely
- wait for the application to reconnect to the infrastructure and release the call when it is ready
This "I know better than you" approach is meant to further optimize battery life on iOS devices by avoiding the use of resources by apps running in background. It has also the positive effect of forcing developers to switch to a push model and remove all periodic pollings that ultimately use mobile data and clog the Internet. However, the decision to use an Apple infrastructure has many consequences for VoIP providers:
- the reliability of serving incoming calls is directly bound to Apple service
- Apple may revoke the PushKit certificate. It thus has life and death decision power over third-party communication infrastructures
- organizations wanting to setup IPBX and use iOS client have no option but to open access for the push services of Apple in their firewall
- It is not possible to have iOS VoIP or communication clients in network disconnected from the Internet
- Pure standard SIP clients are now broken on iOS
The original submission argues that Apple is creating "the perfect walled garden," adding that "Ironically, the only VoIP 'app' that is not affected is the (future?) VoLTE client that will be added to iOS one day."Read Replies (0)
The 2017 Hugo Awards
Posted by News Fetcher on August 12 '17 at 11:21 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's reading-lists department
Dave Knott writes: The Hugo Awards, the most prestigious awards in science fiction, had their 2017 ceremony today, at WorldCon 75 in Helsinki, Finland.
The winners are:
Best Novel: The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin
Best Novella: "Every Heart a Doorway" by Seanan McGuire
Best Novelette: "The Tomato Thief" by Ursula Vernon
Best Short Story: "Seasons of Glass and Iron", by Amal El-Mohtar
Best Related Work: Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016 by Ursula K Le Guin
Best Graphic Story: Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening , written by Marjorie Liu, illustrated by Sana Takeda
Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form): Arrival , screenplay by Eric Heisserer based on a short story by Ted Chiang, directed by Denis Villeneuve
Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form): The Expanse: Leviathan Wakes , written by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, directed by Terry McDonough
Best Series: The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold (Baen)
John W Campbell Award for Best New Writer: Ada Palmer
This year's slate of nominees, unlike the drama surrounding the 2016 and 2015 Hugos, was less impacted by the ballot-stuffing tactics of the "Rabid Puppies", thanks to a change in the way nominees were voted for this year (including the fact no work could appear in more than one category) in an attempt to avoid tactical slate picks.Read Replies (0)