By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Gotham-City department
Slashdot reader HughPickens.com shares an article from the New York Times: The town of North Hempstead on Long Island has approved the construction of bat houses in several parks to attract more bats to the area because despite their less-than-desirable reputation, bats possess a remarkable ability to control insects, especially disease-carrying mosquitoes. "Bats can eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes per hour," says Judi Bosworth. "That's extraordinary. A pesticide couldn't do that." As mosquito season heats up, bringing with it the threat of the West Nile and Zika viruses, the bats make very welcome neighbors.
[T]he Asian tiger mosquito is found on Long Island and is capable of transmitting Zika in a laboratory setting, and as of October, 490 cases of West Nile and 37 deaths resulting from it have been recorded in New York since 2000. "If you minimize the mosquito population you minimize the possible incidence of the Zika virus," says Larry Schultz. "If you reduce the mosquito population, you make parks more accessible."
"Bats really have been very maligned," says Bosworth -- noting they don't really swoop down on your head and get tangled in your hair.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's junk-food-science department
An anonymous Slashdot reader writes:
Where Twinkie once employed 22,000 workers in more than 40 bakeries, their workforce is now down to just 1,170, reports the Washington Post, relying mostly on robotic arms and other forms of automation. "This 500-person plant produces more than 1 million Twinkies a day, 400 million a year. That's 80% of Hostess' total output -- output that under the old regime required 14 plants and 9,000 employees."
"We like to think of ourselves as a billion-dollar startup," Hostess chief executive Bill Toler said Tuesday, announcing that Hostess Brands, which had twice filed for bankruptcy, now plans to become a publicly-listed company valued at $2.3 billion.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's one-small-step department
An anonymous Slashdot reader writes:
"The code that took America to the moon was just published to GitHub, and it's like a 1960s time capsule," reports Quartz. Two lines of code include the comment "# TEMPORARY, I HOPE HOPE HOPE," and there's also a quote from Shakespeare's play Henry VI. In addition, the keyboard and display system program is named PINBALL_GAME_BUTTONS_AND_LIGHT, and "There's also code that appears to instruct an astronaut to 'crank the silly thing around.'"
A former NASA intern uploaded the thousands of lines of assembly code to GitHub, working from a 2003 transcription made from scans inherited by MIT from a Colorado airplane pilot, and developers are already using GitHub to submit funny issue tickets for the 40-year-old code -- for example, "Extension pack for picking up Matt Damon". Another issue complains that "A customer has had a fairly serious problem with stirring the cryogenic tanks with a circuit fault present." Because this issue succinctly describes the Apollo 13 mission in 1970, the issue has been marked "closed".Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's blinded-by-science department
Slashdot reader schwit1 quotes an article from Jeffrey Guhin, an assistant professor of sociology at UCLA:
Imagine a future society in which everything is perfectly logical. What could go wrong...? Last week, US astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson offered up the perfect example of scientism when he proposed the country of Rationalia, in which "all policy shall be based on the weight of evidence". Tyson is a very smart man, but this is not a smart idea. It is even, we might say, unreasonable and without sufficient evidence... employing logic to consider the concept reveals that there could be no such thing...
First, experts usually don't know nearly as much as they think they do. They often get it wrong, thanks to their inherently irrational brains that -- through overconfidence, bubbles of like-minded thinkers, or just wanting to believe their vision of the world can be true -- mislead us and misinterpret information... And second, science has no business telling people how to live. It's striking how easily we forget the evil that following "science" can do. So many times throughout history, humans have thought they were behaving in logical and rational ways, only to realize that such acts have yielded morally heinous policies that were only enacted because reasonable people were swayed by "evidence".Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's surely-you're-joking department
An anonymous Slashdot reader shares a fond remembrance of Richard Feynman written by Nobel prize-winner Frank Wilczek, describing not only the history of dark energy and field theory, but how Feynman's influential diagrams "embody a deep shift in thinking about how the universe is put together... a beautiful new way to think about fundamental processes".
Richard Feynman looked tired when he wandered into my office. It was the end of a long, exhausting day in Santa Barbara, sometime around 1982... I described to Feynman what I thought were exciting if speculative new ideas such as fractional spin and anyons. Feynman was unimpressed, saying: "Wilczek, you should work on something real..." Looking to break the awkward silence that followed, I asked Feynman the most disturbing question in physics, then as now: "There's something else I've been thinking a lot about: Why doesn't empty space weigh anything?"
Feynman replied "I once thought I had that one figured out. It was beautiful..." then launched into a "surreal" monologue about how "there's nothing there!" But Wilczek remembers that "The calculations that eventually got me a Nobel Prize in 2004 would have been literally unthinkable without Feynman diagrams, as would my calculations that established a route to production and observation of the Higgs particle." His article culminates with a truly beautiful supercomputer-generated picture showing gluon field fluctuations as we now understand them today, and demonstrating the kind of computer-assisted calculations which in coming years "will revolutionize our quantitative understanding of nuclear physics over a broad front."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's gotta-catch-'em-all department
Since its release Wednesday night, Pokemon Go has already gone on to become the top-grossing game in the three countries where it's available, and Forbes contributor Tero Kuittinen calls it "the first example of an AR product becoming a national obsession." An anonymous Slashdot reader writes:
Some fans are now tweeting about playing the game while driving, and the Chicago Tribune quotes one user who says "Pokemon Go put me in the ER last night... Not even 30 minutes after the release...I slipped and fell down a ditch." In Australia the game has been leading some players to their local police station, and a woman in Wyoming reports that the game actually led her to a dead body floating in a river. And at least one Pokemon Go screenshot has gone viral. It shows a man capturing a Pokemon while his wife gives birth.
The app's popularity has created lagging servers and forced Niantic to delay its international roll-out, meaning "Those who have already downloaded the game in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand can still play it, while those in the U.K., the Netherlands and other countries will have to wait." Meanwhile, Motherboard warns that a malicious sideloaded version of Pokemon Go is being distributed that actually installs a backdoor on Android devices, and also reports that some players are already spoofing their GPS coordinates in order to catch Pokemon without leaving their house.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's pretty-please? department
Just when you thought the six-year, $9 billion lawsuit was over, an anonymous reader quotes this report from the Bay Area Newsgroup:
Oracle has asked a judge -- again -- to throw out the verdict that found Google rightfully helped itself to Oracle programming code to create the Android operating system... A judge already rejected a bid in May by Oracle to get the verdict thrown out. But the software and cloud company hasn't given up. On July 6, Oracle filed a motion in San Francisco U.S. District Court again asking the same judge, William Alsup, to toss the verdict.
The company cited case law suggesting use is not legal if the user "exclusively acquires conspicuous financial rewards'' from its use of the copyrighted material. Google, said Oracle, has earned more than $42 billion from Android. "Google's financial rewards are as 'conspicuous' as they come, and unprecedented in the case law," Oracle's filing said. Oracle wants the judge to adhere to the narrower and more traditional applications of fair use, "for example, when it is 'criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching ... scholarship, or research.'"Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's tweet-revenge department
The man who sent Twitter's very first public tweet now also becomes the first Twitter CEO to have his own Twitter account compromised. An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Trends about this weekend's wave of high-profile attacks:
At 2:50 a.m. ET, a tweet reading, "Hey, its OurMine, we are testing your security" and linking to the group's website was briefly posted, and while it was soon deleted, identical tweets continued to appear... The group has previously taken over other social media accounts, including Google's Sundar Pichai's Quora account, and Mark Zuckerberg's Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter accounts...
Dorsey also wasn't the only tech heavy hitter whose Twitter account was breached during that 24-hour period. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer and venture capitalist Vinod Khosla also saw breaches to their accounts, both of which were attributed to OurMine.
The Tweets may have come from Vine, according to Digital Trends, "which suggests that Dorsey was either using an old or shared password on the video network, or had otherwise connected his account to a compromised service...it's certainly alarming that a man who ostensibly is more aware than most of security protocols (especially on Twitter) fell victim to such an attack..."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's see-you-in-court department
The Independent newspaper reports that the warrantless NSA surveillance programs revealed by Edward Snowden are facing a constitutional challenge in court for the first time:
Lawyers for Mohamed Mohamud have argued that surveillance evidence used to convict the Somali-American man, found guilty of plotting to bomb a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony, was gathered in a manner that was unconstitutional. The lawyers laid out their arguments on Wednesday before a panel of judges of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Portland, close to the plaza where Mohamud tried detonating a fake bomb that was part of an undercover operation...
Stephen Sady, Mohamud's lawyer, urged the court to grant his client a new trial on the grounds that the evidence used against Mohamud should never have been permitted in the courtroom. Mr Sady told the judges that using surveillance information on foreigners, which does not require a warrant, to spy on any Americans they communicate with was "an incredible diminution of the privacy rights of all Americansâ¦ That is a step that should never be taken."
Last year saw
a record number of wiretaps authorized by state and federal judges -- 4,148, more than twice as many as the 1,773 that took place in 2005 -- and not a single request was rejected. (More than 95% were for cellphones, and 81% for narcotics investigations.) But The Independent notes that U.S. law enforcement officials have admitted they also "incidentally" collect information about Americans without a warrant, and then sometimes later use that information in criminal investigations.
In Mohamud's case, which dates back to 2010, "There's no doubt he tried to explode a car bomb in America," writes Slashdot reader Bruce66423, arguing that this case "elegantly demonstrates the issue of how far legal rights should overwhelm common sense."Read Replies (0)
By manishs from Slashdot's what's-happening? department
Tech job postings are down 40% year-on-year, says Cameron Moll, founder of job board Authentic Jobs. He says that job volume for April 2016 was nearly half the volume of April 2015, and currently, annual job posting volume is 63% on the platform compared to 2015, and 59% compared to 2014. But wait, there is always a chance that it is only his website that is getting less popular, right? Mr. Moll adds that it's not just his job board, but several of the competitors' as well. From a blog post: On one hand, we're cautious to assume that fewer jobs posted = fewer jobs available. We recognize companies have many avenues for advertising available jobs -- social media, recruiters, employee word-of-mouth, company websites, etc. Companies may choose at any time to broadcast jobs through these channels instead of a job board. So, for all intents and purposes, it's feasible the same number of jobs are available this year compared to previous years, just not on job boards. On the other hand, our volume trends have been very consistent the past four years. However, these trends are suddenly meaningless in 2016. It's anyone's guess what our volume will be each month regardless of what the historical data says.Read Replies (0)
By manishs from Slashdot's correlation-is-causation department
A report on CNBC, citing sellers, says that counterfeit problem on the platform has gotten worse after it made it easier for Chinese manufacturers to sell goods to U.S. consumers. The report gives an example of a seller Jamie Whaley who started a bedding business on Amazon that reached $700,000 in annual sales within three years. Her patented product called BedBand consists of a set of shock cords, clamps and locks designed to keep fitted bed sheets in place. Whaley found quite an audience, selling up to 200 units a day for $13.99 a set. BedBand climbed into the top 200 selling products in the home and kitchen category. That was 2013. By mid-2015, the business was in a tailspin. Revenue plummeted by half and Whaley was forced to lay off eight employees. Her sheet fastener had been copied by a legion of mostly Chinese knockoffs that undercut BedBand on price and jumped the seller ranks by obtaining scores of reviews that watchdog site Fakespot.com determined were inauthentic and "harmful for real consumers." The report adds:Spend any time surveying Amazon sellers and Whaley's narrative will start sounding like the norm. In Amazon's quest to be the low-cost provider of everything on the planet, the website has morphed into the world's largest flea market -- a chaotic, somewhat lawless, bazaar with unlimited inventory. Always a problem, the counterfeiting issue has exploded this year, sellers say, following Amazon's effort to openly court Chinese manufacturers, weaving them intimately into the company's expansive logistics operation. Merchants are perpetually unsure of who or what may kill their sales on any given day and how much time they'll have to spend hunting down fakers.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's unique-identifiers department
Slashdot reader schwit1 quotes an article from Bloomberg: These days, many of us regularly feed pieces of ourselves into machines for convenience and security. Our fingerprints unlock our smartphones, and companies are experimenting with more novel biometric markers -- voice, heartbeat, grip -- as ID for banking and other transactions. But there are almost no laws in place to control how companies use such information. Nor is it clear what rights people have to protect scans of their retinas or the contours of their face from cataloging by the private sector.
There's one place where people seeking privacy protections can turn: the courts. A series of plaintiffs are suing tech giants, including Facebook and Google, under a little-used Illinois law. The Biometric Information Privacy Act, passed in 2008, is one of the only statutes in the U.S. that sets limits on the ways companies can handle data such as fingerprints, voiceprints, and retinal scans. At least four of the suits filed under BIPA are moving forward... Under the Illinois law, companies must obtain written consent from customers before collecting their biometric data. They also must declare a point at which they'll destroy the data, and they must not sell it... "Social Security numbers, when compromised, can be changed," the law reads. "Biometrics, however, are biologically unique to the individual; therefore, once compromised, the individual has no recourse, [and] is at heightened risk for identity theft."Read Replies (0)