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The Myths and Realities of Synthetic Bioweapons
Posted by News Fetcher on September 18 '14 at 11:15 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's microwave-safe-anthrax department:
Lasrick writes Three researchers from King's College, London, walk through the security threats posed by synthetic and do-it-yourself biology, assessing whether changes in technology and associated costs make it any easier for would-be terrorists to pursue biological weapons for high-consequence, mass- casualty attacks (and even whether they would want to). "Those who have overemphasized the bioterrorism threat typically portray it as an imminent concern, with emphasis placed on high-consequence, mass-casualty attacks, performed with weapons of mass destruction (WMD). This is a myth with two dimensions."

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Europeans Came From Three Ancestry Groupings
Posted by News Fetcher on September 18 '14 at 09:45 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's back-in-the-day department:
Taco Cowboy writes A recent study by researchers at Harvard Medical School and the University of Tübingen in Germany has found that present day Europeans are descendants of three different groups of people — A near east farmer group, an indigenous hunter gatherer group, and an ancient North Eurasian group from Siberia. "Nearly all Europeans have ancestry from all three ancestral groups," said Iosif Lazaridis, a research fellow in genetics in Reich's lab and first author of the paper. "Differences between them are due to the relative proportions of ancestry. Northern Europeans have more hunter-gatherer ancestry — up to about 50 percent in Lithuanians — and Southern Europeans have more farmer ancestry." The most surprising part of the project, however, was the discovery of the Basal Eurasians. Before Australian Aborigines, New Guineans, South Indians, Native Americans and other indigenous hunter-gatherers split, they split from Basal Eurasians. The study also found that Mediterranean groups such as the Maltese, as well as Ashkenazi Jews, had more Near East ancestry than anticipated, while far northeastern Europeans such as Finns and the Saami, as well as some northern Russians, had more East Asian ancestry in the mix.

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Study: Chimpanzees Have Evolved To Kill Each Other
Posted by News Fetcher on September 18 '14 at 08:30 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's battle-of-the-apes department:
sciencehabit writes A major new study of warfare in chimpanzees finds that lethal aggression can be evolutionarily beneficial in that species, rewarding the winners with food, mates, and the opportunity to pass along their genes. The findings run contrary to recent claims that chimps fight only if they are stressed by the impact of nearby human activity—and could help explain the origins of human conflict as well.

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Slashdot Asks: What's In Your Home Datacenter?
Posted by News Fetcher on September 18 '14 at 06:15 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's show-and-tell department:
First time accepted submitter jvschwarz writes There was a time when I had rack-mount systems at home, preferring old Unix boxes, Sun-3 and early SPARC machines, but have moved to low-power machines, Raspberry Pi systems, small NAS boxes, etc. Looks like some are taking it to another level. What do other slashdotters have in their Home Datacenter?

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Dealership Commentator: Tesla's Going To Win In Every State
Posted by News Fetcher on September 18 '14 at 04:30 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's go-ahead-and-sell-it department:
cartechboy writes Unless you've been in a coma for a while you're aware that many dealer associations have been causing headaches for Tesla in multiple states. The reason? They are scared. Tesla's new, different, and shaking up the ridiculously old way of doing things. But the thing is, Tesla keeps winning. Now Ward's commenter Jim Ziegler, president of Ziegler Supersystems in Atlanta, wrote an opinion piece that basically says Tesla's going to prevail in every state against dealer lawsuits. He says Tesla's basically busy defending what are nuisance suits. This leads to the question of whether there will be some sort of sweeping federal action in Tesla's favor.

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Microsoft Lays Off 2,100, Axes Silicon Valley Research
Posted by News Fetcher on September 18 '14 at 04:30 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's end-of-the-line department:
walterbyrd writes with news of Microsoft layoffs. Microsoft Corp will close its Silicon Valley research-and-development operation as part of 2,100 layoffs announced on Thursday, as it moves toward its new CEO's goal of cutting 18,000 staff, or about 14 percent of its workforce. News of the closure of the Microsoft Research lab at the company's campus in Mountain View, California, was first made public on Twitter by employees. The company later confirmed the move and said it would involve the loss of 50 jobs.

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Apple's "Warrant Canary" Has Died
Posted by News Fetcher on September 18 '14 at 04:30 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's get-out-of-the-mine department:
HughPickens.com writes When Apple published its first Transparency Report on government activity in late 2013, the document contained an important footnote that stated: "Apple has never received an order under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. We would expect to challenge such an order if served on us." Now Jeff John Roberts writes at Gigaom that Apple's warrant canary has disappeared. A review of the company's last two Transparency Reports, covering the second half of 2013 and the first six months of 2014, shows that the "canary" language is no longer there suggesting that Apple is now part of FISA or PRISM proceedings.

Warrant canaries are a tool used by companies and publishers to signify to their users that, so far, they have not been subject to a given type of law enforcement request such as a secret subpoena. If the canary disappears, then it is likely the situation has changed — and the company has been subject to such request. This may also give some insight into Apple's recent decision to rework its latest encryption in a way that makes it almost impossible for the company to turn over data from most iPhones or iPads to police.


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Mystery Signal Could Be Dark Matter Hint In ISS Detector
Posted by News Fetcher on September 18 '14 at 03:15 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's filling-in-space department:
astroengine writes Analysis of 41 billion cosmic rays striking the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer particle detector aboard the International Space Station shows an unknown phenomena that is "consistent with a dark matter particle" known as a neutralino, researchers announced Thursday. Key to the hunt is the ratio of positrons to electrons and so far the evidence from AMS points in the direction of dark matter. The smoking gun scientists look for is a rise in the ratio of positrons to electrons, followed by a dramatic fall — the telltale sign of dark matter annihilating the Milky Way's halo, which lies beyond its central disk of stars and dust. However, "we have not found the definitive proof of dark matter," AMS lead researcher Samuel Ting, with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and CERN in Switzerland, wrote in an email to Discovery News. "Whereas all the AMS results point in the right direction, we still need to measure how quickly the positron fraction falls off at the highest energies in order to rule out astrophysical sources such as pulsars." But still, this new finding is a tantalizing step in the dark matter direction.

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Dremel Releases 3D Printer
Posted by News Fetcher on September 18 '14 at 02:30 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's print-it-at-home department:
Lucas123 writes Power tool maker Dremel today announced its now selling a desktop 3D printer that it said is targeted at "the masses" with a $1,000 price tag and intuitive software. Dremel's 3D Idea Builder is a fused deposition modeling (FDM) machine that can use only one type of polymer filament, polylactide (PLA) and that comes in 10 colors. The new 3D printer has a 9-in. x 5.9-in. x 5.5-in. build area housed in a self-contained box with a detachable lid and side panels. Dremel's currently selling its machine on Amazon and The Home Depot's website, but it plans brick and mortar store sales this November.

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A Beginner's Guide To Programming With Swift
Posted by News Fetcher on September 18 '14 at 02:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's how-swift-is-it? department:
Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes Earlier this year, Apple executives unveiled Swift, which is meant to eventually replace Objective-C as the programming language of choice for Macs and iOS devices. Now that iOS 8's out, a lot of developers who build apps for Apple's platforms will likely give Swift a more intensive look. While Apple boasts that Swift makes programming easy, it'll take some time to learn how the language works. A new walkthrough by developer David Bolton shows how to build a very simple app in Swift, complete with project files (hosted on SourceForge) so you can follow along. A key takeaway: while some Swift features do make programming easier, there's definitely a learning curve here.

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Next Android To Enable Local Encryption By Default Too, Says Google
Posted by News Fetcher on September 18 '14 at 01:30 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's keep-it-to-yourself-bub department:
An anonymous reader writes The same day that Apple announced that iOS 8 will encrypt device data with a local code that is not shared with Apple, Google has pointed out that Android already offers the same feature as a user option and that the next version will enable it by default. The announcements by both major cell phone [operating system makers] underscores a new emphasis on privacy in the wake of recent government surveillance revelations in the U.S. At the same time, it leaves unresolved the tension between security and convenience when both companies' devices are configured to upload user content to iCloud and Google+ servers for backup and synchronization across devices, servers and content to which Apple and Google do have access.

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Oracle CEO Larry Ellison Steps Down
Posted by News Fetcher on September 18 '14 at 12:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's one-real-american-named-larry-ellison department:
mrspoonsi writes Oracle founder Larry Ellison is stepping down as CEO. He will be replaced by two executives. Former Oracle presidents Safra Catz and Mark Hurd will be co-CEOs. Ellison will be the Executive Chairman of Oracle's Board, and the company's CTO. Oracle's shares are off by 3% on the news. "Larry has made it very clear that he wants to keep working full time and focus his energy on product engineering, technology development and strategy," said the Oracle Board's Presiding Director, Dr. Michael Boskin.

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Once Vehicles Are Connected To the Internet of Things, Who Guards Your Privacy?
Posted by News Fetcher on September 18 '14 at 12:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's I-hope-it's-rob-ford department:
Lucas123 (935744) writes Carmakers already remotely collect data from their vehicles, unbeknownst to most drivers, but once connected via in-car routers or mobile devices to the Internet, and to roadway infrastructure and other vehicles around them, that information would be accessible by the government or other undesired entities. Location data, which is routinely collected by GPS providers and makers of telematics systems, is among the most sensitive pieces of information that can be collected, according to Nate Cardozo, an attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "Not having knowledge that a third party is collecting that data on us and with whom they are sharing that data with is extremely troubling," Cardozo said. in-vehicle diagnostics data could also be used by government agencies to track driver behavior. Nightmare scenarios could include traffic violations being issued without law enforcement officers on the scene or federal agencies having the ability to track your every move in a car. That there could be useful data in all that personally identifiable bits made me think of Peter Wayner's "Translucent Databases."

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New Study Projects World Population of 11B by 2100
Posted by News Fetcher on September 18 '14 at 11:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's ok-but-only-one-of-me department:
vinces99 (2792707) writes Using modern statistical tools, a new study led by the University of Washington and the United Nations finds that world population is likely to keep growing throughout the 21st century. The number of people on Earth is likely to reach 11 billion by 2100, the study concludes, about 2 billion higher than widely cited previous estimates. The paper published online Sept. 18 in the journal Science includes the most up-to-date numbers for future world population, and describes a new method for creating such estimates. "The consensus over the past 20 years or so was that world population, which is currently around 7 billion, would go up to 9 billion and level off or probably decline," said corresponding author Adrian Raftery, a UW professor of statistics and of sociology. ... The paper explains the most recent United Nations population data released in July. This is the first U.N. population report to use modern statistics, known as Bayesian statistics, that combines all available information to generate better predictions.

Most of the anticipated growth is in Africa, where population is projected to quadruple from around 1 billion today to 4 billion by the end of the century. The main reason is that birth rates in sub-Saharan Africa have not been going down as fast as had been expected. There is an 80 percent chance that the population in Africa at the end of the century will be between 3.5 billion and 5.1 billion people.


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The 2014 Ig Nobel Prizes Will Be Awarded Tonight
Posted by News Fetcher on September 18 '14 at 11:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's as-they-should-be department:
alphadogg (971356) writes At Harvard University's Sanders Theater this evening, a collection of the most off-the-wall, bizarre and lurid scientific efforts of the past year will be dubiously honored with an Ig Nobel Prize. The Ig Nobels are awarded annually by Improbable Research, an organization devoted to scientific education that publishes the Annals of Improbable Research magazine six times a year. Past honorees have included:*A study about homosexual necrophilia in ducks; Competitive analysis of breakfast cereal sogginess; The discovery that dung beetles can navigate using the Milky Way galaxy. The ceremony begins at 6 p.m. EST, and can be viewed online for free here.

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Ask Slashdot: How To Pick Up Astronomy and Physics As an Adult?
Posted by News Fetcher on September 18 '14 at 10:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's productive-member-of-socety department:
First time accepted submitter samalex01 (1290786) writes "I'm 38, married, two young kids, and I have a nice job in the IT industry, but since I was a kid I've had this deep love and passion for astronomy and astrophysics. This love and passion though never evolved into any formal education or anything beyond just a distant fascination as I got out of high school, into college, and started going through life on more of an IT career path. So my question, now that I'm 38 is there any hope that I could start learning more about astronomy or physics to make it more than just a hobby? I don't expect to be a Carl Sagan or Neil deGrasse Tyson, but I'd love to have enough knowledge in these subjects to research and experiment to the point where I could possibly start contributing back to the field. MIT Open Courseware has some online courses for free that cover these topics, but given I can only spend maybe 10 hours a week on this would it be a pointless venture? Not to mention my mind isn't as sharp now as it was 20 years ago when I graduated high school. Thanks for any advice or suggestions."

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Apple Will No Longer Unlock Most iPhones, iPads For Police
Posted by News Fetcher on September 18 '14 at 09:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's just-what-they-want-you-to-think-part-827398 department:
SternisheFan writes with this selection from a story at the Washington Post: Apple said Wednesday night that it is making it impossible for the company to turn over data from most iPhones or iPads to police — even when they have a search warrant — taking a hard new line as tech companies attempt to blunt allegations that they have too readily participated in government efforts to collect user data. The move, announced with the publication of a new privacy policy tied to the release of Apple's latest mobile operating system, iOS 8, amounts to an engineering solution to a legal dilemma: Rather than comply with binding court orders, Apple has reworked its latest encryption in a way that makes it almost impossible for the company – or anyone else but the device's owner – to gain access to the vast troves of user data typically stored on smartphones or tablet computers. The key is the encryption that Apple mobile devices automatically put in place when a user selects a passcode, making it difficult for anyone who lacks that passcode to access the information within, including photos, e-mails, recordings or other documents. Apple once kept possession of encryption keys that unlocked devices for legally binding police requests, but will no longer do so for iOS8, it said in a new guide for law enforcement. "Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data," Apple said on its Web site. "So it's not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8."

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Alice Is Killing Trolls But Patent Lawyers Will Strike Back
Posted by News Fetcher on September 18 '14 at 08:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's waiting-in-the-wings-now-patented department:
snydeq writes The wheels of justice spin slowly, but they seem finally to be running software patents out of town, writes Simon Phipps in his analysis of how Alice Corp. v CLS Bank is becoming a landmark decision for patent cases in the U.S. 'In case after case, the Court of Appeals is using Alice to resolve patent appeals. In each case so far, the Court of Appeals has found the software patents in question to be invalid. ... As PatentlyO points out, the Alice effect is even reaching to lower courts, saving the Court of Appeals from having to strike down patent findings on appeal.' Although the patent industry broadly speaking sees the Alice verdict as a death knell for patents, some expect Alice to turn software patents into 'draftsmen's art because as you and I have seen over the years, every time there's a court ruling it just means that you have to word the patent claims differently.'

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An Open Source Pitfall? Mozilla Labs Closed, Quietly
Posted by News Fetcher on September 18 '14 at 08:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's same-people-are-still-smart department:
mikejuk writes with this excerpt: When Google Labs closed there was an outcry. How could an organization just pull the rug from under so many projects? At least Google announced what it was doing. Mozilla, it seems since there is no official record, just quietly tiptoes away — leaving the lights on since the Mozilla Labs Website is still accessible. It is accessible but when you start to explore the website you notice it is moribund with the last blog post being December 2013 with the penultimate one being September 2013.
The fact that it is gone is confirmed by recent blog posts and by the redeployment of the people who used to run it. The projects that survived have been moved to their own websites. It isn't clear what has happened to the Hatchery -the incubator that invited new ideas from all and sundry.
One of the big advantages of open source is the ease with which a project can be started. One of the big disadvantages of open source is the ease with which projects can be allowed to die — often without any clear cut time of death. It seems Mozilla applies this to groups and initiatives as much as projects. This isn't good.
The same is true at companies that aren't open source centric, though, too, isn't it?

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Snowden's Leaks Didn't Help Terrorists
Posted by News Fetcher on September 18 '14 at 07:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's what-they-want-you-to-think department:
HughPickens.com writes The Interecept reports that contrary to lurid claims made by U.S. officials, a new independent analysis of Edward Snowden's revelations on NSA surveillance that examined the frequency of releases and updates of encryption software by jihadi groups has found no correlation in either measure to Snowden's leaks about the NSA's surveillance techniques. According to the report "well prior to Edward Snowden, online jihadists were already aware that law enforcement and intelligence agencies were attempting to monitor them (PDF)." In fact, concerns about terrorists' use of sophisticated encryption technology predates even 9/11.

< article continued at Slashdot >

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