By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
From a report: The quest to extend the periodic table is not over, but it is grinding to a halt. Since Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev published his periodic table 150 years ago, researchers have been adding elements to it at the average rate of one every two or three years. Having found all the elements that are stable enough to persist naturally, researchers started to create their own, and are now up to element 118, oganesson. Although they still hope to find more, they agree that prospects of venturing beyond element 120 are dim.
"We're reaching the area of diminishing returns in the synthesis of new elements, at least with our current level of technology," says Jacklyn Gates, who works on heavy-element chemistry at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. As a result, research on the edge of the periodic table is shifting focus. Rather than chasing new elements, scientists are going back to deepen their understanding of the superheavy ones -- roughly speaking, those with an atomic number above 100 -- that they have already made.
Studying the chemical properties of these elements could show whether the most massive ones obey the organizing principle of the table -- which sorts elements into groups with similar behaviours on the basis of periodically recurring patterns of chemical reactivity. And although the heaviest elements decay in less than the blink of an eye, researchers still hope that they might arrive at the fabled 'island of stability': a hypothesized region of element-land where some superheavy isotopes -- atoms that have the same number of protons in their nucleus, but differing numbers of neutrons -- might exist for minutes, days or even longer.Read Replies (0)
By msmash from Slashdot's closer-look department
An anonymous reader shares a report: There is, however, one demographic that has embraced the Apple Watch with open arms: tech-savvy, upper middle-class teens and tweens. The watch is a convenient workaround for classroom cell-phone bans; it can be used for everything from texting to cheating on tests. [...] Julia Rubin, a former middle-school teacher at a private school in New York City, said that when the Apple Watch first came out in 2014, a handful of students got them as presents for the holidays.
When Rubin asked her school's principal to ban the watches the same way the school banned cell phones, she refused. In addition to kids texting during class, there is growing concern that smart watches could be used to help kids cheat during exams. In fact, there is a wealth of YouTube videos showing teens how to do precisely that, usually with the disclaimer that they are only sharing this information "for entertainment purposes."
[...] Nikias Molina, 20, is a Spanish vlogger who runs the YouTube channel Apple World. A slender, dark-haired kid with braces and a slight European accent, Molina posted a 2018 video showing subscribers how to use various apps on the Apple Watch to cheat on exams. As he demonstrates in the video and explained to me, there are apps you can download onto the Apple Watch to save PDFs, but the most common method is to take a photo of a cheat sheet and pull it up on the Apple Watch, which doesn't require internet accessibility. The response to the video was mixed -- "students were thanking me [in the comments], and teachers were hating on me" -- but the video racked up more than 115,000 views.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's seriously-do-not-track department
"In the last year, a swell of privacy-focused website analytics platforms have started to provide an alternative to Google's tracking behemoth," reports Fast Company.
An anonymous reader shares their article about startups providing "privacy-centric analytics, claiming not to collect any personal data and only display simple metrics like page views, referral websites, and screen sizes in clean, pared-down interfaces."
While Simple Analytics and Fathom are both recent additions to the world of privacy-focused data analytics, 1.5% of the internet already uses an open-source, decentralized platform called Matomo, according to the company... "When [Google] released Google Analytics, [it] was obvious to me that a certain percent of the world would want the same technology, but decentralized, where it's not provided by a centralized corporation and you're not dependent on them," says Matthieu Aubry, Matomo's founder. "If you use it on your own server, it's impossible for us to get any data from it."
Aubry says that 99% of Matomo users use the analytics code, which is open for anyone to use, and host their analytics on their own servers -- which means that the company has no access to it whatsoever. For Aubry, that's his way of ensuring privacy by design. United Nations, Amnesty International, NASA, and the European Commission and about 1.5 million other websites use Matomo. But Matomo also offers significantly more robust tracking than Fathom or Simple Analytics -- Aubry says it can do about 95% of what Google Analytics does. Still, there are a few key differences. Like Simple Analytics, Matomo honors Do Not Track....
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's self-dialing-cars department
An anonymous reader quotes TechCrunch:
In September of last year, Elon Musk promised to make fixing service times a priority. On an earnings call, he outlined two ways they're working on it: more spare parts at service centers, and giving Tesla cars the ability to automatically get the process started by calling a tow truck as soon as it detects an issue. Said Elon on the call:
The next thing we want to add is if a car detects something wrong -- like a flat tire or a drive unit failure -- that before the car has even come to a halt, there's a tow truck and service loaner on the way.
False alarm? Don't want a tow truck to show up? You'll be able to cancel it through the in-dash display.
Musk didn't provide a time frame for when this feature would become available.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's driving-to-dreamland department
A Tesla Model S driver in Southern California was caught on camera seemingly asleep at the wheel while driving on Autopilot... Kevin Paschal from Southern California shared the video on Facebook and said about the incident: "Highlight of my day. Dude is passed out on the freeway in his Tesla and still driving better than 90% of SoCal, lol... Dude was perfectly centered in his lane the whole time and maintained a safe distance from all vehicles...."
In this case, it looks like the driver has at least one hand over the bottom half of the steering wheel, which could be enough to avoid any Autopilot alert -- thought that's not always the case. Paschal said that the driver was like that for "several miles" and when asked why he didn't honk to attempt to wake him or get him to pay attention, he wrote, "I'm not sure the car would have cared...."
You should definitely attempt to wake the driver up if it can be done safely. As for the driver falling asleep, there are basically two schools of thoughts here. One could say that the driver would have fallen asleep anyway, as drivers do, and Autopilot actually made the situation a lot safer. Others would argue that the convenience aspect of Tesla's Autopilot might have actually contributed to putting the driver to sleep.
BGR also reports on a second incident where "If anything, the Tesla driver in the video is so relaxed that he's not even at the wheel; he's full-on reclining."
"This is why I personally think Level 2 autonomy is a bad idea," warns Jalopnik. "If it's possible for a moron like this to sleep while the car is driving at highway speeds, that's a huge problem."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's machines-learning department
Google acquired DeepMind for $500 million in 2014, and its AI programs later beat the world's best player in Go, as well as the top AI chess programs. But when its AlphaStar system beat two top Starcraft II players -- was it cheating?
Long-time Slashdot reader AmiMoJo quotes BoingBoing:
It claimed the AI was limited to what human players can physically do, putting its achievement in the realm of strategic analysis rather than finger twitchery. But there's a problem: it was often tracked clicking with superhuman speed and efficiency.
Aleksi Pietikainen writes "It is deeply unsatisfying to have prominent members of this research project make claims of human-like mechanical limitations when the agent is very obviously breaking them and winning its games specifically because it is demonstrating superhuman execution."
"It wasn't an entirely fair fight," argues Ars Technica, noting the limitations DeepMind placed on its AI "seem to imply that AlphaStar could take 50 actions in a single second or 15 actions per second for three seconds." And in addition, "This API may allow the software to glean more information... "
After playing back some of AlphaZero's back-to-back 5-0 victories over StarCraft pros, the company staged a final live match between AlphaStar and [top Starcraft II player Grzegorz "MaNa"] Komincz. This match used a new version of AlphaStar with an important new limitation: it was forced to use a camera view that tried to simulate the limitations of the human StarCraft interface. The new interface only allowed AlphaStar to see a small portion of the battlefield at once, and it could only issue orders to units that were in its current field of view....
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's zone-defense department
The FBI confiscated six drones in Atlanta for flying too close to the football stadium where the Super Bowl will be played Sunday, Reuters reports:
Drone flight was prohibited on Saturday and from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. EST on Sunday for one nautical mile (2 km) around the Mercedes-Benz Stadium and up to an altitude of 1,000 feet (305 meters), the Federal Aviation Administration said. The FAA will establish temporary flight restriction that prohibits drones within a 30-nautical-mile radius of the stadium and up to 17,999 feet in altitude from 5:30 p.m. to 11:59 p.m. EST on Sunday, the agency said. ..
Drones "are a big concern," said Nick Annan, Homeland Security Investigations special agent in charge. "There are a few other things that are in place to mitigate drones," he added without elaborating. Operators who send drones into restricted areas around the Mercedes-Benz Stadium could face more than $20,000 in civil penalties and criminal prosecution, according to the FAA.
Drone pilots are advised to check the FAA's B4UFly app to check when and where they can fly -- and the aviation agency has also produced a slick 20-second video "encouraging Super Bowl fans to bring their lucky jerseys, face paint and team spirit to the game -- but leave their drones at home -- because the stadium and the area around it is a No Drone Zone."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's or-just-resting department
Now long-time Slashdot reader shanen asks about the rumors that Java is dead -- or is it?
Can you convince me that Java isn't as dead as it seems? It's just playing dead and will spring to life?
This week one Java news site argued that Java-based Minecraft has in fact "spawned a new generation of Java developers," citing an interview with Red Hat's JBoss Middleware CTO. (And he adds that "It's still the dominant programming language in the enterprise, so whether you're building enterprise clients, services or something in between, Java likely features in there somewhere.") Yet the original submission drew some interesting comments:
"The licensing scheme for Java kills it..." "Java programs still are 'the alien on your desktop'. They suck in many ways. Users have learned to avoid them and install 'real programs' instead..."
But what do Slashdot's readers think? Leave your own answers in the comments.
How dead is Java?Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's hey-Siri department
A 13-year-old boy visiting family in Indiana has been charged with "intimidation", according to the Northwest Indiana Times:
The boy allegedly said to Siri, iPhone's voice assistant, "I am going to shoot up a school," according to a news release from the Valparaiso Police Department. Siri then replied with a list of multiple Valparaiso schools near his location. The boy, identified as a Chesterton Middle School student, posted a screenshot of the inquiry and response on social media, which was reported to Chesterton police by the boy's social media contacts.
Chesterton police then contacted the Valparaiso Police Department, which launched an investigation into the possible threat. Valparaiso officers determined the boy made no direct threat to a specific person, school or school system and that he had no access to weapons -- ultimately stating the picture was posted on social media as a joke. "The threat is not believed to be credible at this time; however, these types of communications are taken very seriously by the Valparaiso Police Department and our community," police stated in a news release.
A 14-year-old was also taken into custody, and is also being held in a juvenille detention center, facing charges of intimidation and "criminal recklessness with a handgun" over related photographs with weapons.
"Come on kids. It isn't funny..." reads one comment on the police department's Facebook page. "How many of you are going to be detained before you realize it?"
"Thank you for taking it seriously, and prosecuting it accordingly," added another commenter. "'I was joking' is not a defense. Hopefully juvie knocks some sense into this kid."
"I hope he's prosecuted for this! Totally not funny and as a parent I'm taking any threats against schools serious!" reads another comment -- though at least one person directed their scorn somewhere else.
"Sounds like Siri needs to be re-programmed."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's tales-from-planet-earth department
beaverdownunder quotes Paleotronic:
While researching for our magazine we sometimes find nuggets buried by time that have been forgotten by the Internet. This particular nugget was found in the May 1977 issue of Creative Computing. Science fiction author and futurist Arthur C. Clarke's predictions of the future are fascinating, both for what he got right, and what he got wrong.
Quoting Arthur C. Clarke:
[W]hat about verbal inputs? Do we really need a keyboard? I'm sure the answer is "Yes." We want to be able to type out messages, look at them, and edit them before transmission. We need keyboard inputs for privacy, and quietness. A reliable voice recognition system, capable of coping with accents, hangovers, ill-fitting dentures and the "human error" that my late friend HAL, the computer from 2001, complained about, represents something many orders of magnitude more complex than a simple alpha-numeric keyboard. It would be a device with capabilities, in a limited area, at least as good as those of a human brain. Yet assuming that the curves of the last few decades can be extrapolated, this will certainly be available sometime in the next century....
Noting that he coined the phrase "Don't commute -- communicate!" Clark adds "We are already approaching the point when it will be feasible -- not necessarily desirable -- for those engaged in what is quaintly called "white-collar" jobs to do perhaps 95 per cent of their work without leaving home. Of course, few of today's families could survive this, but for the moment let's confine ourselves to electronic, not social, technology."
But he wasn't excited about the possibility of telepathy in the future. "I find that my mental processes are so incoherent...that I should be very sorry for anyone at the receiving end."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's forgetting-the-past department
Long-time Slashdot reader v3rgEz quotes MuckRock: Government investigations into California's electricity shortage, ultimately determined to be caused by intentional market manipulations and capped retail electricity prices by the now infamous Enron Corporation, resulted in terabytes of information being collected by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. This included several extremely large databases, some of which had nearly 200 million rows of data, including Enron's bidding and price processes, their trading and risk management systems, emails, audio recordings, and nearly 100,000 additional documents. That information has quietly disappeared, and not even its custodians seem to know why.
The web page where a defense contractor hosts the data has been down since 2013, and after a one-month wait they replied to a request by stating the data was "under review" and "currently not accessible," adding that it might never be available again. And while a U.S. government site also claims they offer a trio of datasets on CD, that agency "has not responded to repeated requests for these datasets sent over the past two months."
The site also instructs visitors to email Lockheed Martin, who maintains some of the data -- but the provided email address bounces.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's taking-a-ride-on-heavy-metal department
Long-time Slashdot reader darkwing_bmf writes: In an exclusive interview with Popular Mechanics, SpaceX founder Elon Musk explains why stainless steel is the best material to build rocket ships, beating carbon fiber in cost, durability and even weight.
"As far as we know, this marks the first time the material has been used in spacecraft construction since some early, ill-fated attempts during the Atlas program in the late 1950s," reports Popular Mechanics.
"It took me quite a bit of effort to convince the team to go in this direction..." Musk tells them. But among the other benefits "It has a high melting point. Much higher than aluminum, and although carbon fiber doesn't melt, the resin gets destroyed at a certain temperature... But steel, you can do 1500, 1600 degrees Fahrenheit."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-infectious department
schwit1 quotes ABC News: Vaccines are universally backed by respected scientists and federal agencies, but that isn't enough to convince every parent to vaccinate their children. The decision to fly in the face of near universal scientific opinion doesn't come as a result of a lack of intellect, however, as experts who have studied vaccines and immunology acknowledge that many parents who don't vaccinate their children are well-educated. They also appear to be the victims of a widespread misinformation campaign, the experts said.
Daniel Salmon, who is the director of the Institute of Vaccine Safety at Johns Hopkins University, said that existing research suggests that there are some common attributes that many parents who choose not to vaccinate their children share. "They tend to be better educated. They tend to be white, and they tend to be higher income. They tend to have larger families and they tend to use complementary and alternative medicine like chiropractors and naturopaths," Salmon said.
Salman also says outbreaks typically start when an American returns from a visit to Europe, where there are much higher rates of measles than in the U.S. But lower vaccination rates help it spread.
One study in August reported Russian trolls "seem to be using vaccination as a wedge issue, promoting discord in American society," though their campaign on Twitter failed to gain traction.
"I blame Amazon Prime," writes long-time Slashdot reader destinyland. "That 'misinformation' they're talking about is the pseudoscience documentary Vaxxed -- and Amazon is one of the top site's pushing it. The movie is not only free for all Prime members -- Amazon's actually featuring it on the front page showing free-with-Prime movies."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's dead-or-alive department
PolygamousRanchKid quotes LiveScience: A laser pulse bounced off a rubidium atom and entered the quantum world -- taking on the weird physics of "Schrodinger's cat." The laser pulses didn't grow whiskers or paws. But they became like the famous quantum-physics thought experiment Schrodinger's cat in an important way: They were large objects that acted like the simultaneously dead-and-alive creatures of subatomic physics -- existing in a limbo between two simultaneous, contradictory states.
"In our experiment, the [laser cat] was sent to the detector immediately, so it was destroyed right after its creation," said Bastian Hacker, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Germany, who worked on the experiment. But it didn't have to be that way, Hacker told Live Science.
"An optical state can live forever. So if we had sent the pulse out into the night sky, it could live for billions of years in its [cat-like] state." That longevity is part of what makes these pulses so useful, he added. A long-lived laser cat can survive long-term travel through an optical fiber, making it a good unit of information for a network of quantum computers...
In the new experiment, described in a paper published Jan. 14 in the journal Nature Photonics, researchers created laser pulses that are in superposition between two possible quantum states. They called the little pulses "flying optical cat states...."
"Cat states can encode quantum information in a way that allows [us] to detect optical loss and correct for it. Although every optical transmission has losses, the information can be transmitted perfectly."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Kiting-checks department
An AI-enhanced tool that suggests code snippets for Python developers in real time just raised $17 million in VC funding to expand its R&D team "with a focus on accelerating developer productivity."
An anonymous reader quotes VentureBeat:
"Our mission is to bring the latest advancements in AI and machine learning (ML) to make writing code fluid, effortless, and more enjoyable," explained [founder Adam] Smith. "Developers using Kite can focus their productive energy toward solving the next big technical challenges, instead of searching the web for code examples illustrating mundane and frequently repeated code patterns...."
Instead of relying on the cloud to run its AI engine, Kite now runs locally on a user's computer, letting developers use it offline and without having to upload any code. (Kite still trains its machine learning models with thousands of publicly available code sources from highly rated developers.) Furthermore, running locally allows Kite to fully operate with lower latencies... In addition to ditching the cloud, the new version of Kite brings a feature the team calls Line-of-Code Completions. Until now, Kite's machine learning models could only suggest the next "token" in a line of code. Line-of-Code Completions can complete entire function calls with a single keystroke... The team boasts that Kite is "the only developer product on the market to offer such advanced completions."
"Today, Kite is used by more than 30,000 Python developers worldwide," reports VentureBeat, adding it locally-based ML plugin is available for top Python IDEs including Visual Studio Code, Atom, Sublime Text, PyCharm, IntelliJ, and Vim.
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's firstname.lastname@example.org department
A Dutch security researcher says he found credentials for the Russian government's backdoor account for accessing servers of businesses operating in Russia, ZDNet reports:
The researcher says that after his initial finding, he later found the same "email@example.com" account on over 2,000 other MongoDB databases that had been left exposed online, all belonging to local and foreign businesses operating in Russia. Examples include databases belonging to local banks, financial institutions, big telcos, and even Disney Russia.... "The first time I saw these credentials was in the user table of a Russian Lotto website," Victor Gevers told ZDNet in an interview Monday. "I had to do some digging to understand that the Kremlin requires remote access to systems that handle financial transactions....
"All the systems this password was on were already fully accessible to anyone," Gevers said. "The MongoDB databases were deployed with default settings. So anyone without authentication had CRUD [Create, Read, Update and Delete] access."
"It took a lot of time and also many attempts to contact and warn the Kremlin about this issue," the researcher added -- specifically, three years, five months and 15 days. The Kremlin reused the same credentials "everywhere," reports IT News, "leaving a large number of businesses open to access from the internet."
Long-time Slashdot reader Bismillah calls it "an illustration of the dangers of giving governments backdoors into systems and networks."Read Replies (0)