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Texas Family Awarded $2.9 Million In Fracking Lawsuit
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '14 at 05:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's don't-mess-with-texas department:
New submitter martinQblank writes "CNN reports: A Texas family whose home was within a two-mile radius of 22 natural gas wells — one of which was less than 800 feet away — has been awarded $2.9 million by a jury. The family, who suffered from a variety of ailments (including nosebleeds, rashes, migraines and more), was advised by a doctor to leave their ranch immediately and see a physician specializing in environmental health. The defendant in the case, Aruba Petroleum, disagreed with the jury's decision, as did other attorneys who are familiar with the energy sector — calling in a 'knee-jerk' reaction. Additionally the company noted that they had complied with all applicable environmental regulations. The family itself? Still in favor of oil and natural gas extraction: 'We are not anti-fracking or anti-drilling. My goodness, we live in Texas. Keep it in the pipes, and if you have a leak or spill, report it and be respectful to your neighbors. If you are going to put this stuff in close proximity to homes, be respectful and careful.'"

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Amazon Embodies the Gender Gap in Tech
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '14 at 04:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's don't-let-the-name-fool-you department:
New submitter chpoot writes: "The Guardian reveals the gender breakdown among Amazon's management 'S Team.' At one end of the team of 132 are 12 secretaries. All are female. At the other end are 12 who report directly to Jeff Bezos. All are male. Of the 119 remaining when Bezos and the secretaries are put to one side, 18 are female. Amazon, of course, grew out of book selling. Book selling, publishing, and writing have all a fairly admirable tradition of employing women. In its attempts to overthrow traditional book selling, Amazon seems to have been particularly successful in subverting that part of the tradition."

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DARPA Develops Stealth Motorcycle For US Special Forces
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '14 at 01:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's hard-to-sneak-with-a-harley department:
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: "Allen McDuffee reports that DARPA is developing a hybrid-powered motorcycle to soundlessly penetrate remote areas and execute complex, lightning-fast raids. The idea is to develop a hybrid power system that relies on both electric and gas power, allowing special ops to go off-road and zip past enemy forces with the silence of an electric engine, while also being able to handle extended missions and higher speeds with a supplemental gas tank. Logos Technologies plans to fit its quieted, multifuel hybrid-electric power system with an all-electric bike from San Francisco-based manufacturer BRD Motorcycles that uses an existing racing bike, the RedShift MX, a 250-pound all-electric moto that retails for $15,000. The RedShift MX has a two-hour range, but will be extended with a gas tank the size of which will be determined by the military in the research period. The focus on the electric element suggests that DARPA is more concerned with the stealthiness of the motorcycle than it is efficiency."

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Making Graphene Work For Real-World Devices
Posted by News Fetcher on April 26 '14 at 12:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's more-better-faster-lighter-cheaper department:
aarondubrow writes: "Graphene, a one-atom-thick form of the carbon material graphite, is strong, light, nearly transparent and an excellent conductor of electricity and heat, but a number of practical challenges must be overcome before it can emerge as a replacement for silicon in electronics or energy devices. One particular challenge concerns the question of how graphene diffuses heat, in the form of phonons. Thermal conductivity is critical in electronics, especially as components shrink to the nanoscale. Using the Stampede supercomputer at the Texas Advanced Computing Center, Professor Li Shi simulated how phonons (heat-carrying vibrations in solids) scatter as a function of the thickness of the graphene layers. He also investigated how graphene interacts with substrate materials and how phonon scattering can be controlled. The results were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Applied Physical Letters and Energy and Environmental Science."

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Fossils of Earliest Known Pterosaur Found
Posted by News Fetcher on April 25 '14 at 10:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's death-from-the-skies department:
damn_registrars writes: "A fossil of the earliest known Pterosaur flying reptile was found recently in China. Named Kryptodrakon progenitor, it was described in a paper published yesterday in the journal Current Biology (abstract). Its wingspan was about a meter and a half, very small compared to its evolutionary descendents, whose wingspan reached over 10 meters. 'The pterosaurs remained largely unchanged for tens of millions of years — with characteristics like long tails and relatively small heads — and none became very big. But later during the Jurassic period, some developed anatomical changes that heralded the arrival of a new branch called pterodactyloids that eventually replaced the more primitive forms of pterosaurs. Many of these pterodactyloids had massive, elongated heads topped with huge crests, lost their teeth and grew to huge sizes. Perhaps the defining characteristic of the group is an elongation in the bone at the base of the fourth finger called the fourth metacarpal, and Kryptodrakon is the oldest known pterosaur to have this advance, the researchers said.'"

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How the Code War Has Replaced the Cold War
Posted by News Fetcher on April 25 '14 at 08:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's time-to-update-the-rules-of-engagement department:
An anonymous reader writes "After years on the defensive, governments are building their own offensive capabilities to deliver digital attacks against their enemies. It's all part of a secret arms race, where countries spend billions of dollars to create stockpiles of digital weapons and zero-day flaws. But is this making us any safer, or putting us and the internet at risk? 'Estonia is a small state with a population of just 1.3 million. However, it has a highly-developed online infrastructure, having invested heavily in e-government services, digital ID cards, and online banking. ... The attacks on Estonia were a turning point, proving that a digital bombardment could be used not just to derail a company or a website, but to attack a country. Since then, many nations have been scrambling to improve their digital defenses -- and their digital weapons. While the attacks on Estonia used relatively simple tools against a small target, bigger weapons are being built to take on some of the mightiest of targets.'"

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Monty Python To Bid Farewell In a Simulcast Show
Posted by News Fetcher on April 25 '14 at 06:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's soon-to-be-pining-for-the-fjords department:
dacarr writes "The five remaining members of Monty Python will be performing in the O2 Arena, and their last show as a comedy troupe will be simulcast across hundreds of theaters in the UK, and roughly 1,500 more across the world, according to the Guardian. Michael Palin says this is really going to be the last time before the Pythons cease to be. Well, at least, before Monty Python, as a comedy troupe, runs down the curtain and joins the bleedin' choir invisible."

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3D Printer Lays Down Functioning Circuitry Alongside Thermoplastic
Posted by News Fetcher on April 25 '14 at 04:31 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's closer-to-self-replication department:
Lucas123 writes: "The Rabbit Proto is a new 3D printer attachment that can be added to a RepRap printer to create circuitry right alongside an existing thermoplastic extruder. While still in prototype, the printer head is expected to ship this summer. The creators of the Rabbit Proto, a group of Standford graduate students, have already printed working prototypes, such as a game controller. So far, the syringe-like printer head has used silver-filled silicon to create circuitry, but the engineers are now working with conductive inks made with graphite. The Rabbit Proto head unit can be pre-ordered for $350, or you can purchase a fully-assembled RepRap 3D printer with the Rabbit Proto head for $2,499."

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Man Builds DIY Cellphone Using Raspberry Pi
Posted by News Fetcher on April 25 '14 at 03:46 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's apple-already-sued-for-patent-infringement department:
Photographer and software engineer Dave Hunt has posted an article about his most recent project: a DIY cellphone based on a Raspberry Pi (he calls it a PiPhone). It has a touchscreen dialing interface for making calls, and it's built with off-the-shelf components. The total bill of materials clocks in at about $158: $40 for the rPi, $35 for the 320x240 touchscreen, $15 for the LiPo battery, $48 for the GSM module, and about $20 for miscellaneous other minor parts. Hunt says, '[The GSM/GPRS module] allow us to send standard AT commands to it to make calls, hang up, send texts, data etc. Overall a very clever module. Towards the bottom of the white PCB, you can see the SIM Card, which allows the module to associate with my local GSM network, and it’s using a regular prepaid SIM card, bought in my local phone store for €10. Below the GSM module, you can see the on.off switch and a DC-DC converter, which converts the 3.7volts from the LiPoly battery to 5volts needed by everything else.' He points out that the phone is not terribly practical, but it's a neat project. Hunt has done several others, including turning the Raspberry Pi into a controller for time-lapse photography. He'll be publishing the code he wrote for the PiPhone next week.

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Why Speed-Reading Apps Don't Work
Posted by News Fetcher on April 25 '14 at 03:31 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's your-brain-isn't-as-quick-as-your-eyes department:
sciencehabit writes: "Does reading faster mean reading better? That's what speed-reading apps claim, promising to boost not just the number of words you read per minute, but also how well you understand a text. There's just one problem: The same thing that speeds up reading actually gets in the way of comprehension, according to a new study (abstract). Apps like Spritz or the aptly-named Speed Read are built around the idea that these eye movements, called saccades, are a redundant waste of time. It's more efficient, their designers claim, to present words one at a time in a fixed spot on a screen, discouraging saccades and helping you get through a text more quickly. But that's not what researchers have found."

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Hulu Blocks VPN Users
Posted by News Fetcher on April 25 '14 at 02:31 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's you-can't-get-there-from-here department:
New submitter electronic convict writes: "Hulu, apparently worried that too many non-U.S. residents are using cheap VPN services to watch its U.S. programming, has started blocking IP address ranges belonging to known VPN services. Hulu didn't announce the ban, but users of the affected VPNs are getting this message: 'Based on your IP-address, we noticed that you are trying to access Hulu through an anonymous proxy tool. Hulu is not currently available outside the U.S. If you're in the U.S. you'll need to disable your anonymizer to access videos on Hulu.' Hulu may make Hollywood happy by temporarily locking out foreign users — at least until they find new VPN providers. But in so doing it's now forcing its U.S. customers to sacrifice their privacy and even to risk insecure connections. Hulu hasn't even implemented SSL on its site."

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Algorithm Distinguishes Memes From Ordinary Information
Posted by News Fetcher on April 25 '14 at 01:46 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's i-wonder-what-scumbag-d&d-player-thinks department:
KentuckyFC writes: "Memes are the cultural equivalent of genes: units that transfer ideas or practices from one human to another by means of imitation. In recent years, network scientists have become increasingly interested in how memes spread, work that has led to important insights into the nature of news cycles, into information avalanches on social networks and so on. But what exactly makes a meme and distinguishes it from other forms of information is not well understood. Now a team of researchers has developed a way to automatically distinguish scientific memes from other forms of information for the first time. Their technique exploits the way scientific papers reference older papers on related topics. They scoured the half a million papers published by Physical Review between 1893 and 2010 looking for common words or phrases. They define an interesting meme as one that is more likely to appear in a paper that cites another paper in which the same meme occurs. In other words, interesting memes are more likely to replicate. They end up with a list of words and phrases that have spread by replication and can also see how this spreading has changed over the last 100 years. The top five phrases are: loop quantum cosmology, unparticle, sonoluminescence, MgB2 and stochastic resonance; all of which are important topics in physics. The team say the technique is interesting because it provides a way to distinguish memes from other forms of information that do not spread in the same way through replication."

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Gary Kildall, Father of the PC OS, Finally Gets His Due
Posted by News Fetcher on April 25 '14 at 12:46 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's not-a-moment-too-soon department:
theodp writes: "GeekWire reports that Gary Kildall, the creator of the landmark personal computer operating system CP/M, will be recognized posthumously by the IEEE for that contribution, in addition to his invention of BIOS, with a rare IEEE Milestone plaque. Kildall, who passed away in 1994 at the age of 52, has been called the man who could have been Bill Gates. But according to Kildall's son, his dad wasn't actually interested in being what Bill Gates became: 'He was a real inventor,' said Scott Kildall. 'He was much more interested in creating new ideas and bringing them to the world, rather than being the one that was bringing them to market and leveraging a huge amount of profits. He was such a kind human being. He was always sharing his ideas, and would sit down with people and show flowcharts of what he was thinking. I think if he were around for the open-source movement, he would be such a huge proponent of it.' Techies of a certain age will also remember Gary's work as a co-host of Computer Chronicles."

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Verizon's Plan To Snoop On Its Customers
Posted by News Fetcher on April 25 '14 at 12:31 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's part-and-parcel department:
digitalPhant0m writes: "A story at the L.A. Times details how Verizon Wireless has started pushing the envelope (or downright abusing it) when it comes to tracking users without their knowledge. The company said, 'In addition to the customer information that's currently part of the program, we will soon use an anonymous, unique identifier we create when you register on our websites. This identifier may allow an advertiser to use information they have about your visits to websites from your desktop computer to deliver marketing messages to mobile devices on our network.' While newsworthy, the rate of privacy abuse revelations over the last few years makes it unsurprising."

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SpaceX Files Suit Against US Air Force
Posted by News Fetcher on April 25 '14 at 11:31 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's go-big-or-go-home department:
Today Elon Musk announced that SpaceX has decided to challenge the U.S. Air Force's restrictions on rocket launches related to national security. Such launches are done with a Russian rocket right now, and that contract is not up for competition with other rocket makers, like SpaceX. Musk says the company has exhausted other options to become part of the bidding process. "We're just protesting and saying these launches should be competed. And if we compete and lose, that's fine, but why were they not even competed?" He also said it's the "wrong time to send hundreds of millions of dollars to the Kremlin," referencing events in the Ukraine.

At the same press conference, Musk announced that SpaceX's recent attempt to soft-land a rocket booster state was successful. It landed and was in "healthy condition" immediately afterward. Unfortunately, they weren't able to recover it because it landed in the middle of a rough storm, which eventually destroyed the stage. The storm was rough enough that the Coast Guard wouldn't even send a boat out to help recover it. Musk said, "We'll get much bigger boats next time." SpaceX also plans on landing the stage on shore at some point, which makes recovery easier. Musk made this prediction: "I expect we will be able to land a stage back at Cape Canaveral by the end of the year."

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Microsoft/Nokia Deal Closes
Posted by News Fetcher on April 25 '14 at 10:46 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's dotted-the-s-and-crossed-the-u department:
Last September Microsoft announced it would be purchasing Nokia's Devices and Services business. The terms have been worked out, the shareholders gave approval, and the regulatory issues were hurdled. As of today, it's official: Nokia's phone business is now Microsoft Mobile. The final price is around $7.5 billion, and 30,000 employees are transferring to Microsoft. "The purchase of the unprofitable division makes Microsoft the world’s second-largest maker of mobile phones with about 14 percent of the market, according to researcher IDC." Here's Nokia's official statement, and a rather more personal one from an employee. According to The Verge, "Nokia's Android handsets are the most intriguing part of the deal, as they shed some light on how Microsoft might approach the messy and complex nature of shipping devices that don't run the company's Windows software. The Nokia X introduces a new "forked" version of Android that’s akin to what Amazon does with its Kindle Fire line, but it also includes a Windows Phone-like UI and an Android store that's separate to Google Play. Microsoft has the chance to control another app store, but also a solid opportunity to push its own cloud-based services." One interesting note: Nokia's phone manufacturing plant in India is not part of the deal because of an ongoing tax dispute. Nokia will continue to operate it as a contract manufacturing unit for Microsoft.

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Anonymous's Latest Target: Boston Children's Hospital
Posted by News Fetcher on April 25 '14 at 09:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's put-down-the-digital-pitchforks department:
Brandon Butler writes: "Supporters of the faceless collective known as Anonymous have taken up the cause of a young girl, after the State of Massachusetts removed her from her parents earlier this year. However, the methods used to show support may have unintended consequences, which could impact patient care. On Thursday, the Boston Children's Hospital confirmed that they were subjected to multiple DDoS attacks over the Easter holiday. Said attacks, which have continued throughout the week, aim to take the hospital's website offline. Similar attacks, including website defacement, have also targeted the Wayside Youth and Family Support Network. Both organizations are at the heart of a sensitive topic, child welfare and the rights of a parent."
Members of Anonymous are now calling for a halt to the attacks.

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How Japan Plans To Build Orbital Solar Power Stations
Posted by News Fetcher on April 25 '14 at 09:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's start-up-and-build-down department:
the_newsbeagle (2532562) writes "Solar power stations in orbit aren't exactly a new idea — Asimov set one of his stories on such a space station back in 1941. Everyone thinks it's a cool idea to collect solar power 24 hours a day and beam it down to Earth. But what with the expense and difficulty of rocketing up the parts and constructing and operating the stations in orbit, nobody's built one yet. While you probably still shouldn't hold your breath, it's interesting to learn that Japan's space agency has spec'd out such a solar power station."

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Siphons Work Due To Gravity, Not Atmospheric Pressure: Now With Peer Review
Posted by News Fetcher on April 25 '14 at 08:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's suck-it-oed department:
knwny (2940129) writes "Peeved by the widespread misconception that siphons work because of atmospheric pressure, physics lecturer Dr. Stephen Hughes, [in 2010] wrote a mail to the prestigious Oxford English Dictionary(OED) pointing out the error. To back his claim, Dr.Hughes tested a siphon inside a hypobaric chamber to check if changes in atmospheric pressure had any effect on the siphon and demonstrated that gravity and not atmospheric pressure was the driving principle. [This week, the] paper detailing his experiment was published in Nature. The OED spokesperson responded saying that his suggestions would be taken into account during the next rewrite."

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Google's Business Plan For Nest: Selling Your Data To Utility Companies
Posted by News Fetcher on April 25 '14 at 07:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's selling-to-burglars-would-be-wrong department:
jfruh (300774) writes "Google spent $3.2 billion on Nest. How is it going to make its money back selling high-end electronic thermostats at $250 a pop? Well, keep in mind that Google is a company that makes its money off information, not hardware. In fact, Nest is developing a healthy revenue stream in which it sells aggregated user information to utility companies, to help them more efficiently plan their electricity-generation scheduling. The subscriptions net Google somewhere in the range of $40 per user per year."

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