August 29, 2013
An anonymous reader writes "Paris' prosecutor office opened a preliminary investigation after a complaint by two human rights associations who hope to determine the roles played by companies in the PRISM program. Two million communications (phone calls, SMS ans mails) are said to have been intercepted in France by US agencies." Read more of this story at Slashdot.
theodp writes "In Microsoft's eyes, the idea of scanning Gmail so advertisers can bid on access to those suffering from breast cancer, bi-polar disorder, depression, and panic anxiety, deserves no kudos. The USPTO, on the other hand, feels it deserves a patent. GeekWire reports that Google has been awarded a patent on "Scroogling", aka its system and method for targeting information based on message content in a reply. Google takes some jabs at Microsoft in the diagrams accompanying the patent, including one implying that MS-Access and Excel files pose security risks, and another that suggests alternatives to Access." Read more of this story at Slashdot.
hypnosec writes "The Oxford Dictionaries Online (ODO) has been updated today to include some of the widely used tech words like Bitcoin, BYOD, Phablet, Selfie, and Twerking among others. Some of the other common tech words which have found a place in the dictionary are 'click and connect', 'digital detox', 'FOMO', 'geek chic', 'hackerspace', 'Internet of Things', 'MOOC', 'selfie', and 'TL;DR'." Read more of this story at Slashdot.
MarkWhittington writes "Tony Milligan is a teaching fellow of philosophy at the University of Aberdeen and is apparently concerned about helium 3 mining on the moon. In a recent paper he suggested that it should not be allowed for a number of reasons which include environmental objections, his belief that the moon is a cultural artifact, and that too much access to energy would be bad for the human race." Read more of this story at Slashdot.
August 28, 2013
AmiMoJo writes "Japan's nuclear regulators have raised the level of severity of the radioactive water leak from a tank at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. It is now a level-3 serious incident. The revision from level 1 is based on estimates of the volume of radioactive substances leaked. The International Atomic Energy Agency supports the revision. They say the tank leak can be assessed separately from the Fukushima Daiichi crisis as a level 3 incident. Japanese experienced a level-3 nuclear event in 1997 with the fire and explosions at a fuel reprocessing plant in Tokai Village, Ibaraki Prefecture. 37 workers there were exposed to the leaked radioactive substances." Read more of this story at Slashdot.
First time accepted submitter MConnolly writes "I participate in an annual career fair for High School Sophomores. I have groups of 10 — 20 students for 40 minutes a piece. In previous years, we've brought a bunch of retired PCs and challenged the groups to disassemble (down to the motherboard) and reassemble them in working order. Many processors and motherboards died, but everyone had fun. Most students today only have laptops and tablets. As a result, this knowledge doesn't translate into the real world anymore (perhaps you disagree). I'm looking for suggestions for an activity that will give the students some hands-on, real world experience that will benefit them immediately." Read more of this story at Slashdot.
dryriver sends this news from the BBC: "A team of researchers claims to have created the world's fastest spinning man-made object. They were able to levitate and spin a microscopic sphere at speeds of up to 600 million revolutions per minute. This spin speed is half a million times faster than a domestic washing machine and more than a thousand times faster than a dental drill. The work by the University of St Andrews scientists is published in Nature Communications. Although there is much international research exploring what happens at the boundary between classical physics and quantum physics, most of this experimental work uses atoms or molecules. To do this they manufactured a microscopic sphere of calcium carbonate only four millionths of a meter in diameter. The team then used the minuscule forces of laser light to hold the sphere with the radiation pressure of light — rather like levitating a beach ball with a jet of water. They exploited the property of polarization of the laser light that changed as the light passed through the levitating sphere, exerting a small twist or torque. Placing the sphere in vacuum largely removed the drag due to any gas environment, allowing the team to achieve the very high rotation rates. In addition to the rotation, the team observed a 'compression' of the excursions or 'wobble' of the particle in all three dimensions, which can be understood as a 'cooling' of the motion. Essentially the particle behaved like the world's smallest gyroscope, stabilizing its motion around the axis of rotation." Read more of this story at Slashdot.
barlevg writes "A new paper is out in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence which shows no positive correlation between playing violent video games and acts of aggression. The study of 377 children with attention deficit and depressive symptoms in fact showed a slight negative correlation between video game-playing and aggressive behavior such as bullying, which the researchers posit is due to the games awarding some measure of catharsis. The full paper is available online (PDF)." Read more of this story at Slashdot.
fustakrakich sends news that researchers from the Austrian Academy of Sciences have used embryonic stem cells to grow a tiny human brain in a laboratory. The miniature brain, roughly the size of a pea, is at the same level of development as that of a 9-week-old fetus. From the BBC: "They used either embryonic stem cells or adult skin cells to produce the part of an embryo that develops into the brain and spinal cord - the neuroectoderm. This was placed in tiny droplets of gel to give a scaffold for the tissue to grow and was placed into a spinning bioreactor, a nutrient bath that supplies nutrients and oxygen. The cells were able to grow and organise themselves into separate regions of the brain, such as the cerebral cortex, the retina, and, rarely, an early hippocampus, which would be heavily involved in memory in a fully developed adult brain. The tissues reached their maximum size, about 4mm (0.1in), after two months. The 'mini-brains' have survived for nearly a year, but did not grow any larger. There is no blood supply, just brain tissue, so nutrients and oxygen cannot penetrate into the middle of the brain-like structure." Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Cass R. Sunstein writes at Bloomberg that an understanding of human psychology — specifically, what human beings fear and what they do not — helps to explain why nations haven't insisted on more significant emissions reductions even as scientists warn that if the world continues on its current course, we will face exceedingly serious losses and threats including a significant rise in sea levels by century's end. First, people tend to be especially focused on risks or hazards that have an identifiable perpetrator, and for that reason produce outrage. 'Warmer temperatures are a product not of any particular human being or group, but the interaction between nature and countless decisions by countless people. There are no obvious devils or demons — no individuals who intend to create the harms associated with climate change.' The second obstacle is that people tend to evaluate risks by way of 'the availability heuristic,' which leads them to assess the probability of harm by asking whether a readily available example comes to mind. For example, an act of terrorism is likely to be both available and salient, and hence makes people fear that another such event will occur. A recent crime or accident can activate attention and significantly inflate people's assessment of risk. Finally, human beings are far more attentive to immediate threats than to long-term ones. They may neglect the future, seeing it as a kind of foreign country, one they may not ever visit. For this reason, they might fail to save for retirement, or they might engage in risk-taking behavior such as smoking or unhealthy eating that will harm their future selves. 'All the obstacles are daunting skepticism about the science, economic self-interest, and the difficulties of designing cost-effective approaches and obtaining an international agreement,' concludes Sunstein, 'But the world is unlikely to make much progress on climate change until the barrier of human psychology is squarely addressed.'" Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Lucas123 writes "Marine biologists from OCEARCH, a non-profit shark research project, have been tagging scores of great whites and other shark species with an array of wireless technologies, gathering granular data on the sharks over the past year or more. For example, Mary Lee, a great white shark that's the same weight and nearly the same length as a Buick, was tagged off of Cape Cod and has made beach visits up and down the U.S. East Coast and Bermuda. She came so close to beaches that the research team alerted local authorities. The team attaches an array of acoustic and satellite tags as well as accelerometers to the sharks, which collect more than 100 data points every second — 8.5 million data points per day. The data has provided a detailed, three-dimensional view of the shark's behavior, which the team has been sharing in real time on its website. OCEARCH plans to expand that data sharing over the next few weeks to social networks and classrooms." Read more of this story at Slashdot.
C0R1D4N writes "A New Jersey Appeals Court has ruled that both sides of a texting conversation which resulted in a car accident could be held liable. The ruling came as part of a case in which the driver of a truck received a text message shortly before striking a motorcycle carrying two passengers. The court ruled that while in this case, the person sending the text wasn't liable, they could be if the circumstances were a little different. '...a person sending text messages has a duty not to text someone who is driving if the texter knows, or has special reason to know, the recipient will view the text while driving.'" Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Today Nintendo announced a new handheld gaming console called the 2DS. It will play all games from the DS and the 3DS, but games from the latter will be shown in 2-D (essentially as if the 3DS's depth slider was turned all the way down). The 2DS abandons the clamshell design of the earlier handhelds; instead, the device is a slightly wedge-shaped tablet with two small LCD screens — thicker at the top and thinner at the bottom. "It's a design that seems calculated to reduce manufacturing costs and durability issues, but it also seems fated to make the system nearly impossible to fit inside most pants pockets. The buttons and controls that were on the bottom half of previous DS and 3DS systems are now shifted toward the top, so you can reach the shoulder buttons that now rest above the top screen. This means you grip the 2DS from the sides rather than supporting it from the bottom with the corners resting in palm of your hand, like previous DS models." Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime said the new console is target at younger children, as the 3DS is recommended for players age 7 and up. It's also cheaper than the other models at $130. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Jim Jagielski is one of the co-founders of the Apache Software Foundation, a director of the Open Source Initiative (OSI), new President of the Outercurve Foundation, and as we mentioned yesterday, your interview subject for the next two hours. Mr. Jagielski will be answering your questions below until 2:00 ET (18:00 GMT). Please keep it to one question per post so everyone gets a chance. Update: 2pm ET has come and gone. Mr. Jagielski might stick around for a bit and answer questions later so make sure to check back. A big thanks to him for his time and answers! Here's a link to his user page where you can read all his responses. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
jfruh writes "One of the great attractions of Bitcoin as a currency is that it's completely secure and anonymous. But according to researchers (PDF) from UC San Diego and George Mason University, that anonymity starts to vanish the minute you exchange bitcoin for real-world items or conventional currencies. The researchers tracked transactions across the Bitcoin ecosystem and found points where it would be easy for a government with subpeona power to find the identity of a Bitcoin user. They also concluded that the currency wasn't especially attractive for money-laundering purposes." Graph theory explains many things. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
First time accepted submitter lager_monste sent in a tidbit from Mashable about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Gear Smart Watch: "Samsung will launch its smart watch, the Galaxy Gear, on Sept. 4 ahead of the IFA consumer electronics trade show in Berlin, Germany. Lee Young-hee, VP of Samsung's mobile business, confirmed the date and some details about the device in an interview with The Korea Times." Ars Technica notes that the Gear is nothing like what was expected from a patent filing for a watch with a flexible OLED. Maybe next generation. Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Nerdfest writes with news that New Zealand has, after going back and forth a couple of times, finally banned software patents. From the article: "New Zealand has finally passed a new Patents Bill that will effectively outlaw software patents after five years of debate, delay, and intense lobbying from multinational software vendors. Aptly-named Commerce Minister Craig Foss welcomed the modernization of patents law, saying it marked a 'significant step towards driving innovation in New Zealand'. An IITP poll of members at the time showed 94% of those with a view were in favor of banning software patents." Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Kernel editor-in-chief and noted firebrand Milo Yiannopoulos swings away at Silicon Valley's current startup culture, noting that it's resulted in herds of wannabe founders and startup groupies who don't exactly have a track record of starting successful companies or even producing solid code. 'Though they produce little of value, they are the naive soft power behind aggressive capitalist machines in Silicon Valley: the trend-setting vanguard of the global Web and mobile industries,' he writes. 'We should be very wary indeed of these vacuous cheerleaders whose vague waffle about the transformational potential of photo-sharing apps is more sinister and Orwellian than anything dreamt up by a dictator.' How long can such a culture continue before it dries up, and the whole tech-investment cycle begins anew?" Read more of this story at Slashdot.
PolygamousRanchKid writes, quoting Forbes "Researchers at Sweden's Lund University have announced that they've been able to confirm the existence of element 115 on the periodic table. This research team isn't the first to create element 115, which is currently known as ununpentium. The first claim that ununpentium had been synthesized in a lab was by a joint group of Russian and American researchers, who believed that they created it in their lab in 2004." Read more of this story at Slashdot.
stomv writes "Vermont Yankee nuclear plant is to close in late 2014, about 20 years before its (extended) NRC operating permit expires in 2032. Vermont Yankee is a merchant plant, which means that it sells its energy and capacity on the open New England market. The three reasons cited by Entergy, the owner, for closing are: low natural gas prices, high ongoing capital costs of operating a single unit reactor, and wholesale market flaws which keep energy and capacity prices low and doesn't reward the fuel diversity benefits that nuclear provides." Read more of this story at Slashdot.