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First Commercial Mission To the Moon Launched From China

SlashDot - Mon, 10/27/2014 - 1:08am
mbone writes with news about the first privately-funded spacecraft to travel the Moon. Cold War competition between superpowers dominated the first decades of space travel and exploration. Individual governments took the lead, bankrolling most of the process in the name of competition and nationalism. Ultimately international cooperation and collaboration took root, and the landscape is already very different. The present and future of space exploration is more collaborative, more international, and involves both space agencies and private companies. One such project is the combination Chang’e 5-T1 and Manfred Memorial Moon Mission (4M), which launched together last Thursday. Both projects are testbeds for ideas: Chang’e 5-T1 is a prototype for a robotic probe intended to return samples from the Moon to Earth, while 4M is a simple communications experiment encouraging amateur participation. But the intriguing bit is that 4M is a project of the private Luxembourg-based company LuxSpace, while Chang’e 5-T1 is a Chinese project, and the whole endeavor was launched on a Chinese rocket.

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Solving the Mystery of Declining Female CS Enrollment

SlashDot - Sun, 10/26/2014 - 7:29pm
theodp writes After an NPR podcast fingered the marketing of computers to boys as the culprit behind the declining percentages of women in undergraduate CS curricula since 1984 (a theory seconded by Smithsonian mag), some are concluding that NPR got the wrong guy. Calling 'When Women Stopped Coding' quite engaging, but long on Political Correctness and short on real evidence, UC Davis CS Prof Norm Matloff concedes a sexist element, but largely ascribes the gender lopsidedness to economics. "That women are more practical than men, and that the well-publicized drastic swings in the CS labor market are offputting to women more than men," writes Matloff, and "was confirmed by a 2008 survey in the Communications of the ACM" (related charts of U.S. unemployment rates and Federal R&D spending in the '80s). Looking at the raw numbers of female CS grads instead of percentages, suggests there wasn't a sudden and unexpected disappearance of a generation of women coders, but rather a dilution in their percentages as women's growth in undergrad CS ranks was far outpaced by men, including a boom around the time of the dot-com boom/bust.

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Dwarf Galaxies Dim Hopes of Dark Matter

SlashDot - Sun, 10/26/2014 - 6:20pm
An anonymous reader writes Once again, a shadow of a signal that scientists hoped would amplify into conclusive evidence of dark matter has instead flatlined, repeating a maddening refrain in the search for the invisible, omnipresent particles. The Fermi Large Area Telescope (LAT) failed to detect the glow of gamma rays emitted by annihilating dark matter in miniature "dwarf" galaxies that orbit the Milky Way, scientists reported Friday at a meeting in Nagoya, Japan. The hint of such a glow showed up in a Fermi analysis last year, but the statistical bump disappeared as more data accumulated. "We were obviously somewhat disappointed not to see a signal," said Matthew Wood, a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University who was centrally involved the Fermi-LAT collaboration's new analysis, in an email.

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Study: Past Climate Change Was Caused by Ocean, Not Just the Atmosphere

SlashDot - Sun, 10/26/2014 - 5:13pm
Chipmunk100 writes Most of the concerns about climate change have focused on the amount of greenhouse gases that have been released into the atmosphere. Researchers have found that circulation of the ocean plays an equally important role in regulating the earth's climate. The study results were published the journal Science (abstract. "Our study suggests that changes in the storage of heat in the deep ocean could be as important to climate change as other hypotheses – tectonic activity or a drop in the carbon dioxide level – and likely led to one of the major climate transitions of the past 30 million years," said one of the authors."

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US Army May Relax Physical Requirements To Recruit Cyber Warriors

SlashDot - Sun, 10/26/2014 - 4:08pm
HughPickens.com writes Clifford Davis reports that only 30% of young people between the ages of 17 and 24 are qualified to become soldiers. This is primarily due to three issues: obesity or health problems; lack of a high school education; and criminal histories. While cognitive and moral disqualifications have held steady, weight issues account for 18% of disqualifications, and the number is rising steadily. It's projected to hit 25% by 2025. The current Army policy is that every recruit, whether enlisting for infantry or graphic design, has to meet the same physical requirements to join — but that requirement may be changing. "Today, we need cyber warriors, so we're starting to recruit for Army Cyber," says Major General Allen Batschelet. "One of the things we're considering is that your [mission] as a cyber warrior is different. Maybe you're not the Ranger who can do 100 pushups, 100 sit-ups and run the 2-mile inside of 10 minutes, but you can crack a data system of an enemy." "We're looking for America's best and brightest just like any Fortune 500 company out there," says Lt. Col. Sharlene Pigg. "We're looking for those men and women who excel in science, technology, engineering and math." Batschelet admits that a drastic change in physical requirements for recruits may be hard for some to swallow. "That's going to be an institutional, cultural change for us to be able to get our heads around that is kind of a different definition of quality," says Batschelet. "I would say it's a modernizing, or defining in a more precise way, what is considered quality for soldiers."

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Study: New Jersey e-Vote Experiment After Sandy a Disaster

SlashDot - Sun, 10/26/2014 - 3:04pm
TMB writes Al Jazeera reports on a Rutgers study about e-voting in New Jersey after Superstorm Sandy, and it is damning. It concludes that the middle of a natural disaster is the last time to try switching to a new voting method, especially one rife with such problems as e-voting. The table of contents includes such section headings as "Internet voting is not safe, should not be made legal, and should never be incorporated into emergency measures."

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The Man With the Golden Blood

SlashDot - Sun, 10/26/2014 - 1:58pm
First time accepted submitter Torontoman points out this story of a man with one of the rarest blood types in the world. Forty years ago, when ten-year-old Thomas went into the University Hospital of Geneva with a routine childhood infection, his blood test revealed something very curious: he appeared to be missing an entire blood group system. There are 35 blood group systems, organized according to the genes that carry the information to produce the antigens within each system. The majority of the 342 blood group antigens belong to one of these systems. The Rh system (formerly known as ‘Rhesus’) is the largest, containing 61 antigens. The most important of these Rh antigens, the D antigen, is quite often missing in Caucasians, of whom around 15 per cent are Rh D negative (more commonly, though inaccurately, known as Rh-negative blood). But Thomas seemed to be lacking all the Rh antigens. If this suspicion proved correct, it would make his blood type Rhnull – one of the rarest in the world, and a phenomenal discovery for the hospital hematologists.

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Rite Aid and CVS Block Apple Pay and Google Wallet

SlashDot - Sun, 10/26/2014 - 12:52pm
An anonymous reader writes CVS and Rite Aid have reportedly shut off the NFC-based contactless payment option at point of sale terminals in thousands of stores. The move will make it impossible to pay for products using Apple Pay or Google Wallet. Rite Aid posted at their stores: "Please note that we do not accept Apple Pay at this time. However we are currently working with a group of large retailers to develop a mobile wallet that allows for mobile payments attached to credit cards and bank accounts directly from a smart phone. We expect to have this feature available in the first half of 2015."

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Rosetta Probe Reveals What a Comet Smells Like

SlashDot - Sun, 10/26/2014 - 11:44am
An anonymous reader writes If you like the smell of rotten eggs, horse urine, formaldehyde, bitter almonds, alcohol, vinegar with a hint of sweet ether, you'd love the smell of a comet. Researchers at the University of Bern, in Switzerland, determined the odor of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet by analyzing the chemicals in its coma, the fuzzy head surrounding the nucleus. The molecules were collected by an instrument aboard the Rosetta spacecraft, which has been flying in tandem with the comet.

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OpenSUSE Factory To Merge With Tumbleweed

SlashDot - Sun, 10/26/2014 - 11:11am
sfcrazy writes Factory and Tumbleweed will merge to become a single release. The release will follow the development cycle of Factory but take the more appealing name, Tumbleweed. Commenting on the new development Greg Kroah-Hartman said, “The changes to the Factory release model have changed it from being an unstable development codebase into the type of rolling release I set out to create when starting openSUSE Tumbleweed. I’m very happy to see these two rolling releases coming together under the name Tumbleweed, and am looking forward to watching how it develops in the future.” Factory won't disappear; It will become a "development project" for creating the "user-ready" Tumbleweed."

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Century Old Antarctic Expedition Notebook Found Underneath Ice

SlashDot - Sun, 10/26/2014 - 10:40am
An anonymous reader writes During his second expedition to Antarctica, British explorer Robert Scott—and most of his team—died from overexposure to the elements. Over 100 years after their deaths, an artifact from his journey has surfaced. New Zealand's Antarctic Heritage Trust reports that they have found a notebook which tracked Scott's last Terra Nova Expedition. According to the Antarctic Heritage Trust, the notebook belonged to a surgeon, photographer and zoologist named George Murray Levick, who accompanied Scott at the unfortunate Terra Nova expedition. Executive Director Nigel Watson said, "It's an exciting find. The notebook is a missing part of the official expedition record. After spending seven years conserving Scott's last expedition building and collection, we are delighted to still be finding new artifacts."

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SpaceX Capsule Returns To Earth With Lab Results

SlashDot - Sun, 10/26/2014 - 9:36am
An anonymous reader writes SpaceX's unmanned Dragon spacecraft has splashed down in the Pacific Ocean carrying NASA cargo and scientific samples from the International Space Station. A boat is ferrying the spacecraft to a port near Los Angeles, where NASA said the 1.5 tons of materials will be removed and returned to the space agency by late tomorrow for scientists to pick apart. "This mission enabled research critical to achieving NASA's goal of long-duration human spaceflight in deep space," said Sam Scimemi, director of the International Space Station division at NASA headquarters.

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Apple A8X IPad Air 2 Processor Packs Triple-Core CPU, Hefty Graphics Punch

SlashDot - Sun, 10/26/2014 - 8:29am
MojoKid writes When Apple debuted its A8 SoC, it proved to be a modest tweak of the original A7. Despite packing double the transistors and an improved GPU, the heart of the A8 SoC is the same dual-core Apple "Cyclone" processor tweaked to run at higher clock speeds and with stronger total GPU performance. Given this, many expected that the Apple A8X would be cut from similar cloth — a higher clock speed, perhaps, and a larger GPU, but not much more than that. It appears those projections were wrong. The Apple A8X chip is a triple-core variant of the A8, with a higher clock speed (1.5GHz vs. 1.4GHz), a larger L2 cache (2MB, up from 1MB) and 2GB of external DDR3. It also uses an internal metal heatspreader, which the Apple A8 eschews. All of this points to slightly higher power consumption for the core, but also to dramatically increased performance. The new A8X is a significant power house in multiple types of workloads; in fact, its the top-performing mobile device on Geekbench by a wide margin. Gaming benchmarks are equally impressive. The iPad Air 2 nudges out Nvidia's Shield in GFXBench's Manhattan offscreen test, at 32.4fps to 31 fps. Onscreen favors the NV solution thanks to its lower-resolution screen, but the Nvidia device does take 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited by a wide margin, clocking in at 30,970 compared to 21,659.

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Law Lets IRS Seize Accounts On Suspicion, No Crime Required

SlashDot - Sun, 10/26/2014 - 7:24am
schwit1 writes: The IRS admits to seizing hundreds of thousands of dollars of private assets, without any proof of illegal activity, merely because there is a law that lets them do it. From the article: "Using a law designed to catch drug traffickers, racketeers and terrorists by tracking their cash, the government has gone after run-of-the-mill business owners and wage earners without so much as an allegation that they have committed serious crimes. The government can take the money without ever filing a criminal complaint, and the owners are left to prove they are innocent. Many give up and settle the case for a portion of their money. 'They're going after people who are really not criminals,' said David Smith, a former federal prosecutor who is now a forfeiture expert and lawyer in Virginia. 'They're middle-class citizens who have never had any trouble with the law.'" The article describes several specific cases, all of which are beyond egregious and are in fact entirely unconstitutional. The Bill of Rights is very clear about this: The federal government cannot take private property without just compensation."

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Jedi-ism Becomes a Serious Religion

SlashDot - Sun, 10/26/2014 - 4:18am
An anonymous reader writes: 390,127 Brits declared their religion as Jediism in their last census — many as a joke, but some are quite serious, the BBC reports. Cambridge University Divinity Faculty researcher Beth Singler estimates at least 2,000 of them are "genuine," around the same number as the Church of Scientology. The U.K. Church of Jediism has 200,000 members worldwide. Their belief system has expanded well beyond the Star Wars universe to include tenets from Taoism, Buddhism, Catholicism and Samurai. Former priest, psychotherapist and writer Mark Vernon finds real power in the Jedi story: "The reason it's so powerful and universal is that we have to find ourselves. It's by losing ourselves and identifying with something greater like the Jedi myth that we find a fuller life."

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When Snowden Speaks, Future Lawyers (and Judges) Listen

SlashDot - Sun, 10/26/2014 - 1:15am
TheRealHocusLocus writes: We are witness to a historic first: an individual charged with espionage and actively sought by the United States government has been (virtually) invited to speak at Harvard Law School, with applause. [Note: all of the following links go to different parts of a long YouTube video.] HLS Professor Lawrence Lessig conducted the hour-long interview last Monday with a list of questions by himself and his students. Some interesting segments from the interview include: Snowden's assertion that mass domestic intercept is an "unreasonable seizure" under the 4th Amendment; that it also violates "natural rights" that cannot be voted away even by the majority; a claim that broad surveillance detracts from the ability to monitor specific targets such as the Boston Marathon bombers; him calling out Congress for not holding Clapper accountable for misstatements; and his lament that contractors are exempt from whistleblower protection though they do swear an oath to defend the Constitution from enemies both foreign and domestic. These points have been brought up before. But what may be most interesting to these students is Snowden's suggestion that a defendant under the Espionage Act should be permitted to present an argument before a jury that the act was committed "in the public interest." Could this help ensure a fair trial for whistleblowers whose testimony reveals Constitutional violation?

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Identity As the Great Enabler

SlashDot - Sat, 10/25/2014 - 10:22pm
New submitter steve_torquay writes: Last week, President Obama signed a new Executive Order calling for "all agencies making personal data accessible to citizens through digital applications" to "require the use of multiple factors of authentication and an effective identity proofing process." This does not necessarily imply that the government will issue online credentials to all U.S. residents. The National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) is working towards a distributed identity ecosystem that facilitates authentication and authorization without compromising privacy. NSTIC points out that this is a great opportunity to leverage the technology to enable a wide array of new citizen-facing digital services while reducing costs and hassles for individuals and government agencies alike.

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Pentagon Builds Units To Transport Ebola Patients

SlashDot - Sat, 10/25/2014 - 10:05pm
First time accepted submitter halfquibble52 writes As more U.S. troops head to West Africa, the Pentagon is developing portable isolation units that can carry up to 12 Ebola patients for transport on military planes. The Pentagon says it does not expect it will need the units for 3,000 U.S. troops heading to the region to combat the virus because military personnel will not be treating Ebola patients directly. Instead, the troops are focusing on building clinics, training personnel and testing patient blood samples for Ebola.

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Tetris Is Hard To Test

SlashDot - Sat, 10/25/2014 - 7:16pm
New submitter JackDW writes: Tetris is one of the best-known computer games ever made. It's easy to play but hard to master, and it's based on a NP-hard problem. But that's not all that's difficult about it. Though it's simple enough to be implemented in one line of BBC BASIC, it's complex enough to be really hard to thoroughly test. It may seem like you can test everything in Tetris just by playing it for a few minutes, but this is very unlikely! As I explain in this article, the game is filled with special cases that rarely occur in normal play, and these can only be easily found with the help of a coverage tool.

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The Problem With Positive Thinking

SlashDot - Sat, 10/25/2014 - 6:14pm
An anonymous reader writes: The NY Times explains research into how our mindset can influence results. The common refrain when striving for a goal is to stay positive and imagine success — people say this will help you accomplish what you want. But a series of psychological experiments show such thinking tends to have exactly the opposite effect. "In a 2011 study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, we asked two groups of college students to write about what lay in store for the coming week. One group was asked to imagine that the week would be great. The other group was just asked to write down any thoughts about the week that came to mind. The students who had positively fantasized reported feeling less energized than those in the control group. As we later documented, they also went on to accomplish less during that week." This research has been replicated across many types of people and many different goals. Building on that research, the scientists developed a thought process called "mental contrasting," where people are encouraged to think about their dreams coming true only for a few minutes before dedicating just as much time to thinking about the obstacles they'll have to deal with. Experiments have demonstrated that subjects using these techniques were more successful at things like exercise and maintaining a healthy diet than a control group. "[D]reaming about the future calms you down, measurably reducing systolic blood pressure, but it also can drain you of the energy you need to take action in pursuit of your goals."

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