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Add some material-handling devices and you'd have software-controlled Waldos, first described by Robert A. Heinlein in the 1942 short story titled Waldo. So while the idea of a pair of artificial eyes you control by moving your head (while looking at the area around the artificial eyes, even if it's in orbit), sounds like futuristic fun, especially if you use an Oculus Virtual Reality device instead of an LED screen, it not only hasn't caught up with science fiction, but is a fair ways behind science fact. Still, the idea of being able to control a vision system deep under the sea or in orbit around Saturn is certainly interesting in and of itself. (Alternate Video Link)
40 comments | yesterday
sneakyimp writes: The Antares rocket operated by Orbital Sciences Corporation exploded on launch due to a "catastrophic anomaly" after a flawless countdown. No injuries are reported and all personnel are accounted for. According to the audio stream hosted by local news affiliate WTVR's website, the Cygnus spacecraft contained classified crypto technology and efforts are being made to cordon off the wreckage area. Additionally, interviews of personnel and witness reports are to be limited to appropriate government agencies so that an accident report can be generated. This accident is likely to have a detrimental effect on the stock price of Orbital Sciences Corp, traded on the NYSE. The Antares rocket's engines are based on old soviet designs from the '60s. While this is sure to be a blow to NASA due to the cost, it may well boost the fortunes of SpaceX, a chief competitor of Orbital Sciences. Both companies were recently awarded resupply contracts by NASA.
427 comments | yesterday
An anonymous reader writes: If you've ever heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect, you'll be familiar with David Dunning, professor of psychology at Cornell. He's written an article on the "psychology of human wrongness," explaining how confidence in one's answers tends to be high for people who don't know what they're talking about. He says, "What's curious is that, in many cases, incompetence does not leave people disoriented, perplexed, or cautious. Instead, the incompetent are often blessed with an inappropriate confidence, buoyed by something that feels to them like knowledge."
Dunning goes on: "A whole battery of studies conducted by myself and others have confirmed that people who don't know much about a given set of cognitive, technical, or social skills tend to grossly overestimate their prowess and performance, whether it's grammar, emotional intelligence, logical reasoning, firearm care and safety, debating, or financial knowledge. College students who hand in exams that will earn them Ds and Fs tend to think their efforts will be worthy of far higher grades; low-performing chess players, bridge players, and medical students, and elderly people applying for a renewed driver's license, similarly overestimate their competence by a long shot."
287 comments | 2 days ago
Bennett Haselton writes: Social networking company Ello has converted itself to a Public Benefit Corporation, bound by a charter saying that they will not now, nor in the future, make money by running advertisements or selling user data. Ello had followed these policies from the outset, but skeptics worried that venture capitalist investors might pressure Ello to change those policies, so this binding commitment was meant to assuage those fears. But is the commitment really legally binding and enforceable down the road? Read on for the rest.
151 comments | 2 days ago
HughPickens.com writes: Nicolas Niarchos has a profile of 2600 in The New Yorker that is well worth reading. Some excerpts: "2600 — named for the frequency that allowed early hackers and "phreakers" to gain control of land-line phones — is the photocopier to Snowden's microprocessor. Its articles aren't pasted up on a flashy Web site but, rather, come out in print. The magazine—which started as a three-page leaflet sent out in the mail, and became a digest-sized publication in the late nineteen-eighties — just celebrated its thirtieth anniversary. It still arrives with the turning of the seasons, in brown envelopes just a bit smaller than a 401k mailer."
"There's been now, by any stretch of the imagination, three generations of hackers who have read 2600 magazine," Jason Scott, a historian and Web archivist who recently reorganized a set of 2600's legal files, said. Referring to Goldstein, whose real name is Eric Corley, he continued: "Eric really believes in the power of print, words on paper. It's obvious for him that his heart is in the paper."
"2600 provides an important forum for hackers to discuss the most pressing issues of the day — whether it be surveillance, Internet freedom, or the security of the nation's nuclear weapons—while sharing new code in languages like Python and C.* For example, the most recent issue of the magazine addresses how the hacking community can approach Snowden's disclosures. After lampooning one of the leaked N.S.A. PowerPoint slides ("whoever wrote this clearly didn't know that there are no zombies in '1984' ") and discussing how U.S. government is eroding civil rights, the piece points out the contradictions that everyone in the hacking community currently faces. "Hackers are the ones who reveal the inconvenient truths, point out security holes, and offer solutions," it concludes. "And this is why hackers are the enemy in a world where surveillance and the status quo are the keys to power."
71 comments | 2 days ago
KentuckyFC writes It's 20 years since the FDA approved the Flavr Savr tomato for human consumption, the first genetically engineered food to gain this status. Today, roughly 85 per cent of corn and 90 per cent of soybeans produced in the US are genetically modified. So it's easy to imagine that the scientific debate over the safety of genetically modified organisms has been largely settled. Not for Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan and several academic colleagues who say that the risks have been vastly underestimated. They say that genetically modified organisms threaten harm on a global scale, both to ecosystems and to human health. That's different from many conventional risks that threaten harm on a local scale, like nuclear energy for example. They argue that this global threat means that the precautionary principle ought to be applied to severely limit the way genetically modified organisms can be used.
403 comments | 2 days ago
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.
169 comments | 4 days ago
HughPickens.com writes James Swearingen writes at The Atlantic that the Internet can be a mean, hateful, and frightening place — especially for young women but human behavior and the limits placed on it by both law and society can change. In a Pew Research Center survey of 2,849 Internet users, one out of every four women between 18 years old and 24 years old reports having been stalked or sexually harassed online. "Like banner ads and spam bots, online harassment is still routinely treated as part of the landscape of being online," writes Swearingen adding that "we are in the early days of online harassment being taken as a serious problem, and not simply a quirk of online life." Law professor Danielle Citron draws a parallel between how sexual harassment was treated in the workplace decades ago and our current standard. "Think about in the 1960s and 1970s, what we said to women in the workplace," says Citron. "'This is just flirting.' That a sexually hostile environment was just a perk for men to enjoy, it's just what the environment is like. If you don't like it, leave and get a new job." It took years of activism, court cases, and Title VII protection to change that. "Here we are today, and sexual harassment in the workplace is not normal," said Citron. "Our norms and how we understand it are different now."
According to Swearingen, the likely solution to internet trolls will be a combination of things. The expansion of laws like the one currently on the books in California, which expands what constitutes online harassment, could help put the pressure on harassers. The upcoming Supreme Court case, Elonis v. The United States, looks to test the limits of free speech versus threatening comments on Facebook. "Can a combination of legal action, market pressure, and societal taboo work together to curb harassment?" asks Swearingen. "Too many people do too much online for things to stay the way they are."
570 comments | about a week ago
This is a "wet" submarine. It doesn't try to keep water out. You wear SCUBA gear while pedaling it. And yes, it is powered by a person pushing pedals. That motion, through a drive train, makes manta-style wings flap. This explains the name, since rays are Batoids, and this sub is a fake Batoid, not a real one. It's a beautiful piece of work, and Martin Plazyk is obviously proud to show it off. He and his father, Bruce, operate as Faux Fish Technologies. Follow that link and you'll see many photos, along with a nice selection of videos showing their creations not just in static above-water displays, but in their natural (underwater) element. Meanwhile, here on Slashdot, Martin tells how Faux Fish subs are made. (Alternate Video Link)
44 comments | about a week ago
gollum123 writes: Back in the day, computer science was as legitimate a career path for women as medicine, law, or science. But in 1984, the number of women majoring in computing-related subjects began to fall, and the percentage of women is now significantly lower in CS than in those other fields. NPR's Planet Money sought to answer a simple question: Why? According to the show's experts, computers were advertised as a "boy's toy." This, combined with early '80s geek culture staples like the book Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution, as well as movies like War Games and Weird Science, conspired to instill the perception that computers were primarily for men.
780 comments | about a week ago
An anonymous reader writes: With the construction of Orion, NASA's new manned spacecraft, comes the creation of a new Launch Abort System — the part of the vehicle that will get future astronauts back to Earth safely if there's a problem at launch. The Planetary Society's Jason Davis describes it: "When Orion reaches the apex of its abort flight, it is allowed to make its 180-degree flip. The capsule of astronauts, who have already realized they will not go to space today, experience a brief moment of weightlessness before the capsule starts falling back to Earth, heat shield down. The jettison motor fires, pulling the LAS away from Orion. ... Orion, meanwhile, sheds its Forward Bay Cover, a ring at the top of the capsule protecting the parachutes. Two drogue chutes deploy, stabilizing the wobbling capsule. The drogues pull out Orion's three main chutes, no doubt eliciting a sigh of relief from the spacecraft's occupants."
44 comments | about two weeks ago
Scott James Remnant, now Technical Lead on ChromeOS, was a Debian developer before that. That's how he became involved from the beginning (becoming Developer Manager, and then serving on the Technical Board) on the little derivative distribution that Mark Shuttleworth decided to make of Debian Unstable, and for which the name Ubuntu was eventually chosen. On this date in 2004, Ubuntu 4.10 -- aka Warty Warthog, or just Warty -- was released, and Remnant has shared a detailed, nostalgic look back at the early days of the project that has (whatever else you think of it ) become one of the most influential in the world of open source and Free software. I was excited that Canonical sent out disks that I could pass around to friends and family that looked acceptably polished to them in a way that Sharpie-marked Knoppix CD-ROMs didn't, and that the polish extended to the installer, the desktop, and the included constellation of software, too.
110 comments | about two weeks ago
From the L.A. Times, and with enough time to tune in, comes this tip: Comet Siding Spring's closest approach to the red planet will occur at 11:27 a.m. [Pacific Time] on Sunday. At its closest approach, the comet will come within 87,000 miles of Mars. That's 10 times closer than any comet on record has ever come to Earth. Sadly, this historic flyby is not visible to the naked eye. People who live in the Southern Hemisphere have a shot at seeing the comet if they have access to a good telescope six inches or wider. However, most of us in the Northern Hemisphere will not be able to see the comet at all, experts say, no matter how big a telescope we've got. Here to save the cometary day is astronomy website Slooh.com. Beginning at 11:15 a.m PDT on Sunday, it will host a live broadcast of the comet's closest approach to Mars, as seen by the website's telescopes in South Africa and in the Canary Islands. Later in the day, beginning at 5:30 p.m. PDT, Slooh will broadcast another view of the comet from a telescope in Chile.
33 comments | about two weeks ago
ControlsGeek writes The Lee-Enfield .303 rifle is being phased out for use by the Canadian Rangers, a Northern aboriginal branch of the Armed Forces. The rifle has been in service with the Canadian military for 100 years and is still being used by the Rangers for its unfailing reliability in Arctic conditions. If only the hardware that we use in computers could have such a track record. The wheels turn slowly, though, and it's not clear what kind of gun will replace the Enfields.
331 comments | about two weeks ago
vasanth writes India has successfully launched IRNSS-1C, the third satellite in the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS), early on October 16. This is the 27th consecutively successful mission of the PSLV(Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle). The entire constellation of seven satellites is planned to be completed by 2015. The satellite is designed to provide accurate position information service to users in the country as well as in the region extending up to 1,500 km from its boundary, which is its primary service area. In the Kargil war in 1999, the Indian military sought GPS data for the region from the U.S. The space-based navigation system maintained by the U.S. government would have provided vital information, but the U.S. denied it to India. A need for an indigenous satellite navigation system was felt earlier, but the Kargil experience made India realise its inevitability in building its own navigation system. "Geopolitical needs teach you that some countries can deny you the service in times of conflict. It's also a way of arm twisting and a country should protect itself against that," said S Ramakrishnan, director of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, Thiruvananthapuram.
86 comments | about two weeks ago
HughPickens.com writes Jim Edwards writes at Business Insider that Google is so large and has such a massive need for talent that if you have the right skills, Google is really enthusiastic to hear from you — especially if you know how to use MatLab, a fourth-generation programming language that allows matrix manipulations, plotting of functions and data, implementation of algorithms, creation of user interfaces, and interfacing with programs written in other languages, including C, C++, Java, Fortran and Python. The key is that data is produced visually or graphically, rather than in a spreadsheet. According to Jonathan Rosenberg , Google's former senior vice president for product management, being a master of statistics is probably your best way into Google right now and if you want to work at Google, make sure you can use MatLab. Big data — how to create it, manipulate it, and put it to good use — is one of those areas in which Google is really enthusiastic about. The sexy job in the next ten years will be statisticians. When every business has free and ubiquitous data, the ability to understand it and extract value from it becomes the complimentary scarce factor. It leads to intelligence, and the intelligent business is the successful business, regardless of its size. Rosenberg says that "my quote about statistics that I didn't use but often do is, 'Data is the sword of the 21st century, those who wield it the samurai.'"
205 comments | about two weeks ago
TheRealHocusLocus writes: Disaster preppers have a saying, "two is one and one is none," which might also apply to 24x7 base load energy sources that could sustain us beyond the age of fossil fuel. I too was happy to see Skunkworks' Feb 2013 announcement and the recent "we're still making progress" reminder. I was moved by the reaction on Slashdot: a groundswell of "Finally!" and "We're saved!" However, fusion doesn't need to be the only solution, and it's not entirely without drawbacks.
All nuclear reactors will generate waste via activation as the materials of which they are constructed erode and become unstable under high neutron flux. I'm not pointing this out because I think it's a big deal — a few fusion advocates disingenuously tend to sell the process as if it were "100% clean." A low volume of non-recyclable waste from fusion reactors that is walk-away safe in ~100 years is doable. Let's do it. And likewise, the best comparable waste profile for fission is a two-fluid LFTR, a low volume of waste that is walk-away safe in ~300 years. Let's do it.
Why pursue both, with at least the same level of urgency? Because both could carry us indefinitely. LFTR is less complicated in theory and practice. It is closer to market. There is plenty of cross-over: LFTR's materials challenges and heat engine interface — and the necessity for waste management — are the same as they will be for commercial-scale fusion reactors. To get up to speed please see the 2006 fusion lecture by Dr. Robert Bussard on the Wiffle ball 6 plasma containment, likely the precursor to the Skunkworks approach. And see Thorium Remix 2011 which presents the case for LFTR.
218 comments | about two weeks ago
M-Saunders writes Canonical courted plenty of controversy with it announced Mir, its home-grown display server. But why did the company choose to go it alone, and not collaborate with the Wayland project? Linux Voice has an interview with Thomas Voss, Mir's lead developer. Voss explains how Mir came into being, what it offers, and why he believes it will outlast Wayland.
226 comments | about two weeks ago
lkcl writes: In an open letter to the core developers behind OpenLDAP (Howard Chu) and Python-LMDB (David Wilson) is a story of a successful creation of a high-performance task scheduling engine written (perplexingly) in Python. With only partial optimization allowing tasks to be executed in parallel at a phenomenal rate of 240,000 per second, the choice to use Python-LMDB for the per-task database store based on its benchmarks, as well as its well-researched design criteria, turned out to be the right decision. Part of the success was also due to earlier architectural advice gratefully received here on Slashdot. What is puzzling, though, is that LMDB on Wikipedia is being constantly deleted, despite its "notability" by way of being used in a seriously-long list of prominent software libre projects, which has been, in part, motivated by the Oracle-driven BerkeleyDB license change. It would appear that the original complaint about notability came from an Oracle employee as well.
98 comments | about two weeks ago
jones_supa writes: The 2014 CAST Research on Application Software Health (CRASH) report states that enterprise software built using a mixture of agile and waterfall methods will result in more robust and secure applications than those built using either agile or waterfall methods alone. Data from CAST's Appmarq benchmarking repository was analyzed to discover global trends in the structural quality of business application software. The report explores the impact of factors such as development method, CMMI maturity level, outsourcing, and other practices on software quality characteristics that are based upon good architectural and coding practices. InfoQ interviewed Bill Curtis, Senior Vice President and Chief Scientist at CAST, about the research done by CAST, structural quality factors, and mixing agile and waterfall methods.
133 comments | about two weeks ago