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Amazon's eBook Math

Soulskill posted yesterday | from the there's-one-for-you-nineteen-for-me dept.

Books 282

An anonymous reader writes: Amazon has waged a constant battle with publishers over the price of ebooks. They've now publicly laid out their argument and the business math behind it. "We've quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000." They argue that capping most ebooks at $9.99 would be better for everyone, with the money split out 35% to the author, 35% to the publisher, and 30% to Amazon.

Author John Scalzi says Amazon's reasoning and assumptions are a bit suspect. He disagrees that "books are interchangeable units of entertainment, each equally as salable as the next, and that pricing is the only thing consumers react to." Scalzi also points out that Amazon asserts itself as the only revenue stream for authors, which is not remotely true. "Amazon's assumptions don't include, for example, that publishers and authors might have a legitimate reason for not wanting the gulf between eBook and physical hardcover pricing to be so large that brick and mortar retailers suffer, narrowing the number of venues into which books can sell. Killing off Amazon's competitors is good for Amazon; there's rather less of an argument that it's good for anyone else."

Earth In the Midst of Sixth Mass Extinction: the 'Anthropocene Defaunation'

Soulskill posted about a week ago | from the i-blame-the-schools dept.

Earth 333

mspohr writes: A special issue of Science magazine devoted to 'Vanishing Fauna' publishes a series of articles about the man-caused extinction of species and the implications for ecosystems and the climate. Quoting: "During the Pleistocene epoch, only tens of thousands of years ago, our planet supported large, spectacular animals. Mammoths, terror birds, giant tortoises, and saber-toothed cats, as well as many less familiar species such as giant ground sloths (some of which reached 7 meters in height) and glyptodonts (which resembled car-sized armadillos), roamed freely. Since then, however, the number and diversity of animal species on Earth have consistently and steadily declined. Today we are left with a relatively depauperate fauna, and we continue to lose animal species to extinction rapidly. Although some debate persists, most of the evidence suggests that humans were responsible for extinction of this Pleistocene fauna, and we continue to drive animal extinctions today through the destruction of wild lands, consumption of animals as a resource or a luxury, and persecution of species we see as threats or competitors." Unfortunately, most of the detail is behind a paywall, but the summary should be enough to get the point across.

How a Solar Storm Two Years Ago Nearly Caused a Catastrophe On Earth

Soulskill posted about a week ago | from the call-ahead-before-dropping-by dept.

Space 212

schwit1 writes: On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth's atmosphere. These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years. "If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces," physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado tells NASA. Fortunately, the blast site of the CMEs was not directed at Earth. Had this event occurred a week earlier when the point of eruption was Earth-facing, a potentially disastrous outcome would have unfolded.

"Analysts believe that a direct hit could cause widespread power blackouts, disabling everything that plugs into a wall socket. Most people wouldn't even be able to flush their toilet because urban water supplies largely rely on electric pumps. ... According to a study by the National Academy of Sciences, the total economic impact could exceed $2 trillion, or 20 times greater than the costs of a Hurricane Katrina. Multi-ton transformers damaged by such a storm might take years to repair." Steve Tracton put it this way in his frightening overview of the risks of a severe solar storm: "The consequences could be devastating for commerce, transportation, agriculture and food stocks, fuel and water supplies, human health and medical facilities, national security, and daily life in general."

Lawrence Krauss: Congress Is Trying To Defund Scientists At Energy Department

samzenpus posted about a week ago | from the let-the-science-flow dept.

United States 296

Lasrick writes Physicist Lawrence Krauss blasts Congress for their passage of the 2015 Energy and Water Appropriations bill that cut funding for renewable energy, sustainable transportation, and energy efficiency, and even worse, had amendments that targeted scientists at the Department of Energy: He writes that this action from the US Congress is worse even than the Australian government's move to cancel their carbon tax, because the action of Congress is far more insidious: "Each (amendment) would, in its own way, specifically prohibit scientists at the Energy Department from doing precisely what Congress should mandate them to do—namely perform the best possible scientific research to illuminate, for policymakers, the likelihood and possible consequences of climate change." Although the bill isn't likely to become law, Krauss is fed up with Congress burying its head in the sand: The fact that those amendments "...could pass a house of Congress, should concern everyone interested in the appropriate support of scientific research as a basis for sound public policy."

Laser Eye Surgery, Revisited 10 Years Later

Unknown Lamer posted about a week ago | from the waiting-for-the-laser-vision-option dept.

Medicine 547

gunner_von_diamond (3461783) happened upon Ask Slashdot: Experiences with Laser Eye Surgery from ten years ago, and asks: I was just reading a story on /. from 10 years ago about Lasik Eye Surgery. Personally, I've had Lasik done and loved every single part of the surgery. I went from wearing contacts/glasses every day to having 20/15 vision! In the older post, everyone seemed to be cautious about it, waiting for technical advances before having the surgery. Today, the surgery is fairly inexpensive [even for a programmer :) ], takes about 10-15 minutes, and I recovered from the surgery that same day. So my question is: what is holding everyone else back from freeing themselves from contacts and glasses?

Black Holes Not Black After All, Theorize Physicists

Unknown Lamer posted about a week ago | from the lemon-chiffon-hole dept.

Space 226

KentuckyFC (1144503) writes Black holes are singularities in spacetime formed by stars that have collapsed at the end of their lives. But while black holes are one of the best known ideas in cosmology, physicists have never been entirely comfortable with the idea that regions of the universe can become infinitely dense. Indeed, they only accept this because they can't think of any reason why it shouldn't happen. But in the last few months, just such a reason has emerged as a result of intense debate about one of cosmology's greatest problems — the information paradox. This is the fundamental tenet in quantum mechanics that all the information about a system is encoded in its wave function and this always evolves in a way that conserves information. The paradox arises when this system falls into a black hole causing the information to devolve into a single state. So information must be lost.

Earlier this year, Stephen Hawking proposed a solution. His idea is that gravitational collapse can never continue beyond the so-called event horizon of a black hole beyond which information is lost. Gravitational collapse would approach the boundary but never go beyond it. That solves the information paradox but raises another question instead: if not a black hole, then what? Now one physicist has worked out the answer. His conclusion is that the collapsed star should end up about twice the radius of a conventional black hole but would not be dense enough to trap light forever and therefore would not be black. Indeed, to all intents and purposes, it would look like a large neutron star.

China Plans Particle Colliders That Would Dwarf CERN's LHC

Unknown Lamer posted about a week ago | from the embracing-destiny-as-a-type-13-planet dept.

China 218

ananyo (2519492) writes Scientists at the Institute of High Energy Physics (IHEP) in Beijing, working with international collaborators, are planning to build a "Higgs factory" by 2028 — a 52-kilometer underground ring that would smash together electrons and positrons. Collisions of these fundamental particles would allow the Higgs boson to be studied with greater precision than at the much smaller (27 km) Large Hadron Collider at CERN, Europe's particle-physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland. Physicists say that the proposed US$3-billion machine is within technological grasp and is considered conservative in scope and cost. But China hopes that it would also be a stepping stone to a next-generation collider — a super proton-proton collider — in the same tunnel. The machine would be a big leap for China. The country's biggest current collider is just 240 meters in circumference.

Experiment Shows People Exposed To East German Socialism Cheat More

Unknown Lamer posted about two weeks ago | from the roll-high-or-be-sent-to-siberia dept.

Science 617

An anonymous reader writes The Economist reports, "'UNDER capitalism', ran the old Soviet-era joke, 'man exploits man. Under communism it is just the opposite.' In fact new research suggests that the Soviet system inspired not just sarcasm but cheating too: in East Germany, at least, communism appears to have inculcated moral laxity. Lars Hornuf of the University of Munich and Dan Ariely, Ximena García-Rada and Heather Mann of Duke University ran an experiment last year to test Germans' willingness to lie for personal gain. Some 250 Berliners were randomly selected to take part in a game where they could win up to €6 ($8). ... The authors found that, on average, those who had East German roots cheated twice as much as those who had grown up in West Germany under capitalism. They also looked at how much time people had spent in East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall. The longer the participants had been exposed to socialism, the greater the likelihood that they would claim improbable numbers ... when it comes to ethics, a capitalist upbringing appears to trump a socialist one."

Apollo 11 Moon Landing Turns 45

samzenpus posted about two weeks ago | from the we're-here dept.

United States 211

An anonymous reader writes On July 20, 1969, U.S. astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to walk on the moon. Neil Armstrong would say later he thought the crew had a 90% chance of getting home from the moon, and only a 50% chance of landing safely. The scope of NASA's Apollo program seems staggering today. President Kennedy announced his moon goal just four years into the Space Age, but the United States had not even launched a human into orbit yet. Amazingly, just eight years later, Armstrong and Aldrin were walking on the moon.

World Health Organization Calls For Decriminalization of Drug Use

Soulskill posted about two weeks ago | from the WHO-already-dismissed-by-old-people-as-being-a-bunch-of-potheads dept.

Crime 474

An anonymous reader writes: We've known for a while: the War on Drugs isn't working. Scientists, journalists, economists, and politicians have all argued against continuing the expensive and ineffective fight. Now, the World Health Organization has said flat out that nations should work to decriminalize the use of drugs. The recommendations came as part of a report released this month focusing on the prevention and treatment of HIV. "The WHO's unambiguous recommendation is clearly grounded in concerns for public health and human rights. Whilst the call is made in the context of the policy response to HIV specifically, it clearly has broader ramifications, specifically including drug use other than injecting. In the report, the WHO says: 'Countries should work toward developing policies and laws that decriminalize injection and other use of drugs and, thereby, reduce incarceration. ...Countries should ban compulsory treatment for people who use and/or inject drugs." The bottom line is that the criminalization of drug use comes with substantial costs, while providing no substantial benefit.

Math, Programming, and Language Learning

Soulskill posted about two weeks ago | from the i-before-e-except-SyntaxError: dept.

Programming 241

An anonymous reader writes: There's often debate amongst modern programmers about how much math a professional developer should know, and to what extent programming is math. Learning to program is often viewed as being on a spectrum between learning math and learning spoken/written languages. But in a new article, Jeremy Kun argues that the spectrum should be formulated another way: Human language -> Mathematics -> Programming. "Having studied all three subjects, I'd argue that mathematics falls between language and programming on the hierarchy of rigor. ... [T]he hierarchy of abstraction is the exact reverse, with programming being the most concrete and language being the most abstract. Perhaps this is why people consider mathematics a bridge between human language and programming. Because it allows you to express more formal ideas in a more concrete language, without making you worry about such specific hardware details like whether your integers are capped at 32 bits or 64. Indeed, if you think that the core of programming is expressing abstract ideas in a concrete language, then this makes a lot of sense. This is precisely why learning mathematics is 'better' at helping you learn the kind of abstract thinking you want for programming than language. Because mathematics is closer to programming on the hierarchy. It helps even more that mathematics and programming readily share topics."

New Treatment Stops Type II Diabetes

samzenpus posted about two weeks ago | from the one-shot-and-your-done dept.

Medicine 253

multicsfan writes Researchers have found that an injection of protein FGF1 stops weight induced diabetes in mice, with no apparent side effects. However, the cure only lasts 2 days at a time. Future research and human trials are needed to better understand and create a working drug. From the story: "The team found that sustained treatment with the protein doesn't merely keep blood sugar under control, but also reverses insulin insensitivity, the underlying physiological cause of diabetes. Equally exciting, the newly developed treatment doesn't result in side effects common to most current diabetes treatments."

Cosmologists Show Negative Mass Could Exist In Our Universe

Unknown Lamer posted about two weeks ago | from the beam-me-up dept.

Science 214

KentuckyFC (1144503) writes The idea of negative mass has fascinated scientists since it was first used in the 16th century to explain why metals gain weight when they are oxidized. Since then, theoretical physicists have shown how it could be used to create exotic objects such as wormholes and the Alcubierre warp drive. But cosmologists' attempts to include negative matter in any reasonable model of the cosmos have always run into trouble because negative mass violates the energy conditions required to make realistic universes with Einstein's theory of general relativity. Now a pair of cosmologists have found a way around this. By treating negative mass as a perfect fluid rather than a solid point-like object, they've shown that negative mass does not violate the energy conditions as had been thought, and so it must be allowed in our universe. That has important consequences. If positive and negative mass particles were created in the early universe, they would form a kind of plasma that absorbs gravitational waves. Having built a number of gravitational wave observatories that have to see a single gravitational wave, astronomers might soon need to explain the absence of observations. Negative mass would then come in extremely handy.

Sexual Harassment Is Common In Scientific Fieldwork

Soulskill posted about two weeks ago | from the communities-that-needs-fixing dept.

Science 362

sciencehabit writes: Universities and other workplaces have codes of conduct guarding against sexual harassment. But what about the more casual venue of scientific fieldwork—which is also a workplace? A new survey finds that sexual harassment and assaults occur frequently in the field, with little consequence for the perpetrators or explicit prohibitions against such conduct. The study reveals that the primary targets were young women who were harassed, assaulted, and even raped by men who were usually senior to them in rank, although men also reported harassment.

The Last Three Months Were the Hottest Quarter On Record

Unknown Lamer posted about two weeks ago | from the not-imagining-things dept.

Earth 552

New submitter NatasRevol (731260) writes The last three months were collectively the warmest ever experienced since record-keeping began in the late 1800s. From the article: "Taken as a whole, the just-finished three-month period was about 0.68 degrees Celsius (1.22 degrees Fahrenheit) above the 20th-century average. That may not sound like much, but the added warmth has been enough to provide a nudge to a litany of weather and climate events worldwide. Arctic sea ice is trending near record lows for this time of year, abnormally warm ocean water helped spawn the earliest hurricane ever recorded to make landfall in North Carolina, and a rash of heat waves have plagued cities from India to California to the Middle East." Also, it puts to bed the supposed 'fact' that there's been a pause in temperature increase the last 17 years. Raw data shows it's still increasing. bizwriter also wrote in with some climate related news: A new report from libertarian think tank Heartland Institute claims that new government data debunks the concept of global climate change. However, an examination of the full data and some critical consideration shows that the organization, whether unintentionally or deliberately, has inaccurately characterized and misrepresented the information and what it shows. The Heartland Institute skews the data by taking two points and ignoring all of the data in between, kind of like grabbing two zero points from sin(x) and claiming you're looking at a steady state function.

Scientists Have Developed a Material So Dark That You Can't See It

samzenpus posted about three weeks ago | from the none-more-black dept.

United Kingdom 238

gbjbaanb writes A British company is developing a new material that's so black it absorbs all but 0.035 percent of the visual light, making it the darkest material ever created. Of course, apart from making album covers, it conducts heat 7 times better than copper and is 10 times stronger than steel. "The nanotube material, named Vantablack, has been grown on sheets of aluminium foil by the Newhaven-based company. While the sheets may be crumpled into miniature hills and valleys, this landscape disappears on areas covered by it. 'You expect to see the hills and all you can see it's like black, like a hole, like there's nothing there. It just looks so strange,' said Ben Jensen, the firm's chief technical officer.

How Deep Does the Multiverse Go?

samzenpus posted about three weeks ago | from the beyond-the-beyond dept.

Space 202

StartsWithABang writes Our observable Universe is a pretty impressive entity: extending 46 billion light-years in all directions, filled with hundreds of billions of galaxies and having been around for nearly 14 billion years since the Big Bang. But what lies beyond it? Sure, there's probably more Universe just like ours that's unobservable, but what about the multiverse? Finally, a treatment that delineates the difference between the ideas that are thrown around and explains what's accepted as valid, what's treated as speculative, and what's completely unrelated to anything that could conceivably ever be observed from within our Universe.

Geographic Segregation By Education

Soulskill posted about three weeks ago | from the philosophy-majors-in-philly,-music-majors-in-singapore dept.

Education 230

The wage gap between college-educated workers and those with just a high school diploma has been growing — and accelerating. But the education gap is also doing something unexpected: clustering workers with more education in cities with similar people. "This effectively means that college graduates in America aren't simply gaining access to higher wages. They're gaining access to high-cost cities like New York or San Francisco that offer so much more than good jobs: more restaurants, better schools, less crime, even cleaner air." Most people are aware of the gentrification strife occurring in San Francisco, but it's one among many cities experiencing this. "[Research] also found that as cities increased their share of college graduates between 1980 and 2000, they also increased their bars, restaurants, dry cleaners, museums and art galleries per capita. And they experienced larger decreases in pollution and property crime, suggesting that cities that attract college grads benefit from both the kind of amenities that consumers pay for and those that are more intangible." The research shows a clear trend of the desirable cities becoming even more desirable, to the point where it's almost a necessity for city planners to lure college graduates or face decline.

Blueprints For Taming the Climate Crisis

Soulskill posted about three weeks ago | from the pump-all-of-our-smog-into-the-sun dept.

Earth 389

mdsolar sends this story from the NY Times: Here's what your future will look like if we are to have a shot at preventing devastating climate change. Within about 15 years every new car sold in the United States will be electric. ... Up to 60 percent of power might come from nuclear sources. And coal's footprint will shrink drastically, perhaps even disappear from the power supply. This course, created by a team of energy experts, was unveiled on Tuesday in a report for the United Nations (PDF) that explores the technological paths available for the world's 15 main economies to both maintain reasonable rates of growth and cut their carbon emissions enough by 2050 to prevent climatic havoc. It offers a sobering conclusion: We might be able to pull it off. But it will take an overhaul of the way we use energy, and a huge investment in the development and deployment of new energy technologies. Significantly, it calls for an entirely different approach to international diplomacy on the issue of how to combat climate change.

Wireless Contraception

Soulskill posted about three weeks ago | from the just-connect-to-you-local-contraeptive-hotspot dept.

Medicine 302

Kittenman writes: The BBC is carrying information on a type of contraception (funded in part by Bill Gates) that takes the form of a microchip, inserted under the skin. The chip releases contraceptive hormones to the body until wirelessly advised not to do so. This device has several interesting applications and issues associated with it. The researchers are already working on making the device secure against unauthorized transmissions. There's also the issue of making it easier for governments to control population levels. The chip will be available from 2018. This correspondent will watch the issues with interest.

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