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Comments:72 | Votes:413

posted by martyb on Tuesday September 23, @01:18AM   Printer-friendly
from the but-what-dreams-may-come-when-I-have-shuffled-off-this-mortal-coil? dept.

Ezekiel J. Emanuel, director of the Clinical Bioethics Department at the US National Institutes of Health, writes at The Atlantic that there is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. "It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic." Emanuel says that he is isn't asking for more time than is likely nor foreshortening his life but is talking about the kind and amount of health care he will consent to after 75. "Once I have lived to 75, my approach to my health care will completely change. I won’t actively end my life. But I won’t try to prolong it, either." Emanuel says that Americans seem to be obsessed with exercising, doing mental puzzles, consuming various juice and protein concoctions, sticking to strict diets, and popping vitamins and supplements, all in a valiant effort to cheat death and prolong life as long as possible. "I reject this aspiration. I think this manic desperation to endlessly extend life is misguided and potentially destructive. For many reasons, 75 is a pretty good age to aim to stop."

posted by n1 on Monday September 22, @11:32PM   Printer-friendly
from the blame-game dept.

Poor encoding by Microsoft blamed for problems in a UK initiative to improve data transparency.

When you export from popular spreadsheet applications you don't get control over encoding and it usually chooses a bad one," she said. "It usually won't be UTF-8. It will usually be something like Windows 1252."

Windows 1252 was an old, proprietary Microsoft encoding. The result, said Tennison, was the data contained characters incomprehensible to other people and programs. Their systems - unless they were using Microsoft Excel on a Microsoft Windows computer - interpreted the incomprehensible characters as "garbage".

"It can cause problems matching stuff up," she said. "If you have the name correct in some data and not in other data then you can't match those two names together. And therefore you can't put the data together accurately."

Does anyone have any interesting character encoding stories?

posted by n1 on Monday September 22, @09:44PM   Printer-friendly
from the knowing-when-you're-not-wanted dept.

The Chinese government is at it again. The New York Times is reporting that "Google’s problems in China just got worse."

As part of a broad campaign to tighten internal security, the Chinese government has draped a darker shroud over Internet communications in recent weeks, a situation that has made it more difficult for Google and its customers to do business.

Chinese exporters have struggled to place Google ads that appeal to overseas buyers. Biotechnology researchers in Beijing had trouble recalibrating a costly microscope this summer because they could not locate the online instructions to do so. And international companies have had difficulty exchanging Gmail messages among far-flung offices and setting up meetings on applications like Google Calendar.

"It’s a frustrating and annoying drain on productivity," said Jeffrey Phillips, an American energy executive who has lived in China for 14 years. "You’ve got people spending their time figuring out how to send a file instead of getting their work done."

posted by n1 on Monday September 22, @07:53PM   Printer-friendly
from the co-conspirators dept.

For years Moon landing conspiracy theories have claimed that some or all elements of the Moon landings were hoaxes staged by NASA with the aid of other organizations. Now Rob Crossley reports that Graphics card vendor Nvidia says that one of the photos used to bolster the moon landing conspiracy theory can be explained with new lighting technology. The photo taken during the 1969 mission, shows astronaut Buzz Aldrin illuminated despite standing in the shadow of the Lunar module with conspiracy theorists claiming the photo would not have been possible unless there was an additional light source--such as a studio light.

Nvidia recreated the scene in Unreal Engine 4 and--using its global illumination technology--was successfully able to recreate the image with only the sun as a light source. Nvidia discovered that there were two key factors, both of which could be addressed using voxel global illumination. First, the moon's surface is comprised of what are essentially thousands of tiny mirrors -- moon dust if you will -- that bounce light back at a viewer. Yet that didn't account for the necessary level of brightness to light up Aldrin. The second factor was Neil Armstrong -- who was off to the side of Aldrin in full view of the Sun -- wearing a 85 percent reflective spacesuit that contained five layers of the highly reflective fabric Mylar blended with four layers of the flexible yet durable material Dacron on top of an additional two layers of heat resistant Kapton. Of course, further evidence supporting the Apollo moon landings has been released many times over the years, including high-def shots taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter showing lander tracks and footprints, and 2012 images showing five out of the six Apollo mission American flags.

posted by n1 on Monday September 22, @06:13PM   Printer-friendly
from the even-faster-in-turbo-mode dept.

Materials that change electrical states quickly could be capable of processing information 1000 times faster than silicon (Abstract), opening the doorway for developing computers that can perform calculations at well beyond current processing rates.

The present size and speed limitations of computer processors and memory could be overcome by replacing silicon with ‘phase-change materials’ (PCMs), which are capable of reversibly switching between two structural phases with different electrical states – one crystalline and conducting and the other glassy and insulating – in billionths of a second.

To improve the speed of computers, a solution is to increase the number of operations performed per device. Numerous operations in phase-change–based “in-memory” logic devices have previously been achieved using crystallization, but they show slow speeds, mostly due to a trade-off between the crystallization speed and stability of the initialized-glassy states. Here, we instead control melting processes to perform logic operations. Ultrafast melting speeds and diverse operations were achieved.

Multiple operations in phase-change–based logic devices have been achieved using crystallization; however, they can achieve mostly speeds of several hundreds of nanoseconds. A difficulty also arises from the trade-off between the speed of crystallization and long-term stability of the amorphous phase. We here instead control the process of melting through premelting disordering effects, while maintaining the superior advantage of phase-change–based logic devices over silicon-based logic devices. A melting speed of just 900 ps was achieved to perform multiple Boolean algebraic operations (e.g., NOR and NOT). Ab initio molecular-dynamics simulations and in situ electrical characterization revealed the origin (i.e., bond buckling of atoms) and kinetics (e.g., discontinuouslike behavior) of melting through premelting disordering, which were key to increasing the melting speeds. By a subtle investigation of the well-characterized phase-transition behavior, this simple method provides an elegant solution to boost significantly the speed of phase-change–based in-memory logic devices, thus paving the way for achieving computers that can perform computations approaching terahertz processing rates.

posted by n1 on Monday September 22, @04:48PM   Printer-friendly
from the rise-and-shine dept.

Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has just confirmed that the main liquid engine of its Mars Orbiter Spacecraft is working after more than 300 days of rest.

Although September 24 is the Big Day for putting the spacecraft into an orbit around Mars, the billion-rupee question for ISRO was whether the LAM (Liquid Apogee Motor), resting for over 300 days, would act as needed on Monday.

And it did.

The LAM has been ‘sleeping’ for about ten months since its last big action of December 1: that of giving the spacecraft the escape velocity from Earth’s gravitational pull.

From The Times of India:

"We are obviously relieved," said an Isro scientist. "Now we know that the engine is fit for Wednesday's exercise." There were apprehensions of the long duration of idling would have affected some valves because of the corrosive fuel used. If the main engine doesn't fire on Wednesday, an alternative plan is to fire the eight thrusters of the spacecraft to capture the Martian orbit. This Plan B, however, would not help MOM achieve a perfect orbit to take up scientific studies during its elliptical journey around Mars.

You can follow the Mars Orbiter Insertion (MOI) operation of the spacecraft as scheduled to be performed on the morning of September 24, 2014 at 07:17:32 hrs IST on facebook or Twitter.

posted by janrinok on Monday September 22, @03:10PM   Printer-friendly
from the which-end-is-which? dept.

A New Hadrosaur has been described as having distinctive nasal profile (Full Text); a hook-shaped projection of the nasal anteroventral process and dorsal projection of the posteroventral process of the premaxilla, and is further differentiated from other hadrosaurid species based on the morphology of the nasal.

The new dinosaur, named Rhinorex condrupus by paleontologists from North Carolina State University and Brigham Young University, lived in what is now Utah approximately 75 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous period.

Rhinorex, which translates roughly into “King Nose,” was a plant-eater and a close relative of other Cretaceous hadrosaurs like Parasaurolophus and Edmontosaurus. Hadrosaurs are usually identified by bony crests that extended from the skull, although Edmontosaurus doesn’t have such a hard crest (paleontologists have discovered that it had a fleshy crest). Rhinorex also lacks a crest on the top of its head; instead, this new dinosaur has a huge nose.

posted by janrinok on Monday September 22, @01:26PM   Printer-friendly
from the you-are-the-product-and-someone-else's-customer dept.

Chances are, everyone here is familiar with the old maxim "If you're not paying for the service, you're the product, not the customer", and if the abundance with which it is uttered is anything to go by, chances are, most people reading this will have agreed with the statement. But Ramez Naam over at The Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies has called this wisdom into question, hilighting the many ways in which the role of users on advertisement driven sites differs strongly from the role of products in more conventional business models.

A list of his bullet points (with explanations excluded from the summary for the sake of keeping it brief) include:

-You can stop using the service. You can deny the company that provides it the revenue you represent.
-You can look around for competitive offerings, and choose one of those.
-You can use the service more… or less.
-You can tell the world how great this service is, how great this company is… Or how awful they are.
-You can make those choices on the basis of utility, or beauty, or privacy, or politics, or morality, or any principle or basis you choose.
-You can change the service itself.

It would seem that the conclusion being drawn here is not so much that you are JUST the customer after all, but that things are a bit more complex than this meme would suggest. Is he onto something? Or just trying to lull us into handing over our data because "we're not actually the product so it's okay"? And does the same apply for other models of distributing free content while generating revenue that may not be advertising based (such as with many distributions of open source software)?

posted by martyb on Monday September 22, @11:43AM   Printer-friendly
from the reach-for-the-sky-and-beyond dept.

Once the realm of science fiction, a Japanese company has announced they will have a space elevator up and running by the year 2050.

If successful it would revolutionise space travel and potentially transform the global economy.

The Japanese construction giant Obayashi says they will build a space elevator that will reach 96,000 kilometres [~60,000 miles] into space.

The company said the fantasy can now become a reality because of the development of carbon nanotechnology.

"The tensile strength is almost a hundred times stronger than steel cable so it's possible," Mr Yoji Ishikawa, a research and development manager at Obayashi, said.

"Right now we can't make the cable long enough. We can only make 3-centimetre-long nanotubes but we need much more... we think by 2030 we'll be able to do it."

Universities all over Japan have been working on the problems and every year they hold competitions to share and learn from each other.

What say you Soylents? After years of speculation, are we finally at a point where this has become an engineering problem of implementation? Is this just wide-eyed public-relations posturing? Given the gravity well of the earth is much greater than that of the moon or Mars, might they be a better starting point for implementation? What do you see as the greatest challenges blocking the construction of a space elevator?

Other non-rocket spacelaunch systems have been proposed: Launch Loop, Lightcraft, Space gun, and Strar Tram among others. Do one of these hold a brighter promise for getting things into orbit or even off this planet?

posted by martyb on Monday September 22, @09:45AM   Printer-friendly
from the pics-or-it-didn't-happen...oh-wait... dept.

As the Rosetta lander approaches its target comet for a landing in November there are a series of pictures available, and these images have been postprocessed to highlight jets from the comet.

The Rosetta Space Probe is a European Space Agency mission to land a probe on the comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The pictures are taken from Rosetta's Navigation Camera (NAVCAM) at a distance of 28.6 kilometers as it closes in on the comet ahead of the scheduled descent of the Philae lander.

This particular image is an example of the ESA releasing detailed mosaic images for amateurs to process, which started a few weeks ago, and continues to provide some stunning NAVCAM images.

The raw images were released on the ESA blog and there's a summary of the mission objectives available.

Rosetta has been covered previously on Soylent at arrival and mapping of 67P.

posted by LaminatorX on Monday September 22, @07:40AM   Printer-friendly
from the Digg-your-own-hole dept.

Like the vampire at the end of a horror flick, Digg refuses to die quickly. The IT technology forum was founded in 2004 and quickly shot past Slashdot in readership and market valuation, driven by a popular method where users would submit articles and vote on which ones would make the home page. Founder Kevin Rose was featured on the cover of Business Week; Google nearly paid $200 million for Digg in 2008 before walking away. The downturn started in 2010, triggered by a botched site redesign that led to wholesale desertion of the site's regulars.

In 2012, the New York City startup studio Betaworks bought Digg's software, domain name, and records, for $500,000 (Digg's patents were sold separately to LinkedIn for $4 million; the engineering team went to the Washington Post for $12 million).

Betaworks went to work on the site, junking the system of users voting on articles, and replacing it with a combination of AI software (monitoring twitter feeds and other web crawling signals) and human editors. The re-launched site was "data driven", in their words. And the new owners didn't seem to be as full of themselves as the old ones; after Obama stood for an AMA on competitor Reddit, Digg tweeted "We asked Dukakis but he turned us down". Monthly visitors are at 8 million, up from 1.5 million at the site's low point.

posted by LaminatorX on Monday September 22, @06:19AM   Printer-friendly
from the manifest-destiny dept.

First there was "agile" development. Now there's a new software movement—called 'reactive' development—that sets out principles for building resilient and failure-tolerant applications for cloud, mobile, multicore and Web-scale systems. ReadWrite's Matt Asay sat down with Jonas Bonér, the author of the Reactive Manifesto (just released in version 2.0), for a discussion of what, exactly, the reactive movement aims to fix in software development and how we get there from here.

It can be summarized as software that is responsive, resilient, message driven and can handle varying loads gracefully. Compare with the Agile manifesto or perhaps the simple programming manifesto and the requirements that everyone ought to keep in mind. But the async manifesto is perhaps most efficient! But whatever you do, don't let anyone interrupt you.

posted by LaminatorX on Monday September 22, @03:11AM   Printer-friendly
from the not-like-triggers dept.

From AnonTechie:

This summer the insurgent group ISIL captured the Iraqi city of Mosul—and along with it, three army divisions’ worth of U.S.-supplied equipment from the Iraqi army, including Humvees, helicopters, antiaircraft cannons and M1 Abrams tanks. ISIL staged a parade with its new weapons and then deployed them to capture the strategic Mosul Dam from outgunned Kurdish defenders. The U.S. began conducting air strikes and rearming the Kurds to even the score against its own weaponry. As a result, even more weapons have been added to the conflict, and local arms bazaars have reportedly seen an influx of supply.

It is past time that we consider whether we should build in a way to remotely disable such dangerous tools in an emergency. Other technologies, including smartphones, already incorporate this kind of capability. The theft of iPhones plummeted this year after Apple introduced a remote “kill switch,” which a phone’s owner can use to make sure no one else can use his or her lost or stolen phone. If this feature is worth putting in consumer devices, why not embed it in devices that can be so devastatingly repurposed—including against their rightful owners, as at the Mosul Dam?

And from Hugh Pickens:

Jonathan Zittrain writes in Scientific American that when ISIL captured the Iraqi city of Mosul this summer, it also captured three army divisions’ worth of U.S.-supplied equipment from the Iraqi army, including Humvees, helicopters, antiaircraft cannons and M1 Abrams tanks. Zittrain says that it is past time that we consider building in a way to remotely disable such dangerous tools in an emergency. "Other technologies, including smartphones, already incorporate this kind of capability," says Zittrain. "The theft of iPhones plummeted this year after Apple introduced a remote “kill switch,” which a phone’s owner can use to make sure no one else can use his or her lost or stolen phone. If this feature is worth putting in consumer devices, why not embed it in devices that can be so devastatingly repurposed—including against their rightful owners, as at the Mosul Dam?"

At least one foreign policy analyst has suggested incorporating GPS limitations into Stinger surface-to-air missiles to assist the Free Syrian Army in its defenses against air attack while ensuring that the missiles are useless outside that theater of conflict. More simply, any device with onboard electronics, such as a Stinger or a modern tank, could have a timed expiration; the device could operate after the expiration date only if it receives a coded “renew” signal from any of a number of overhead satellites. The renewal would take effect as a matter of course—unless, say, the weapons were stolen. This fail-safe mechanism could be built using basic and well-tested digital signature-and-authentication technologies. One example is the permissive action link devices by which American nuclear weapons are secured so that they can be activated only when specific codes are shared. Another involves the protocols by which military drones are operated remotely and yet increasingly safeguarded against digital hijacking.

Today, however, we are making a conscious choice to create and share medium and heavy weaponry while not restricting its use. This choice has very real impacts. If they can save even one innocent life at the end of a deactivated U.S. barrel, including the lives of our own soldiers, kill switches are worth a serious look.

What do you think? Should there be a kill switch or an activation switch? [Related]:

posted by janrinok on Monday September 22, @12:28AM   Printer-friendly
from the ashamed dept.

Margaret C. Hardy reports that the life sciences have recently come under fire with a study that investigated the level of sexual harassment and sexual assault of trainees in academic fieldwork environments and found that 71% of women and 41% of men respondents experienced sexual harassment, while 26% of women and 6% of men reported experiencing sexual assault. The research team also found that within the hierarchy of academic field sites surveyed, the majority of incidents were perpetrated by peers and supervisors. "More often it is the men of one’s own field team, one’s co-workers, who violate their female colleagues," writes A. Hope Jahren:

There is a fundamental and culturally learned power imbalance between men and women, and it follows us into the workplace. The violence born of this imbalance follows us also. We would like to believe that it stops short of following us into the laboratory and into the field — but it does not. I listen to my colleagues talk endlessly about recruiting more women into STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines, and postulate what the barriers might be. Sexual assault is a pernicious and formidable barrier to women in science, partly because we have consistently gifted to it our silence. I have given it 18 years of my silence and I will not give it one day more.

Many of us work in fields related to this study - what are your experiences?

posted by janrinok on Sunday September 21, @10:21PM   Printer-friendly
from the this-will-take-some-expaining dept.

Many have argued that Carbon taxes are ineffective, and cause economic disruption resulting in unemployment and flight of manufacturing to less regulated jurisdictions, or that it allows carbon emitters to continue to emit merely by raising prices and paying additional taxes.

In 2001, the U.K. government introduced a new carbon tax amounting to 15 percent of a manufacturing plant’s energy bill. This was called the Climate Change Levy (CCL).

The legislation also, included a less onerous option under which plants in certain energy-intensive industries would have that carbon levy tax reduced by 80 percent (to 3%) in return for adopting quasi voluntary agreement to "specific targets" for energy consumption or carbon emissions. This was called a Climate Change Agreement. (CCA).

The CCA legislation was designed specifically to mitigate possible adverse effects of the CCL on the competitiveness of energy intensive industries.

A research team led by Ralf Martin of Imperial College London found far greater reductions in electricity use and carbon dioxide emissions among those that were taxed at the full CCL 15% rate than those to opted into the customized CCA agreement.

This came as something of a surprise because the Agreements were designed to make compliance easier, less arbitrary, and above all, cheaper. However, it appears that the 15% CCL energy bill price signal sent a far stronger message to industry than the more flexible 3% CCA agreement.

Further, when the economic results were tallied, there was no measurable effect in terms of production, industry exits, or employment impacts.

We find robust evidence that the price incentive provided by the CCL led to larger reductions in energy intensity and electricity use than the energy efficiency or consumption targets agreed under the CCA. The tax discount granted to CCA plants has been justified as a means of preventing energy intensive firms from losing competitiveness in international product markets due to the unilateral implementation of the tax and to the lack of international harmonization. Although this has been widely argued, we find no discernible impact on employment, gross output or productivity across groups, and we cannot reject the hypothesis that the CCL had no impact on plant exit.

The rather rigerous full study was published in the Journal of Public Economics, and the full text is available on

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