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Updated: 2015-05-11

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The First Draft of the SN manifesto is available

The finalists for the 2015 Hugo Awards were announced on April 4, 2015. Who deserves the prize for Best Novel?

  • Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit US/Orbit UK)
  • The Dark Between the Stars, Kevin J. Anderson (Tor Books)
  • The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette) (Tor Books)
  • Skin Game, Jim Butcher (Orbit UK/Roc Books)
  • The Three Body Problem, Cixin Liu, Ken Liu translator (Tor Books)
  • I can't read, you insenstive clod!

[ Results | Polls ]
Comments:8 | Votes:47

posted by CoolHand on Monday May 25, @06:03PM   Printer-friendly
from the where-the-f-is-our-jetpacks dept.

Yes. Back to the Future: Sclog reports that a Hoverboard, ridden by Canadian inventor of Romanian descent Catalin Alexandru Duru, has broken the Guinness book of records record and delivers realistic performance targets!

Seriously, it looks like this is the equivalent of the Wright Brothers flight!

From the Guiness article:

Catalin reaches a height of 5 metres on his prototype hoverboard covering a distance of over twice that of two full sized football pitches before gently landing in the exquisite waters of Lake Ouareau in Quebec, Canada. He claims that the machine, which he built and designed over the course of 12 months, can be used anywhere and can reach 'scary heights' which he would like to potentially explore in the near future.

posted by CoolHand on Monday May 25, @03:49PM   Printer-friendly
from the soviet-russia-ngo's-you dept.

Multiple news outlets have reported that Russia has passed a law allowing Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to be banned if undesirable.

According to the story on Euronews:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a bill which will allow foreign organisations to be banned from operating in the country.

The new law will give authorities the right to prosecute non-governmental organisations if considered "undesirable" or a threat to national security.

From the CNN story:

Tanya Lokshina, Russia program director for Human Rights Watch, said the new law had "the potential to severely damage our work in Russia," and was a cause for grave concern for all international groups operating in the country.

Nevertheless, she said she did not believe the law was aimed at international organizations like hers. Instead, she said, it was aimed at Russians who might cooperate with, or support, international organizations.

NGOs are not always beloved around the world and have been accused of doing more harm than good. What is the correct role for NGOs in the world?

posted by martyb on Monday May 25, @01:42PM   Printer-friendly
from the venn-diagrams-are-your-friend dept.

Karl Popper came up with the idea in the 1930's that scientists should attempt to falsify their hypotheses rather than to verify them. The basic reasoning is that while you cannot prove a hypothesis to be true by finding a number of different confirming instances (though confirming instances do make you more confident in the truth), you can prove a hypothesis to be false by finding one valid counter-example.

Now Orin Thomas writes at WindowsITPro that you’ve probably diagnosed hundreds, if not thousands, of technical problems in your career and Popper's insights can serve as a valuable guide to avoid a couple of hours chasing solutions that turn out to be an incorrect answer. According to Thomas when troubleshooting a technical problem many of us “race ahead” and use our intuition to reach a hypothesis as to a possible cause before we’ve had time to assess the available body of evidence. "When we use our intuition to solve a problem, we look for things that confirm the conclusion. If we find something that confirms that conclusion, we become even more certain of that conclusion. Most people also unconsciously ignore obvious data that would disprove their incorrect hypothesis because the first reaction to a conclusion reached at through intuition is to try and confirm it rather than refute it."

Thomas says that the idea behind using a falsificationist method is to treat your initial conclusions about a complex troubleshooting problem as untrustworthy and rather than look for something to confirm what you think might have happened, try to figure out what evidence would disprove that conclusion. "Trying to disprove your conclusions may not give you the correct answer right away, but at least you won’t spend a couple of hours chasing what turns out to be an incorrect answer."

posted by martyb on Monday May 25, @11:48AM   Printer-friendly
from the Aisle-B-Seeing-You dept.

French shoppers have become the first to experience a new LED lighting system that sends special offers and location data to their smartphones.

The technology was designed by Philips and has been installed at a Carrefour supermarket in Lille.

It transmits codes via light waves, which are undetectable to the eye but can be picked up by a phone camera.

The innovation offers an alternative to Bluetooth-based "beacons", which are being installed by many retailers.

[...]Carrefour is using the location data to trigger aisle-specific special offers. If users open a compatible app and let their smartphone camera look upwards, this can be used to determine their location - accurate to up to 1m - and the direction they are facing.

posted by martyb on Monday May 25, @09:57AM   Printer-friendly
from the changed-research-climate-changes-climate-research dept.

Scientists used the Medea program to study how global warming could worsen conflict. Now that project has come to an end.

Some national security experts were surprised to learn that an important component of that effort has been ended. A CIA spokesperson confirmed to Climate Desk that the agency is shuttering its main climate research program. Under the program, known as Medea, the CIA had allowed civilian scientists to access classified data—such as ocean temperature and tidal readings gathered by Navy submarines and topography data collected by spy satellites—in an effort to glean insights about how global warming could create security threats around the world.In theory, the program benefited both sides: Scientists could study environmental data that was much higher-resolution than they would normally have access to, and the CIA received research insights about climate-related threats.

[Medea: Measurements of Earth Data for Environmental Analysis. - Ed]

posted by martyb on Monday May 25, @07:44AM   Printer-friendly
from the double-double-toil-and-trouble-fire-burn-and-market-bubble dept.

Conor Dougherty writes in the NYT that the tech industry’s venture capitalists — the financiers who bet on companies when they are little more than an idea — are going out of their way to avoid the one word that could describe what is happening around them: Bubble “I guess it is a scary word because in some sense no one wants it to stop,” says Tomasz Tunguz. “And so if you utter it, do you pop it?”

In 2000, tech stocks crashed, venture capital dried up and many young companies were vaporized. Today, people see shades of 2000 in the enormous valuations assigned to private companies like Uber, with a valuation of $41 billion, and Slack, the corporate messaging service that is about a year old and valued at $2.8 billion in its latest funding round.

A few years ago private companies worth more than $1 billion were rare enough that venture capitalists called them “unicorns.” Today, there are 107 unicorns and while nobody doubts that many of tech’s unicorns are indeed real businesses, valuations are inflating, leading some people to worry that investment decisions are being guided by something venture capitalists call FOMO — the fear of missing out.

With interest rates at historic lows, excess capital causes investment bubbles. The result is too much money chasing too few great deals. Unfortunately, overcapitalizing startups with easy money results in superfluous spending and dangerously high burn rates and investors are happy to admit that this torrid pace of investment has started to worry them. “Do I think companies are overvalued as a whole? No,” says Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator. “Do I think too much money can kill good companies? Yes. And that is an important difference.”

posted by martyb on Monday May 25, @05:23AM   Printer-friendly
from the molding-public-opinion-or-providing-balance? dept.

The BBC reports:

Intervention by police within the first 24 hours of a terrorist event could be key to halting the spread of cyber-hate, a new study has found.

Cardiff University researchers found online hate in the aftermath of the murder of Lee Rigby peaked in the first 24 hours then declined sharply.

The research is being published in the British Journal of Criminology on the second anniversary of his murder near Woolwich Barracks in London.

They found tweets from police and media were about five times more likely to be retweeted compared with tweets from other users following the attack.

[...] During the study, social and computer scientists at the university focused on the production and spread of racial and religious cyberhate and the Twitter battle between police and far-right political groups in the first 36 hours following the attack.

[...] Dr Matthew Williams said: "We concluded that cyber-hate has a 'half-life' following crime events of national interest.

"The sharp de-escalation of hate can be explained by post-event media and police Twitter messages that have a defusing effect and counter-speech from everyday Twitter users that challenge abusers."

Dr Pete Burnap said: "The ability to observe a large portion of the population in near real-time via social media networks provides those responsible for ensuring the safety of the public a new window onto mass social reaction."

posted by martyb on Monday May 25, @03:11AM   Printer-friendly
from the so-far dept.

A remote galaxy shining with the light of more than 300 trillion suns has been discovered using data from NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE). The galaxy is the most luminous galaxy found to date and belongs to a new class of objects recently discovered by WISE -- extremely luminous infrared galaxies, or ELIRGs.

"We are looking at a very intense phase of galaxy evolution," said Chao-Wei Tsai of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, lead author of a new report appearing in the May 22 issue of The Astrophysical Journal. "This dazzling light may be from the main growth spurt of the galaxy's black hole."

The brilliant galaxy, known as WISE J224607.57-052635.0, may have a behemoth black hole at its belly, gorging itself on gas. Supermassive black holes draw gas and matter into a disk around them, heating the disk to roaring temperatures of millions of degrees and blasting out high-energy, visible, ultraviolet, and X-ray light. The light is blocked by surrounding cocoons of dust. As the dust heats up, it radiates infrared light.

Immense black holes are common at the cores of galaxies, but finding one this big so "far back" in the cosmos is rare. Because light from the galaxy hosting the black hole has traveled 12.5 billion years to reach us, astronomers are seeing the object as it was in the distant past. The black hole was already billions of times the mass of our sun when our universe was only a tenth of its present age of 13.8 billion years.

The new study outlines three reasons why the black holes in the ELIRGs could have grown so massive. First, they may have been born big. In other words, the "seeds," or embryonic black holes, might be bigger than thought possible.

"How do you get an elephant?" asked Peter Eisenhardt, project scientist for WISE at JPL and a co-author on the paper. "One way is start with a baby elephant."


posted by martyb on Monday May 25, @12:51AM   Printer-friendly
from the draw-graph-and-then-plot-points dept.

Bloomberg reports:

The way some parts of U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) are calculated are about to change in the wake of the debate over persistently depressed first-quarter growth.

In a blog post published Friday, the Bureau of Economic Analysis listed a series of alterations it will make in seasonally adjusting data used to calculate economic growth. The changes will be implemented with the release of the initial second-quarter GDP estimate on July 30, the BEA said.

Although the agency adjusts its figures for seasonal variations, growth in any given first quarter still tends to be weaker than in the remaining three, economists have found, a sign there may be some bias in the data. It's a phenomenon economists call "residual seasonality."

ZeroHedge reports:

In other words, as of July 30, the Q1 GDP which will have seen its final print at -1% or worse, will be revised to roughly +1.8%, just to give the Fed the "credibility" to proceed with a September rate hike which means we can now safely assume not even the Fed will launch a "hiking cycle" at a time when the first half GDP will print negative (assuming the Atlanta Fed's 0.7% Q2 GDP estimate is even modestly accurate).

Will abnormally "good" data be revised lower, or whether labor market data, which is already manipulated beyond comparison by the BLS will also be adjusted due to "residual seasonality"? Don't hold your breath.

posted by martyb on Sunday May 24, @10:37PM   Printer-friendly
from the game-over dept.

John Nash, the mathematician credited with foundational work in the field of game theory, has died. The 86-year old and his wife Alicia were passengers in a taxi when the driver lost control of the vehicle on the New Jersey Turnpike, killing both. Apparently neither Nash nor his wife were wearing seat belts, since both were ejected from the car after it slammed into a guard rail, according to NJ state police.

Nash struggled with paranoid schizophrenia throughout his adult life, and was admitted to psychiatric hospitals multiple times. The tragedy of a great mathematician battling such an unpredictable ailment was profiled in Sylvia Nasar's book "A Beautiful Mind", which was made into a rather fanciful Hollywood movie by Ron Howard, starring Russell Crowe as Nash. Nash was amused by the film.

As depicted in the film, Alicia Nash met her husband when she was a student at MIT enrolled in Nash's advanced calculus class (in the film, Prof. Nash is given the assignment to teach the class as he enters the classroom building; Nash's first move was to dump the 'Calculus of Several Variables' textbook he has been handed into the waste basket). They married in 1957. Alicia Nash filed for divorce a few years later, but continued to care for Prof. Nash for decades; they remarried in 2001.

posted by martyb on Sunday May 24, @08:25PM   Printer-friendly
from the pay-up dept.

We love to talk about crime in America and usually the rhetoric is focused on the acts we can see: bank heists, stolen bicycles and cars, alleyway robberies. But Zachary Crockett writes at Pricenomics that wage theft is one of the more widespread crimes in our country today - the non-payment of overtime hours, the failure to give workers a final check upon leaving a job, paying a worker less than minimum wage, or, most flagrantly, just flat out not paying a worker at all.

Most commonly, wage theft comes in the form of overtime violations. In a 2008 study, the Center for Urban Economic Development surveyed 4,387 workers in low-wage industries and found that some 76% of full-time workers were not paid the legally required overtime rate by their employers (pdf) and the average worker with a violation had put in 11 hours of overtime—hours that were either underpaid or not paid at all. Nearly a quarter of the workers in the sample came in early and/or stayed late after their shift during the previous work week. Of these workers, 70 percent did not receive any pay at all for the work they performed outside of their regular shift. In total, unfairly withheld wages in these three cities topped $3 billion. Generalizing this for the rest of the U.S.’s low-wage workforce (some 30 million people), researchers estimate that wage theft could be costing Americans upwards of $50 billion per year.

Last year, the Economic Policy Institute made what is, to date, the most ambitious attempt to quantify the extent of reported wage theft in the U.S.and determined that “the total amount of money recovered for the victims of wage theft who retained private lawyers or complained to federal or state agencies was at least $933 million.” Obviously, the nearly $1 billion collected is only the tip of the wage-theft iceberg, since most victims never sue and never complain to the government. Commissioner Su of California says wage theft has harmed not just low-wage workers. “My agency has found more wages being stolen from workers in California than any time in history,” says Su. “This has spread to multiple industries across many sectors. It’s affected not just minimum-wage workers, but also middle-class workers.”

posted by martyb on Sunday May 24, @06:17PM   Printer-friendly
from the cool-use-of-hot-tech dept.

BBC News has an article about "nerd power" in the form of heat from datacenters being harnessed to warm homes and businesses:

Ask Jerry van Waardhuizen about his new radiator and you get an excited response. "I'm very enthusiastic," he says. "It's a beautiful thing." The sleek white box, which has been hugging his wall for two weeks, looks nice enough as radiators go. But what's really got Waardhuizen excited is what's going on inside.

Instead of hot water, it contains a computer connected to the internet, doing big sums and kicking out heat in the process. It was created by a Dutch start-up called Nerdalize, and could be part of a solution to a big problem for the tech industry.

We talk about data being "virtual" and stored on a "cloud". In fact, those clouds take the form of very large, noisy data centres containing tens of thousands of servers. To prevent the server stacks overheating, tech companies spend vast sums on cooling technology - more than a third of a data centre's hefty energy bill may go on air conditioning. With data centres estimated to account for 1.5% of global electricity consumption (in 2010), this wastage is costly to businesses and to the environment too.

Nerdalize's solution is, effectively, to spread their data centre across domestic homes linked by fibre-optic cable. The excess heat can then be used instead of going to waste.

The radiators take a little longer than average to heat up - about an hour, Waardhuizen says - and a single unit won't be enough to heat a room in mid-winter. But, after a small set-up fee, the heat is completely free to users. Nerdalize gets its money for providing data services. During this year-long pilot, its clients include Leiden University Medical Centre, which uses the radiators to crunch through lengthy protein and gene analysis.

Mentioned are Nerdalize, a 2011 paper by Microsoft Research and the University of Virginia (pdf), Facebook's Lulea, Sweden datacenter, Bahnhof, Iceotope, and the Westin Building sharing heat with Amazon's headquarters in Seattle.

posted by martyb on Sunday May 24, @04:12PM   Printer-friendly
from the price-of-sunlight-and-wind-is-pretty-constant dept.

Over the last 5 years, the price of new wind power in the US has dropped 58% and the price of new solar power has dropped 78%. Utility-scale solar in the West and Southwest is now at times cheaper than new natural gas plants. Even after removing the federal solar Investment Tax Credit of 30%, a recent New Mexico solar deal is priced at 6 cents / kwh. By contrast, new natural gas electricity plants have costs between 6.4 to 9 cents per kwh, according to the EIA.

posted by n1 on Sunday May 24, @02:06PM   Printer-friendly
from the unedited-perspectives dept.

Myself and other submitters have noticed that articles are being edited to change the tone and intent of our stories.

Soylentil McD has suggested that "Minor edits, spelling corrections, and such, are no problem and to be expected." but "I think soylent editors should adhere to a policy of not putting words in the submitter's mouth".

I agree with that. If the editors want to add their own two cents, they can respond inline like the rest of us. Their role here is to be responsible, not privileged.

The stories we submit are a reflection of our enthusiasms and beliefs, the tone and character of those posts is as much part of the submitter's story as the actual content. The community is what makes sites like SN and Slashdot before it, an eclectic community with a wide range of opinions, styles and passions will always be more active and interesting than a bland monoculture. SN's editors should embrace and encourage that diversity, not sabotage it to appease some corporate interests.

So what do other Soylentils think? Should the submissions be allowed to stand as a clear reflection of the community's intent, or should the editors change our submissions to suit their perception of suitability?

posted by n1 on Sunday May 24, @12:20PM   Printer-friendly
from the RTFA dept.

When we hear the word "multiculturalism," some imagine people of all races and creeds holding hands, others imagine a clash of disparate cultures that cannot co-exist. There are many more nuanced definitions in between.

In the world of mainstream politics, there is now widespread acknowledgment that the failure of immigrants to properly integrate into the culture of their host nations is causing a lot more harm that good. The backlash against multiculturalism has begun to manifest itself as a rise of nationalist parties such as England's UKIP and France's National Front gaining more support from disillusioned countrymen.

In 2010 German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared that,

" This [multicultural] approach has failed, utterly failed," Merkel told the meeting in Potsdam, west of Berlin, yesterday. "

Merkel also suggested that the onus was on immigrants to do more to integrate into German society, and late last year the European Court of Justice ruled that EU citizens who move to another member state "solely in order to obtain social assistance" may be excluded from receiving that assistance, an acknowledgement that multiculturalism's side effects are causing more harm than good.

Those interested in this topic should read Foreign Affairs' excellent article The Failure of Multiculturalism.

As a political tool, multiculturalism has functioned as not merely a response to diversity but also a means of constraining it. And that insight reveals a paradox. Multicultural policies accept as a given that societies are diverse, yet they implicitly assume that such diversity ends at the edges of minority communities. They seek to institutionalize diversity by putting people into ethnic and cultural boxes—into a singular, homogeneous Muslim community, for example—and defining their needs and rights accordingly. Such policies, in other words, have helped create the very divisions they were meant to manage.

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