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What should be the Book Club pick for December 2018?

  • Snow Crash - by Neal Stephenson
  • We Are Legion (We Are Bob) (Bobiverse #1) - by Dennis Taylor
  • Dawn (Xenogenesis #1) - by Octavia Butler
  • The Metropolitan Man (Fan Fiction) - by Alexander Wales
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow (Non-Fiction) - by Daniel Kahneman
  • Superforecasting (Non-Fiction) - by Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Gardner
  • Makers (Fiction) - by Cory Doctorow
  • Rip Foster in Ride the Gray Planet - by Harold L. Goodwin

[ Results | Polls ]
Comments:26 | Votes:53

posted by takyon on Wednesday October 11 2017, @11:38PM   Printer-friendly
from the SoylentNews-buys-Slashdot dept.

Submitted via IRC for SoyCow1937

The Dow Jones newswire accidentally published a fake story about Google buying Apple:

A bombshell appeared on the Dow Jones financial newswire on Tuesday: "Google to buy Apple for $9bn".

But the story, that the acquisition had been suggested in the will of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, was bogus. It was removed after two minutes, though Apple's shares did briefly rise in value. Dow Jones said the news appeared as the result of a "technical error" and should be ignored.

The unintentionally published fake news described the acquisition as "a surprise move to everyone who is alive" and quoted Google employees as saying "Yay". It also stated that Google would move into "Apple's fancy headquarters".

Original Submission

posted by takyon on Wednesday October 11 2017, @10:00PM   Printer-friendly

Submitted via IRC for SoyCow1937

SpaceX will attempt the launch of EchoStar 105/SES-11 at 6:53 PM EDT (10:53 PM UTC). This is SpaceX's second launch attempt in 3 days, following the successful launch of 10 satellites for Iridium on Monday:

It's the third time SpaceX has used one of its landed boosters for a second flight — and if it sticks the landing again, it'll also be the third to have come safely back to Earth for a second time. The first reused Falcon 9 flew in March, with the second one following close behind in June. It's possible we'll see more used rockets fly before the year is out: earlier this year, Musk said the company could fly as many as six used boosters in 2017. Eventually, SpaceX hopes to refly its Falcon 9s much more frequently, by making a landed booster ready to fly again in just 24 hours.

Going up on this flight is a hybrid satellite that will be used by two companies, SES and EchoStar. Called EchoStar 105/SES-11, the satellite will sit in a high orbit 22,000 miles above Earth, providing high-definition broadcasts to the US and other parts of North America. While this is the first time EchoStar is flying a payload on a used Falcon 9, this is familiar territory for SES. The company's SES-10 satellite went up on the first "re-flight" in March. And SES has made it very clear that it is eager to fly its satellites on previously flown boosters.

SpaceX Webcast.

Update: Liftoff was successful and the first stage landed successfully on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

Update 2: EchoStar 105/SES-11 successfully deployed.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday October 11 2017, @09:19PM   Printer-friendly
from the wares-walt dept.

Without checking copyright dates, it was more accurate to describe the Ware Tetralogy as two pairs of books. The compendium begins rather ominously with a family tree and I was concerned that I might have to keep notes of 22 clones or suchlike. Thankfully, this was not the case and it would be easier to describe the story as being centered around one AI researcher and his descendants. However, character names can be quite bizarre. Ralph Numbers is one of the more moderate examples.

The researcher, Cobb Anderson, is a very strong character. From the afterword, it is explained that Cobb Anderson is based upon Rudy Rucker's father. Overall, Rudy Rucker writes exceptionally good father/son or master/apprentice relationships. Despite descriptions to the contrary, I imagined Cobb Anderson and Stan Mooney to be more like the disgraced Walter White and the youthfully impatient Jesse Pinkman from Breaking Bad. This was re-inforced by a particular incident which could have influenced an episode of Breaking Bad.

In addition to write strong relationships, Rudy Rucker writes some of the scariest antagonists. Mr. Frostee is particularly creepy. In the afterword, Rudy Rucker apologises for some of the technical details around Mr. Frostee. No apology is required. The rôle of cults is largely unexplored. Likewise, comic relief is vastly under-used. (Tuthmosis Snooks is particularly under-utilized.)

The Ware Tetralogy forms part of a virtuous circle of science fiction. In addition to the first two books each obtaining the Philip K. Dick Literary Award, the books build upon some of the core ideas from Philip K. Dick and Isaac Asimov. However, it explores placement of self-preservation ahead of subservience in the form of the Three Laws Of Robotics. This leads to an initially inexplicable question of why robots in a ruthlessly Darwinian free-market anarchy would display their internal state so vividly. However, this is all part of a progression of technology and intelligence which progresses over a number of computational substrates.

This is pro-sex, pro-drug trans-humanism. Although, for a mathematician accustomed to abstract thinking, Rudy Rucker writes the most cringeworthy, heteronormative, sex scenes from a cisgender, masculine point-of-view. This is not helped by over-use of "fractal", in particular, when describing pleasure from the increased surface area between two entities which are not on a mammalian substrate. Likewise, one of the many drugs, Merge, is toony enough for it form the basis of a Futurama episode. Thankfully, this is one of Rudy Rucker's more experiemental ideas and it can be ignored without adversely affecting the plot. To get the most from these books, it may be useful to have an understanding of backoff algorithms (such as RFC1191 and TCP Cubic), fractals, Penrose tessellation, cellular automata (and associated use as a computational substrate), Conway Life Gliders, N-dimensional space in the context of Flatland and pop-culture understanding of Lewis Carroll's Adventures In Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass. Of these, the literary references are most beneficial.

Some locations have familiarity: a beach-front hut, a sleazy speak-easy, a grand cavern, a lunar dome and marginal accommodation which could be taken from Total Recall, The Expanse or Babylon5. However, this is vastly preferable to some of the needlessly exotic locations found in an Iain Banks novel, an Eoin Colfer novel or a typical James Bond film.

The structure of each book peaks with one satisfying climax, although, perhaps Book 3 starts slow and finishes fast. It is gripping to the extent that I read Book 1 and 2 in one sitting and was unable to progress significantly into Book 3 due to the exhaustion of reading more than 100,000 words. Book 1 and 3 gain from perculation of the most original ideas but I would happily read another two books which only followed the existing characters and did not introduce further characters or concepts.

Whereas Vernor Vinge's bobbling is explained with some hand-waving about Walsh functions, Rudy Rucker's work has a more rigorous grounding in Penrose tessellation and this is used repeatedly for various plot elements. Although many regarded this a science-fiction fantasy, the subsequent discovery of quasi-crystals gave additional interest and weight to the work. The Ware Tetralogy is of general interest to anyone seeking background considerations about smart structures, IoT, robotics, artificial intelligence and/or sentience. However, Rudy Rucker's direct experience of computers was extremely limited when he began and therefore it should be read mostly in the context of widely disseminated ideas in the popular consciousness.

The Ware Tetralogy with SHA512 of 8a7c87845e207b13a34e8d265f94bdaa6e72242280c356b8bd71ea8e91c78e18f85462eb40b6c8ad36cfc752fe83c52ebf6b8ba469347bd1cd94605b1d966353 is available under a restrictive Creative Commons licence which, under the circumstances of commercial fiction, is extremely generous.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday October 11 2017, @07:44PM   Printer-friendly
from the not-available-for-home-use dept.

A new, low-cost telescope attachment has been developed that will allow astronomers with ground-based telescopes to observe exoplanets with a similar resolution usually reserved for space-bourne telescopes in orbit.

The attachment, which was created by Penn State astronomers, in close collaboration with the nanofabrication labs at RPC Photonics in New York, spreads incoming light across an image with a carefully structured micro-optic device to minimise distortions from the Earth's atmosphere.

This device is known as a diffuser, or a "beam-shaping diffuser" to be more precise and this adaptable and affordable small piece of glass can be easily shaped to mount onto a variety of telescopes.

"This inexpensive technology delivers high photometric precision in observations of exoplanets as they transit – cross in front of – the bright stars that they orbit," said Gudmundur Stefansson, graduate student at Penn State, NASA Earth and Space Science Fellow, and lead author of a recently published paper that describes the diffusers. "This technology is especially relevant considering the impending launch of NASA's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) early in 2018. It is up to ground-based facilities to rapidly and reliably follow-up on candidate planets that are identified by TESS."

The diffuser has already been tested on the 0.6 metre Hale telescope at Palomar Observatory in California, and in all cases the images produced with the new technology maintained a relatively consistent size, shape, and intensity, compared with those using conventional methods, which have a tendency to fluctuate in size and intensity.

Toward Space-like Photometric Precision from the Ground with Beam-shaping Diffusers (DOI: 10.3847/1538-4357/aa88aa) (DX).

Original Penn State press release.

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Wednesday October 11 2017, @06:05PM   Printer-friendly
from the took-way-too-long dept.

"A Utah police officer [Jeff Payne] who was caught on video roughly handcuffing a nurse because she refused to allow a blood draw was fired Tuesday in a case that became a flashpoint in the ongoing national conversation about police use of force."

Salt Lake City Police Chief Mike Brown made the decision after an internal investigation found evidence Detective Jeff Payne violated department policies when he arrested nurse Alex Wubbels and dragged her out of the hospital as she screamed on July 26, said Sgt. Brandon Shearer, a spokesman for the department.

Attorney Greg Skordas has said Payne served the department well for nearly three decades and questioned whether his behavior warranted termination. He couldn't immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.

Click here to read the entire story

Utah cop fired after arresting nurse who wouldn't draw blood
Some videos on youtube
Utah officer wants to apologize for nurse's controversial arrest

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday October 11 2017, @04:41PM   Printer-friendly
from the better-sell-screwdrivers-also dept.

Ikea will start experimenting with selling its famous flatpack furniture through online retailers as part of a wider push to become more accessible to shoppers.

The Swedish chain - known for its vast edge-of-town outlets - is also testing a smaller city centre store format.

Other innovations include order and pick-up points and standalone kitchen showrooms.

The moves are a response to changing shopping patterns.

Ikea has has not said which websites will be part of the test, but Amazon and Alibaba are thought to be likely contenders.

The chain sells many of its 9,500 products on its own website, but was a late arrival to the online retail market.

Waiting on an endless line at the checkout is the best part about buying Ikea's goods.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday October 11 2017, @03:08PM   Printer-friendly
from the playing-taps dept.

Windows Phone will not receive new features, and there will be no new Windows Phone hardware. The initial release was on October 21, 2010:

During the weekend, Microsoft's Joe Belfiore tweeted confirmation of something that has been suspected for many months: Microsoft is no longer developing new features or new hardware for Windows Mobile. Existing supported phones will receive bug fixes and security updates, but the platform is essentially now in maintenance mode.

Microsoft's difficulties in the mobile market are no secret, but for a time the company looked as if it was keeping Windows Mobile as a going concern regardless. Through 2016, Microsoft produced new builds for the Windows Insider program and added new features to Windows Mobile. At around the time of release of the Windows 10 Creators Update in April this year, that development largely ground to a halt. Windows Mobile, which already lacked certain features that were delivered to Windows on the PC, had its development forked. PC Windows development continued on the "Redstone 3" branch (which will culminate in the release of the Fall Creators Update later this month); Windows Mobile languished on a branch named "feature2."

[...] We might well wonder why Microsoft didn't say so sooner and instead strung along not only the platform's fans but even OEM partners; it's hard to imagine that HP would have built its Elite x3 phone had Microsoft been clearer about mobile.

Even with this announcement, there's still speculation that Microsoft is going to bring out a new device—something phone-like but not a phone—that'll compete, somehow, in the mobile space. For all the rumors about a "Surface Phone," though, it's unclear precisely what this device would do that is meaningfully different from anything else on the market or if it will be compelling enough to reverse the company's mobile fortunes. For now, all we can do is mourn: the best mobile platform isn't under active development any more, and the prospects of new hardware to run it on are slim to non-existent.

They should release an app that runs full Windows on an external display when an Android smartphone is docked. Put those 8-10 cores to good use.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday October 11 2017, @01:35PM   Printer-friendly
from the don't-make-them-100-pages-long dept.

The key to turning privacy notices into something useful for consumers is to rethink their purpose. A company's policy might show compliance with the regulations the firm is bound to follow, but remains impenetrable to a regular reader.

The starting point for developing consumer-friendly privacy notices is to make them relevant to the user's activity, understandable and actionable. As part of the Usable Privacy Policy Project, my colleagues and I developed a way to make privacy notices more effective.

The first principle is to break up the documents into smaller chunks and deliver them at times that are appropriate for users. Right now, a single multi-page policy might have many sections and paragraphs, each relevant to different services and activities. Yet people who are just casually browsing a website need only a little bit of information about how the site handles their IP addresses, if what they look at is shared with advertisers and if they can opt out of interest-based ads. Those people doesn't[sic] need to know about many other things listed in all-encompassing policies, like the rules associated with subscribing to the site's email newsletter, nor how the site handles personal or financial information belonging to people who make purchases or donations on the site.

When a person does decide to sign up for email updates or pay for a service through the site, then an additional short privacy notice could tell her the additional information she needs to know. These shorter documents should also offer users meaningful choices about what they want a company to do – or not do – with their data. For instance, a new subscriber might be allowed to choose whether the company can share his email address or other contact information with outside marketing companies by clicking a check box.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday October 11 2017, @12:02PM   Printer-friendly
from the popping-balloons dept.

"Our results show that the so-called 'frequency doubled' laser pointers, usually green, blue and violet pointers, can be particularly dangerous even if they seem safe to the user," he said.

"For example, some laser pointers can output widely different laser power depending on the temperature. They can appear perfectly safe at room temperature only to become much more dangerous outside and vice-versa. Moreover, as pointers are being used they heat up, so a pointer that initially seems safe can subsequently become highly powerful and dangerous.

"Other lasers can produce safe levels of coloured light, but at the same time emit high power invisible infrared light. A person looking at the visible green light would estimate the laser to be safe and the much greater power and danger would go unnoticed until injury occurs."

Laser pointers have been controversial, in particular because they have been shined into the eyes of plane and helicopter pilots and train drivers, with an average of 1,500 reported attacks per year in the UK. They can cause permanent or temporary eye damage, and it is a criminal offence to do so.

If they're so dangerous, why are they putting them in the headlights for all the new cars?

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday October 11 2017, @10:38AM   Printer-friendly
from the ransomware dept.

A computer virus has infected the cockpits of America's Predator and Reaper drones, logging pilots' every keystroke as they remotely fly missions over Afghanistan and other war zones.

The virus, first detected nearly two weeks ago by the military's Host-Based Security System, has not prevented pilots at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada from flying their missions overseas. Nor have there been any confirmed incidents of classified information being lost or sent to an outside source. But the virus has resisted multiple efforts to remove it from Creech's computers, network security specialists say. And the infection underscores the ongoing security risks in what has become the US military's most important weapons system.

"We keep wiping it off, and it keeps coming back," says a source familiar with the network infection, one of three that told Danger Room about the virus. "We think it's benign. But we just don't know."

The NSA was too busy reading your little sister's diary to fix it.

Original Submission

posted by Fnord666 on Wednesday October 11 2017, @08:56AM   Printer-friendly
from the tighten-the-noose dept.

A U.S. Senator is seeking to close the patent loophole used by the pharmaceutical company Allergan:

Allergan's move to stop its patents from being reviewed by handing them off to a Native American tribe is winning support from few people outside the drug company. Now one lawmaker is seeking to ban it.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) has introduced a bill (PDF) that would head off Allergan's strategy without waiting to see whether the judges at the Patent Trial and Appeals Board will even approve it. "This is one of the most brazen and absurd loopholes I've ever seen, and it should be illegal," McCaskill said last week in a statement to a pharmaceutical lobby group.

The Native American patent shelter, promoted by Allergan's outside law firm, seeks to avoid the process of "inter partes review," or IPR, for the patents protecting the blockbuster drug Restasis. The IPR process is a kind of quasi-litigation that takes place at the Patent Trial and Appeals Board for the sole purpose of determining whether a patent is valid or not. Now that the Restasis patents are owned by the St. Regis Mohawk tribe and licensed back to Allergan, the drug company's lawyers have asked for an impending IPR to be dismissed. The tribe argues that it's protected from IPRs by "sovereign immunity."

Previously: Allergan Pulls a Fast One
Congress Will Investigate Drug Company That Gave Its Patents to Mohawk Tribe

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Wednesday October 11 2017, @07:23AM   Printer-friendly
from the tebow-satellite-had-nothing dept.

Baryonic (normal) matter has been found to be denser in the space between galaxies (the intergalactic medium) than previously thought. The observations are said to account for the missing baryonic matter expected to exist in the universe:

The missing links between galaxies have finally been found. This is the first detection of the roughly half of the normal matter in our universe – protons, neutrons and electrons – unaccounted for by previous observations of stars, galaxies and other bright objects in space.

You have probably heard about the hunt for dark matter, a mysterious substance thought to permeate the universe, the effects of which we can see through its gravitational pull. But our models of the universe also say there should be about twice as much ordinary matter out there, compared with what we have observed so far.

Two separate teams found the missing matter – made of particles called baryons rather than dark matter – linking galaxies together through filaments of hot, diffuse gas.

"The missing baryon problem is solved," says Hideki Tanimura at the Institute of Space Astrophysics in Orsay, France, leader of one of the groups. The other team was led by Anna de Graaff at the University of Edinburgh, UK.

Because the gas is so tenuous and not quite hot enough for X-ray telescopes to pick up, nobody had been able to see it before.

A Search for Warm/Hot Gas Filaments Between Pairs of SDSS Luminous Red Galaxies

Missing baryons in the cosmic web revealed by the Sunyaev-Zel'dovich effect

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Wednesday October 11 2017, @05:45AM   Printer-friendly

As a warming world moves from fossil fuels toward renewable solar and wind energy, industrial forecasts predict an insatiable need for battery farms to store power and provide electricity when the sky is dark and the air is still. Against that backdrop, Stanford researchers have developed a sodium-based battery that can store the same amount of energy as a state-of-the-art lithium ion, at substantially lower cost.

Chemical engineer Zhenan Bao and her faculty collaborators, materials scientists Yi Cui and William Chueh, aren't the first researchers to design a sodium ion battery. But they believe the approach they describe in an Oct. 9 Nature Energy paper has the price and performance characteristics to create a sodium ion battery costing less than 80 percent of a lithium ion battery with the same storage capacity.

"Nothing may ever surpass lithium in performance," Bao said. "But lithium is so rare and costly that we need to develop high-performance but low-cost batteries based on abundant elements like sodium."

With materials constituting about one-quarter of a battery's price, the cost of lithium – about $15,000 a ton to mine and refine – looms large. That's why the Stanford team is basing its battery on widely available sodium-based electrode material that costs just $150 a ton.

Sodium batteries taste better, too.

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Wednesday October 11 2017, @04:00AM   Printer-friendly
from the how-many-do-you-need dept.

Seagate has launched three new 12 TB helium-filled hard disk drives containing eight perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR) platters:

These are not the first 12TB drives in the market, as enterprise versions from both Seagate and Western Digital have been around for some time. However, Seagate is the first vendor to bring down the prices and ship 12TB drives in the consumer market.

From a hardware viewpoint, the three drives are similar to the Seagate Enterprise Capacity v7 drives launched in March 2017. All of them features eight PMR platters with a 923 Gb/in2 areal density in a sealed enclosure filled with helium. That said, the Barracuda Pro Compute, meant for desktop use, doesn't come with rotational vibration (RV) sensors or dual-plane motor balancing hardware. The RV sensors and the dual-plane balance / AgileArray features enable reliable performance in multi-drive enclosures. The other important differentiation aspects include firmware features, warranty / workload ratings, and value-added services like the Seagate Rescue Data Recovery.

Two of the drives come with 5 year warranties.

Previously: HGST Announces 10 Terabyte PMR Hard Drive
AnandTech Interview With Seagate's CTO: New HDD Technologies Coming
Seagate's 12 TB HDDs Are in Use, and 16 TB is Planned for 2018
Western Digital Begins Shipping 12 TB Helium-Filled Drives with 8 Platters
Seagate HAMR Hard Drives Coming in a Year and a Half
Glass Substrate Could Enable Hard Drives With 12 Platters

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Wednesday October 11 2017, @02:22AM   Printer-friendly
from the bugged dept.

A homeowner in Longboat Key, Florida has been accused of secretly recording Airbnb guests with a camera hidden in a smoke alarm:

A tiny black dot on the Longboat Key bedroom smoke detector was enough to alert an Indiana couple that something was wrong. Sure enough, when the couple got a closer look, what appeared to be a smoke detector was actually a camera pointing directly at the bed, according to ABC Action News.

Derek Starnes, in a call to ABC Action News, said he and his wife were "freaked out" by the incident. Starnes explained he saw a black hole on the smoke detector and took it down. That's when he found a camera recording onto an SD card and called the police. [...] "We seized a lot of computer storage data devices, hard drives, computers, laptops SD cards anything that would store data," Lt. Bob Bourque told ABC Action News. "We don't know if there are local victims someone who may have been dating him or a companion that doesn't realize they are being videotaped, and then we have the other side of who he rented to through Airbnb."

[...] [The homeowner Wayne] Natt told police in a statement that it was for sex parties he hosted at the home, ABC Action News reported. Natt told police the cameras were for his personal use and not on when guests are in the home, but police told WFLA the cameras can be operated remotely. Police also found several videos, including one of the Indiana couple. "He says that everyone videoed had knowledge he was videoing them," Bourque told ABC Action News. What we said to that was... if people are consenting to recording sexual activity why is it hidden in a smoke alarm? He said it was for recording sexual activity."

Bourque told reporters Natt's Airbnb account has been active for two years.

Also at Ars Technica, WFLA, and ABC Action News with a 2:13 autoplaying safe for work video.

Original Submission

posted by mrpg on Wednesday October 11 2017, @12:40AM   Printer-friendly
from the swipe-card-here dept.

A Washington, D.C. city councilmember has introduced a bill that would decriminalize prostitution:

D.C. Councilmember David Grosso is behind a bill that would decriminalize prostitution, arguing it's in keeping with his advocacy for human rights and marginalized communities. "We basically criminalize too many activities," Grosso argued in a recent news conference. "It is time for the District of Columbia to reconsider the framework in which we handle commercial sex work, and move from one of criminalization to a focus on human rights, health and safety."

Grosso says he worked with the Sex Worker Advocates Coalition, and followed recommendations from a variety of human rights organizations from around the world as he drafted the bill. "The bill is quite simple, really," argues Grosso. "It repeals a number of laws or parts of laws that criminalize adults for exchanging consensual sex for money or other things of value." "By removing criminal penalties for those in the sex trade, we can bring people out of the shadows, help them lead safer and healthier lives, and more easily tackle the complaints we hear from communities about trash or other nuisances."

If passed, D.C. would become the only city in the U.S. to decriminalize prostitution:

While prostitution has been legal in some parts of Nevada in the form of brothels for more than a century, what's often called "the world's oldest profession" remains criminalized in the rest of the United States. An effort to decriminalize prostitution via referendum in San Francisco failed in 2008, after heavy criticism from city officials at the time. Kamala Harris, then the city's district attorney and now a rising star senator, said the measure "would put a welcome mat out for pimps and prostitutes to come on into San Francisco."

But in the near decade since then, there's been a shift in perspective alongside a growing international movement further popularizing the policy change that sheds stigma in favor of pragmatism. The idea is that if sex workers don't fear arrest, they'll be able to access healthcare and other services. One 2014 study from The Lancet found that decriminalizing sex work could "have the largest effect on the course of the H.I.V. epidemic."

Reducing Criminalization to Improve Community Health & Safety Amendment Act of 2017

Also at Reason. Grosso press release at Scribd. HIPS.

Original Submission