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Walter Munk's Astonishing Wave-Tracking Experiment

Slashdot - Mon, 14/07/2014 - 07:03
An anonymous reader writes in with a look at a scientists interesting wave-tracking experiment and the incredible journeys that waves make. His name is Walter Munk, now in his 90s and a professor emeritus at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California. About 60 years ago, he was anchored off Guadalupe Island, on Mexico's west coast, watching swells come in, and using an equation that he and others had devised to plot a wave's trajectory backward in time, he plotted the probable origins of those swells. But the answer he got was so startling, so over-the-top improbable, that he thought, "No, there must be something wrong." His equations said that the swells hitting beaches In Mexico began some 9,000 miles away — somewhere in the southern reaches of the Indian Ocean, near Antarctica. "Could it be?" he wrote in an autobiographical sketch. Could a storm half way across the world produce a patch of moving water that traveled from near the South Pole, up past Australia, then past New Zealand, then across the vast expanse of the Pacific, arriving still intact – at a beach off Mexico? He decided to find out for himself. That is why, in 1957, Walter Munk designed a global, real life, wave-watching experiment.

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Predicting a Future Free of Dollar Bills

Slashdot - Mon, 14/07/2014 - 00:53
An anonymous reader writes with this story about how a cashless society might work and how far-off in the future it is. "...We're not there yet, but a cashless society is not as fanciful as it seems. Recent research suggests that many believe we will stop using notes and coins altogether in the not-too-distant future. New payments technologies are rapidly transforming our lives. Today in the U.S., 66 percent of all point-of-sale transactions are done with plastic, while in the U.K. it's just under half. But while a truly cashless society is some time away yet, there is raft of groundbreaking technologies that will make cash a mere supporting act in the near future."

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Public To Vote On Names For Exoplanets

Slashdot - Sun, 13/07/2014 - 23:39
An anonymous reader writes In response to the increased interest by the public in astronomy, the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the world authority that names objects in space, is giving the public a chance to name up to 30 planets from a pre-selected group of 305 exoplanets. "Before you get excited about naming HAT-P-7b after your first pet goldfish, it's worth taking a look at the restrictions the IAU places on its minor planet names. The 16 characters or less must be 'pronounceable (in as many languages as possible)' and non-offensive in any language or culture. The names of living persons are verboten, pet names are 'discouraged,' and you can't use a name that is commercial or has political, military, or religious connotations." The proposed names can be submitted by astronomy clubs and non-profit organizations interested in astronomy and votes will be cast by the public from across the world.

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Elite Group of Researchers Rule Scientific Publishing

Slashdot - Sun, 13/07/2014 - 22:23
sciencehabit writes Publishing is one of the most ballyhooed metrics of scientific careers, and every researcher hates to have a gap in that part of his or her CV. Here's some consolation: A new study finds that very few scientists—fewer than 1%—manage to publish a paper every year. But these 150,608 scientists dominate the research journals, having their names on 41% of all papers. Among the most highly cited work, this elite group can be found among the co-authors of 87% of papers. Students, meanwhile, may spend years on research that yields only one or a few papers. "[I]n these cases, the research system may be exploiting the work of millions of young scientists," the authors conclude.

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How Deep Does the Multiverse Go?

Slashdot - Sun, 13/07/2014 - 19:59
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.

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NSA Says Snowden Emails Exempt From Public Disclosure

Slashdot - Sun, 13/07/2014 - 18:51
AHuxley (892839) writes "The Desk reports on a FOIA request covering "... all e-mails sent by Edward Snowden" and the NSA's refusal to release all documents. "The National Security Agency has acknowledged it retains a record of e-mail communications from former contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden, but says those records are exempt from public disclosure under the federal Freedom of Information Act. In a letter responding to a June 27 FOIA request from The Desk, the NSA’s chief FOIA officer Pamela Phillips wrote that while the agency has retained records related to Snowden’s employment as a contractor, they are being withheld from public examination because, among other things, releasing the records 'could interfere with law enforcement proceedings, could cause an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, could reveal the identities of confidential sources or would reveal law enforcement techniques and procedures.' Other records are being withheld because those documents were 'also found to be currently and properly classifiedand remains classified TOP SECRET, SECRET and CONFIDENTIAL.' The letter marks the first time the NSA has publicly acknowledged retaining communication and employment records related to Snowden’s time as a contractor."

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Chimpanzee Intelligence Largely Determined By Genetics

Slashdot - Sat, 12/07/2014 - 23:18
As reported by National Geographic, intelligence in chimpanzees appears to be strongly heritable, according to research led by William Hopkins, a primatologist at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta, Georgia, who examined both genetic and environmental factors for a group of related chimpanzees with varying measured intelligence: To find out how much of that variability is due to genetics, Hopkins and his team assessed the cognitive abilities of 99 captive chimpanzees. They used a battery of 13 tests measuring various manifestations of intelligence, such as how the animals dealt with the physical world, reacted to sound, and used tools. The group of chimps tested had an expansive family tree, ranging from full siblings to fourth and fifth cousins. This allowed the researchers to calculate how well scores on cognitive traits aligned with genetic relatedness. Two categories of tasks were significantly heritable: those related to spatial cognition, such as learning physical locations, and those that required social cognition, such as grabbing a person's attention. Some chimps are quite clever, making kissing sounds or clapping their hands to draw an experimenter's attention, Hopkins said. "This one is a real measure of intelligence and innovative behavior."

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Slashdot Asks: Do You Want a Smart Watch?

Slashdot - Sat, 12/07/2014 - 21:52
Watches that do more than tell the time have been around for a long time. (And in fiction, James Bond, Dick Tracey, and Michael Knight all had notably high-tech watches.) The new smart watches from Samsung and LG, without a phone connected via Bluetooth as backhaul, can still serve to show the time and to serve as alarms (and Samsung's can measure your pulse, too), but all the magic features (like searching by voice via the watch) do require a connection. They can't play MP3s or take pictures on their own, and they don't have built-in GPS. Even so, compared to the polarizing Google Glass, the new breed of smart watches are wearables that probably are an easier sell, even if this far the trend has been to replace watches with smart phones. (Android Wear has gotten a lot of attention, but Microsoft has their own upcoming, and Apple almost certainly does, too.) Are you interested in a smart watch, and if so, what uses do you want it for? If they have no appeal to you now, are there functions that would make you change your mind on that front?

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Texas Town Turns To Treated Sewage For Drinking Water

Slashdot - Sat, 12/07/2014 - 19:29
Scientific American reports that Wichita Falls, Texas has taken an unusual step, precipitated by the years-long drought that Texas has faced: it's using treated sewage for drinking water. From the article: To launch what it calls its "Direct Potable Reuse Project," the city pipes water 12 miles from its wastewater treatment plant to this treatment facility where it goes through microfiltration. A pump pulls water through a module filled with fibers that removes most of the impurities. Then it is forced through a semi-permeable membrane that can remove dissolved salts and other contaminants. The process, called reverse osmosis, is used by the U.S. military, in ships and in the manufacture of silicon chips. The water then gets blended with lake water before going through the regular water treatment system. ... At 60 cents per 1,000 gallons, it's far cheaper than any other source of water, [Wichita Falls' public works director Russell] Schreiber said. ... He said there have been few complaints so far. A glass of the finished product, sampled at a downtown restaurant, tasted about average for West Texas.

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Biohackers Are Engineering Yeast To Make THC

Slashdot - Sat, 12/07/2014 - 16:20
meghan elizabeth writes How do you get weed without the weed? By genetically engineering yeast to produce THC, of course. Once theorized in a stoner magazine column more than a decade ago, a biotech startup working in Ireland is actively trying to transplant the genetic information that codes for both THC and another cannabinoid called CBD into yeast so that "marijuana" can be grown in a lab—no plants necessary.

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First Release of LibreSSL Portable Is Available

Slashdot - Fri, 11/07/2014 - 22:00
ConstantineM writes: It has finally happened. Bob Beck of The OpenBSD Foundation has just announced that the first release of LibreSSL portable is now available, and can be found in the LibreSSL directory of your favourite OpenBSD mirror. libressl-2.0.0.tar.gz has been tested to build on various versions of Linux, Solaris, Mac OS X and FreeBSD. This is intended to be an initial portable release of OpenBSD's libressl to allow the community to start using it and providing feedback, and has been done to address the issue of incorrect portable versions being attempted by third-parties. Support for additional platforms will be added as time and resources permit.

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DARPA Successfully Demonstrates Self-Guiding Bullets

Slashdot - Fri, 11/07/2014 - 21:40
Lucas123 writes: A DARPA-funded project has successfully developed a .50 caliber sniper round capable of maneuvering during flight in order to remain on target. The self-guiding EXACTO bullet, as it's being called, is optically guided by a laser that must remain on target for the bullet to track. The EXACTO round is capable of accurately tracking a target up to 1.2 miles away, DARPA stated. The technology, which is being developed by Teledyne Scientific and Imaging, is targeted at helping snipers remain at longer distances from targets as well as improving night shots. While DARPA's tracking bullet is the first to use a standard, small-arms caliber round, in 2012 Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) successfully demonstrated a prototype self-guided bullet that was more like like a four-inch dart.

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A Peek Inside D-Wave's Quantum Computing Hardware

Slashdot - Fri, 11/07/2014 - 20:57
JeremyHsu writes: A one-second delay can still seem like an eternity for a quantum computing machine capable of running calculations in mere millionths of a second. That delay represents just one of the challenges D-Wave Systems overcame in building its second-generation quantum computing machine known as D-Wave Two — a system that has been leased to customers such as Google, NASA and Lockheed Martin. D-Wave's rapid-scaling approach to quantum computing has plenty of critics, but the company's experience in building large-scale quantum computing hardware could provide valuable lessons for everyone, regardless of whether the D-Wave machines live up to quantum computing's potential by proving they can outperform classical computers. (D-Wave recently detailed the hardware design changes between its first- and second-generation quantum computing machines in the the June 2014 issue of the journal IEEE Transactions on Applied Superconductivity.) "We were nervous about going down this path," says Jeremy Hilton, vice president of processor development at D-Wave Systems. "This architecture requires the qubits and the quantum devices to be intermingled with all these big classical objects. The threat you worry about is noise and impact of all this stuff hanging around the qubits. Traditional experiments in quantum computing have qubits in almost perfect isolation. But if you want quantum computing to be scalable, it will have to be immersed in a sea of computing complexity.

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Ask Slashdot: Unattended Maintenance Windows?

Slashdot - Fri, 11/07/2014 - 17:23
grahamsaa writes: Like many others in IT, I sometimes have to do server maintenance at unfortunate times. 6AM is the norm for us, but in some cases we're expected to do it as early as 2AM, which isn't exactly optimal. I understand that critical services can't be taken down during business hours, and most of our products are used 24 hours a day, but for some things it seems like it would be possible to automate maintenance (and downtime). I have a maintenance window at about 5AM tomorrow. It's fairly simple — upgrade CentOS, remove a package, install a package, reboot. Downtime shouldn't be more than 5 minutes. While I don't think it would be wise to automate this window, I think with sufficient testing we might be able to automate future maintenance windows so I or someone else can sleep in. Aside from the benefit of getting a bit more sleep, automating this kind of thing means that it can be written, reviewed and tested well in advance. Of course, if something goes horribly wrong having a live body keeping watch is probably helpful. That said, we do have people on call 24/7 and they could probably respond capably in an emergency. Have any of you tried to do something like this? What's your experience been like?

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Google's Experimental Newsroom Avoids Negative Headlines

Slashdot - Fri, 11/07/2014 - 14:33
theodp writes: After Brazil's dramatic World Cup defeat by Germany, writes NPR's Aarti Shahani, Google's experimental newsroom focused on search trends that didn't rub salt in Brazil's wounds, choosing to not publish a single trend on Brazilian search terms. Copywriter Tessa Hewson said they were just too negative. "We might try and wait until we can do a slightly more upbeat trend." It's a decision that puzzles Shahani, but producer Sam Clohesy explained, "a negative story about Brazil won't necessarily get a lot of traction in social." In old-school newsrooms, if it bleeds, it leads. But because this new newsroom is focused on getting content onto everyone's smartphone, marketing expert Rakesh Agrawal says, editors may have another bias: to comb through the big data in search of happy thoughts.

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Google, Dropbox, and Others Forge Patent "Arms Control Pact"

Slashdot - Fri, 11/07/2014 - 08:06
jfruh writes Patent trolling is a serious irritant and financial drain on many big tech companies — but those same companies can't guarantee that their own future management won't sell the patents they own to a 'non-practicing entity', especially in the case of sale or bankruptcy. That's why a number of tech giants, including Google and Dropbox, have formed the 'License or Transfer Network,' in which a patent will automatically be licensed to everyone else in the network in the event that it's sold to a third party.

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Peer Review Ring Broken - 60 Articles Retracted

Slashdot - Fri, 11/07/2014 - 05:21
blackbeak (1227080) writes The Washington Post reports that the Journal of Vibration and Control's review system was hijacked by a ring of reviewers. 60 articles have been retracted as a result. "After a 14-month investigation, JVC determined the ring involved “aliases” and fake e-mail addresses of reviewers — up to 130 of them — in an apparently successful effort to get friendly reviews of submissions and as many articles published as possible by Chen and his friends.'On at least one occasion, the author Peter Chen reviewed his own paper under one of the aliases he created,' according to the SAGE announcement."

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FTC Files Suit Against Amazon For In-App Purchases

Slashdot - Fri, 11/07/2014 - 03:08
Charliemopps writes The Federal Trade Commission has filed suit against Amazon for illegally billing parents for in-app purchases of digital goods prior to requiring a password for making purchases. "The FTC's complaint, filed Thursday, asks the court to force Amazon to refund the money to those customers. In-app purchases typically involve virtual goods bought within an app, like extra coins or energy in a game, according to the FTC. Some bills totaled hundreds of dollars, and some virtual goods cost as much as $99.99." We recently told you about Amazon's refusal to reach a settlement over these FTC complaints.

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SpaceX Wins FAA Permission To Build a Spaceport In Texas

Slashdot - Fri, 11/07/2014 - 01:14
Jason Koebler writes SpaceX just got approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to build a 56.5-acre spaceport along the Gulf of Mexico on the Texas-Mexico border—a huge step toward actually making the spaceport a reality. Wednesday, the FAA, which handles all commercial space launch permitting in the United States, issued what's known as a "Record of Decision" that suggests the agency would allow the company to launch 10 Falcon 9 rockets and two Falcon Heavy rockets per year out of the spaceport, through at least 2025.

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Microsoft Settles With No-IP After Malware Takedown

Slashdot - Thu, 10/07/2014 - 18:43
Trailrunner7 (1100399) writes It's been a weird couple of weeks for Microsoft. On June 30 the company announced its latest malware takedown operation, which included a civil law suit against Vitalwerks, a small Nevada hosting provider, and the seizure of nearly two dozen domains the company owned. Now, 10 days later, Microsoft has not only returned all of the seized domains but also has reached a settlement with Vitalwerks that resolves the legal action. Some in the security research community criticized Microsoft harshly for what they saw as heavy handed tactics. Within a few days of the initial takedown and domain seizure Microsoft returned all of the domains to Vitalwerks, which does business as No-IP.com. On Wednesday, the software giant and the hosting provider released a joint statement saying that they had reached a settlement on the legal action. "Microsoft has reviewed the evidence provided by Vitalwerks and enters into the settlement confident that Vitalwerks was not knowingly involved with the subdomains used to support malware. Those spreading the malware abused Vitalwerks' services," the companies said in a joint statement. "Microsoft identified malware that had escaped Vitalwerks' detection. Upon notification and review of the evidence, Vitalwerks took immediate corrective action allowing Microsoft to identify victims of this malware. The parties have agreed to permanently disable Vitalwerks subdomains used to control the malware."

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