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Fossil Fuels Are Messing With Carbon Dating

slashdot - Wed, 07/22/2015 - 09:21
Taco Cowboy writes: The carbon dating method used in determining the age of an artifact is based on the amount of radioactive carbon-14 isotopes it contains. The C-14 within an organism is continually decaying into stable carbon isotopes, but since the organism is absorbing more C-14 during its life, the ratio of C-14 to C-12 remains about the same as the ratio in the atmosphere. When the organism dies, the ratio of C-14 within its carcass begins to gradually decrease. The amount of C-14 drops by half every 5,730 years after death. The fossil fuels we're burning are old — so old they don't contain any C-14. The more we burn these fossil fuels, the more non-C-14 carbon we pump into the atmosphere. If emissions continue as they have for the past few decades, then by year 2050 a shirt made in that year (2050) will have the same C-14 signature as a shirt worn by William the Conqueror a thousand years earlier.

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Genetic Access Control Code Uses 23andMe DNA Data For Internet Racism

slashdot - Wed, 07/22/2015 - 06:24
rjmarvin writes: A GitHub project is using the 23andMe API for genetic decoding to act as a way to bar users from entering websites based on their genetic data — race and ancestry. "Stumbling around GitHub, I came across this bit of code: Genetic Access Control. Now, budding young racist coders can check out your 23andMe page before they allow you into their website! Seriously, this code uses the 23andMe API to pull genetic info, then runs access control on the user based on the results. Just why you decide not to let someone into your site is up to you, but it can be based on any aspect of the 23andMe API. This is literally the code to automate racism."

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Woman Recruited By Google Four Times and Rejected Now Joins Age Discrimination Suit

slashdot - Wed, 07/22/2015 - 04:15
dcblogs writes: An Ivy league graduate, with a Ph.D. in geophysics, Cheryl Fillekes, who also specializes in Linux and Unix systems, was contacted by Google recruiters four separate times over a seven year period. In each instance, she did well enough on the phone interviews to get invited to an in-person interview but was rejected every time for a job. She has since joined an age discrimination lawsuit against Google filed about two months ago by another older worker. "The amended lawsuit also alleges that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 'multiple complaints of age discrimination by Google, and is currently conducting an extensive investigation.'"

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FBI's Hacks Don't Comply With Legal Safeguards

slashdot - Wed, 07/22/2015 - 02:17
An anonymous reader writes: The FBI hacks computers. Specifics are scarce, and only a trickle of news has emerged from court filings and FOIA responses. But we know it happens. In a new law review article, a Stanford Ph.D. candidate and privacy expert pulls together what's been disclosed, and then matches it against established law. The results sure aren't pretty. FBI agents deceive judges, ignore time limits, don't tell computer owners after they've been hacked, and don't get 'super-warrants' for webcam snooping. Whatever you think of law enforcement hacking, it probably shouldn't be this lawless.

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On Being Pro-GPL

slashdot - Wed, 07/22/2015 - 00:14
just_another_sean writes: Christopher Allan Webber, recently returned from OSCON, shares his thoughts on the GPL and why he dislikes people pitting one type of software license against another. He says, "I am not only pro-copyleft, I am also pro-permissive licensing. The difference between these is tactics: the first tactic is towards guaranteeing user freedom, the second tactic is toward pushing adoption. I am generally pro-freedom, but sometimes pushing adoption is important, especially if you're pushing standards and the like. But let's step back for a moment. One thing that's true is that over the last many years we've seen an explosion of free and open source software... at the same time that computers have become more locked down than ever before! How can this be? And notice... the rise of the arguments for permissive/lax licensing have grown simultaneously with this trend. ...The fastest way to develop software which locks down users for maximum monetary extraction is to use free software as a base. And this is where the anti-copyleft argument comes in, because copyleft may effectively force an entity to give back at this stage... and they might not want to. ... Copyleft's strings say, 'you can use my stuff, as long as you give back what you make from it.' But the proprietary differentiation strategy's strings say, 'I will use your stuff, and then add terms which forbid you to ever share or modify the things I build on top of it.' Don't be fooled: both attach strings. But which strings are worse?"

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Microsoft Edge Performance Evaluated

slashdot - Tue, 07/21/2015 - 23:30
An anonymous reader writes: Now that Windows 10 is close to launch, Anandtech has put Microsoft's new browser, Edge, through a series of tests to see how it stacks up against other browsers. Edge has shown significant improvements since January. It handily beats Chrome and Firefox in Google's Octane 2.0 benchmark, and it managed the best score on the Sunspider benchmark as well. But Chrome and Firefox both still beat Edge in other tests, by small margins in the Kraken 1.1 and HTML5Test benchmarks, and larger ones in WebXPRT and Oort Online. The article says, "It is great to see Microsoft focusing on browser performance again, and especially not sitting idle since January, since the competition in this space has not been idle either."

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What's the Oldest Technology You've Used In a Production Environment?

slashdot - Tue, 07/21/2015 - 22:46
itwbennett writes: Sometimes it's a matter of 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it,' sometimes corporate inertia is to blame, but perhaps even more often what keeps old technology plugging away in businesses large and small is the sense that it does a single, specific job the way that someone wants it done. George R.R. Martin's preference for using a DOS computer running WordStar 4 to write his Song of Ice and Fire series is one such example, but so is the hospital computer whose sole job was to search and print medical images, however badly or slowly it may have done the job. We all have such stories of obsolete tech we've had to use at one point or another. What's yours?

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New Horizons Returns Best Images of Pluto's Moons Hydra and Nix

slashdot - Tue, 07/21/2015 - 22:05
An anonymous reader writes: Over the weekend, the New Horizons probe sent back more data from Pluto, including two of the best images we'll get of its small moons Nix and Hydra. Nix measures about 42km long by 36km wide, and has a large reddish spot on it. The resolution allows us to see features about 3km across. Hydra is slightly bigger, and the pictures were taken with a different instrument, so resolution is a bit better. "Although the overall surface color of Nix is neutral grey in the image, the newfound region has a distinct red tint. Hints of a bull's-eye pattern lead scientists to speculate that the reddish region is a crater. ... Meanwhile, the sharpest image yet received from New Horizons of Pluto's satellite Hydra shows that its irregular shape resembles the state of Michigan. ...Although the overall surface color of Nix is neutral grey in the image, the newfound region has a distinct red tint. Hints of a bull's-eye pattern lead scientists to speculate that the reddish region is a crater." Images have been taken of Styx and Kerberos, the most recently discovered moons of Pluto, but they won't be transmitted back for a while, yet. NASA has also released an image of a mountain range inside Pluto's heart-shaped region.

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Scientists Arm Cells With Tiny Lasers

slashdot - Tue, 07/21/2015 - 21:23
sciencehabit writes: Scientists have implanted tiny lasers within living cells. A team of physicists and biologists have coaxed a cell to envelop a tiny plastic sphere that acts like a resonant cavity—thus placing a whole laser within a cell (abstract). The spheres are seasoned with a fluorescent dye, so that a zap with one color of light makes them radiate at another color. The light then resonates in the sphere, triggering laser action and amplifying itself. So although demonstrated only in cultured cells, the technique might someday be used to track the movement of individual cells, say, within cancerous tumors.

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CanSat Helps Students Make & Launch Sub-Orbital 'Satellites' (Video)

slashdot - Tue, 07/21/2015 - 20:42
The Magnitude (motto: "Powered by Curiosity") "Can-sized satellites" aren't technically satellites because they're launched on rockets that typically can't get much higher than 10,000 feet, or as payloads on weather balloons that can hit 100,000+ feet but (obviously) can't go beyond the Earth's atmosphere. But could they be satellites? Sure. Get a rocket with enough punch to put them in orbit and off you go -- something Magnitude Co-founder and CEO Ted Tagami hopes to see happening in his local school district by 2020. Meanwhile, they'll sell you assembled CanSat packages or help you build your own (or anything in between), depending on your schools resources and aspirations. Have a question or an idea? Talk to Ted. He'd love to hear from you. Use the Magnitude Web form or send email to hello at magnitude dot io. Either way works.

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A Month With a Ubuntu Phone

slashdot - Tue, 07/21/2015 - 19:53
When the first Ubuntu phone came out, reviews were quick to criticize it for its lackluster hardware and unusual take on common mobile software interactions. It's been out for a while, now, and Alastair Stevenson has written about his experiences using it for an entire month. While he doesn't recommend it for phone users who aren't tech savvy, he does say that he began to like it better than Android after adjusting to how Ubuntu does things. From the article: [T]he Ubuntu OS has a completely reworked user interface that replaces the traditional home screen with a new system of "scopes." The scope system does away with the traditional mobile interface where applications are stored and accessed from a central series of homescreens. ... Adding to Ubuntu’s otherworldly, unique feel, the OS is also significantly more touch- and gesture-focused than iOS and Android. We found nearly all the key features and menus on the Meizu MX4 are accessed using gesture controls, not with screen shortcuts. ... Finally, there's my biggest criticism – Ubuntu phone is not smart enough yet. While the app selection is impressive for a prototype, in its infancy Ubuntu phone doesn't have enough data feeding into it, as key services are missing."

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California Legislation May Allow First Responders To Take Out Drones

slashdot - Tue, 07/21/2015 - 19:11
Required Snark writes: During the recent North Fire that burned vehicles on I-15 in California, firefighters had to suspend aerial operations because of the presence of drone aircraft, according to CNN. Quoting: "Five such 'unmanned aircraft systems' prevented California firefighters from dispatching helicopters with water buckets for up to 20 minutes over a wildfire that roared Friday onto a Los Angeles area freeway that leads to Las Vegas. Helicopters couldn't drop water because five drones hovered over the blaze, creating hazards in smoky winds for a deadly midair disaster, officials said." In response, state officials have introduced legislation that would allow first responders to disable drones in emergency situations. A second bill would allow jail time and fines for drone users that interfere with firefighting efforts. "Senate Bill 168, introduced by Gatto and Sen. Ted Gaines, R-El Dorado, would grant 'immunity to any emergency responder who damages an unmanned aircraft in the course of firefighting, air ambulance, or search-and-rescue operations.' Los Angeles County fire Inspector David Dantic declined to comment on the specific legislation, but said his agency's aircraft cannot operate safely if a drone is in the same airspace."

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Google+ Photos To Shut Down August 1

slashdot - Tue, 07/21/2015 - 18:28
An anonymous reader writes: Now that Google Photos exists separately from Google+, the company is shutting down the Google+ version of Photos starting on August 1. The Android version will be the first to go, followed shortly thereafter by the iOS and web versions. Fortune calls the old Photos app "a relic of the times when the search giant thought its social network Google Plus could become a huge hit."

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Comet Lander Falls Silent; Scientists Fear It Has Moved

slashdot - Tue, 07/21/2015 - 17:45
vivaoporto writes: European scientists say the Philae comet lander fell silent on Monday, raising fears that it has moved again on its new home millions of miles from Earth. Over the last few weeks, Rosetta has been flying along the terminator plane of the comet in order to find the best location to communicate with Philae. However, over the weekend of 10-11 July, the star trackers struggled to lock on to stars at the closer distances. No contact has been made with Philae since 9 July. The data acquired at that time are being investigated by the lander team to try to better understand Philae's situation. One possible explanation being discussed at DLR's Lander Control Center is that the position of Philae may have shifted slightly, perhaps by changing its orientation with respect to the surface in its current location. The lander is likely situated on uneven terrain, and even a slight change in its position – perhaps triggered by gas emission from the comet – could mean that its antenna position has also now changed with respect to its surroundings. This could have a knock-on effect as to the best position Rosetta needs to be in to establish a connection with the lander. The current status of Philae remains uncertain and is a topic of on-going discussion and analysis. But in the meantime, further commands are being prepared and tested to allow Philae to re-commence operations. The lander team wants to try to activate a command block that is still stored in Philae's computer and which was already successfully performed after the lander's unplanned flight across to the surface to its final location. "Although the mission will now focus its scientific priority on the orbiter, Rosetta will continue attempting – up to and past perihelion – to obtain Philae science packets once a stable link has been acquired," adds Patrick Martin, Rosetta mission manager.

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Ask Slashdot: Do You Use a Smartphone At Work, Contrary to Policy?

slashdot - Tue, 07/21/2015 - 17:02
Jason McNew writes: I have been in IT since the late '90s, and began a graduate degree in Cyber Security with Penn State two years ago. I have always been interested in how and why users break policies, despite being trained carefully. I have observed the same phenomena even in highly secure government facilities — I watched people take iPhones into highly sensitive government facilities on several occasions. That led me to wonder to what extent the same problem exists in the private sector: Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs) are a huge threat to both security and intellectual property. This question has become the subject of a pilot study I am doing for grad school. So, do you use a smart phone or other PED during work hours, even though you are not supposed to? Please let me know, and I will provide the results in a subsequent submission to Slashdot.

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Cray To Build Australia's Fastest Supercomputer

slashdot - Tue, 07/21/2015 - 09:28
Bismillah writes: US supercomputer vendor Cray has scored the contract to build the Australian Bureau of Meteorology's new system, said to be capable of 1.6 petaFLOPS and with an upgrade option in three years' time to hit 5 petaFLOPS. From the iTnews story: "The increase in capacity will allow the BoM to deal with growth in the 1TB of data it collects every day, which it expects to increase by 30 percent every 18 months to two years. It will also allow the agency to collect new areas of information it previously lacked the capacity for. 'The new observation platforms that are coming online are bringing quite a lot more data,' supercomputer program director Tim Pugh told iTnews.

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Game About Killing Poachers Vies For Top Prize In Microsoft Student Tech Contest

slashdot - Tue, 07/21/2015 - 07:04
theodp writes: GeekWire reports on a group of students from Nepal who will be competing for the $50K top prize in Microsoft's Imagine Cup student tech contest with a first-person shooter in which players track down and kill poachers. "Until and unless the player kills all the poachers," reads the description for Defend Your Territory, "he/she cannot progress to next level. To make the game more interesting, there will be lots of weapons and vehicles unlock." So, is this the inspiration Google needs to take their anti-poaching drone program to the next level?

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Smithsonian Using Kickstart Campaign To Save Armstrong's Moon Suit

slashdot - Tue, 07/21/2015 - 04:33
qpgmr writes: The Smithsonian is appealing for assistance to raise enough money to preserve Neil Armstrong's moon suit. The "Reboot the Suit: Bring Back Neil Armstrong's Spacesuit" campaign launched Monday on Kickstarter, marking 46 years since Armstrong's moonwalk in 1969. Smithsonian reports: "....on the anniversary of that 'small step for a man,' the Smithsonian Institution announced a plan of action that is, in its own way, a giant leap for funding the job with what the Institution’s first federal Kickstarter campaign. With a goal of raising $500,000 in 30 days—by offering incentives such as exclusive updates to 3D printed facsimiles of the space suit gloves—museum officials hope to be able to unveil a restored spacesuit by the time of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing four years from now, in 2019."

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NASA Funded Study States People Could Be On the Moon By 2021 For $10 Billion

slashdot - Tue, 07/21/2015 - 02:00
MarkWhittington writes: The Houston Chronicle reported that NextGen Space LLC has released the results of a study that suggests that if the United States were to choose to do space in some new and creative ways, American moon boots could be on the lunar surface by 2021. The cost from the authorization to the first crewed lunar landing would be just $10 billion. The study was partly funded by NASA and was reviewed by the space agency and commercial space experts.

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There Is No "Next Great Copyright Act", Remain Calm

slashdot - Mon, 07/20/2015 - 23:58
Lirodon writes: A YouTube video has gone viral, particularly around the art community (and the subsection of the art community populated by the same type of people who tend to spread these around to begin with), making bold claims that a revision to U.S. copyright law is being considered, with a particular focus on orphan works. Among other things, this video claims that it would require all works to be registered with a for-profit registry to be protected, that unregistered works would be "orphaned" and be usable by "good faith infringers" and allow others to make derivative works that they would own entirely. Thankfully, this is all just hyperbole proliferated by a misinterpretation of a report on orphan works by the U.S. Copyright Office, as Graphic Policy explains.

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