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Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

Censorship

Financial Services Group WCS Sues Online Forum Over Negative Post 111

Posted by samzenpus
from the I-wish-you-wouldn't-say-that dept.
First time accepted submitter kavzee writes The popular Australian online discussion forum, Whirlpool, is being sued by a financial services group for refusing to remove a negative review about its services. A similar story occurred a number of years ago when another company by the name of 2Clix attempted to sue Whirlpool for the same reasons but later withdrew their case. "A financial services business licenced through National Australia Bank is suing an online forum for refusing to remove an allegedly fake and negative post about its services, claiming it has damaged its reputation with would-be clients. It is the latest legal action launched against an online forum or review website for publishing negative comments, following several high profile cases in Australia and overseas. Financial advice group WCS Group has initiated action against Whirlpool in the Supreme Court of Victoria, seeking unspecified damages and costs, despite the fact the forum generates no revenue."
Australia

Transparent Fish Lead to Stem Cell Research Breakthrough 33

Posted by timothy
from the we-see-what-you-did-there dept.
brindafella (702231) writes Australian scientists have accidentally made one of the most significant discoveries in stem cell research, by studying the transparent embryos of Zebrafish (Danio rerio). The fish can be photographed and their development studied over time, and the movies can be played backwards, to track back from key developmental stages to find the stem cell basis for various traits of the fish. This fundamental research started by studying muscles, but the blood stem cell breakthrough was a bonus. They've found out how hematopoietic stem cells (HSC), among the most important stem cells found in blood and bone marrow, is formed. The scientists are based at the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute at Monash University. The research has been published in the Nature medical journal. This discovery could lead to the production of self-renewing stem cells in the lab to treat multiple blood disorders and diseases.
Transportation

Australia Rebooting Search For MH370 92

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the soon-to-be-best-mapped-area-on-earth dept.
McGruber (1417641) writes "The Wall Street Journal reports that two months after pausing its search for the missing Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777-200ER, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) is ready to reboot its search. The ATSB is poised to select among bids from the world's most-advanced deep-water specialists, including offshore oil-and-gas companies, maritime research institutions and treasure hunters eager to use their technologies and experience to solve the Flight 370 riddle—and potentially raise their own profiles in the process. ... With no hard evidence of where the plane went down, the search will test the recovery industry's abilities like nothing before. In June, Australian authorities shifted the search zone for a third time — by about 600 miles to the southwest — after reanalyzing satellite transmissions. Even then, they said it was impossible to know whether the fresh search area would prove correct."
Science

Study: Dinosaurs "Shrank" Regularly To Become Birds 138

Posted by samzenpus
from the getting-small dept.
An anonymous reader writes A new study suggests that large dinosaurs shrunk to small birds to survive over a period of around 50 million years. Aside from a few large species, most modern birds are predominantly tiny and look nothing at all like their prehistoric meat-eating ancestors. The evolutionary process that governed this transformation has not been well understood, but now researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia have put together a detailed family tree mapping the evolution of therapod dinosaurs to the agile flying birds we see today. Their results indicated that meat-eating dinosaurs underwent several distinct periods of miniaturization over the last 50 million years which took them down from an average weight of 163kg to just 0.8kg before finally becoming modern birds.
Australia

Australian Government Moving Forward With Anti-Piracy Mandate For ISPs 128

Posted by timothy
from the sniff-it-sniff-all-of-it dept.
angry tapir (1463043) writes Australia is moving closer to a regime under which ISPs will be forced to block access to websites whose "dominant purpose" is to facilitate copyright violations. A secret government discussion paper (PDF) has been leaked and proposes a system of website blocking and expanded liability for ISPs when it comes to "reasonable steps that can be taken ... to discourage or reduce online copyright infringement."
Transportation

Long-range Electric Car World Speed Record Broken By Australian Students 120

Posted by Soulskill
from the also-stores-baby-cars-in-a-warm-pouch-on-its-undercarriage dept.
New submitter is_this_gdog writes: The Sunswift solar car team from UNSW Australia has broken an international world speed record for the fastest long-range electric vehicle, averaging a speed of 107km/h (66mph) over 500km (310miles) from a single charge with their car, eVe. Solar panels were not used for this record (with solar, the car has a range of over 500 miles), the challenge was endurance speed with battery only. There are faster electric cars, and one or two with longer range if you go slow enough — Sunswift eVe is the first to officially do 500kms at highway speeds (pending official FIA approval). Pictures of the car are available here.
United States

Lawrence Krauss: Congress Is Trying To Defund Scientists At Energy Department 342

Posted by samzenpus
from the let-the-science-flow dept.
Lasrick writes Physicist Lawrence Krauss blasts Congress for their passage of the 2015 Energy and Water Appropriations bill that cut funding for renewable energy, sustainable transportation, and energy efficiency, and even worse, had amendments that targeted scientists at the Department of Energy: He writes that this action from the US Congress is worse even than the Australian government's move to cancel their carbon tax, because the action of Congress is far more insidious: "Each (amendment) would, in its own way, specifically prohibit scientists at the Energy Department from doing precisely what Congress should mandate them to do—namely perform the best possible scientific research to illuminate, for policymakers, the likelihood and possible consequences of climate change." Although the bill isn't likely to become law, Krauss is fed up with Congress burying its head in the sand: The fact that those amendments "...could pass a house of Congress, should concern everyone interested in the appropriate support of scientific research as a basis for sound public policy."
Privacy

Australian Website Waits Three Years To Inform Customers of Data Breach 35

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the better-never-than-late dept.
AlbanX (2847805) writes Australian daily deals website Catch of the Day waited three years to tell its customers their email addresses, delivery addresses, hashed passwords, and some credit card details had been stolen. Its systems were breached in April 2011 and the company told police, banks and credit cards issuers, but didn't tell the Privacy Commissioner or customers until July 18th.
Earth

Australia Repeals Carbon Tax 291

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-keep-it dept.
schwit1 notes that the Australian government has repealed a controversial carbon tax. After almost a decade of heated political debate, Australia has become the world's first developed nation to repeal carbon laws that put a price on greenhouse gas emissions. In a vote that could highlight the difficulty in implementing additional measures to reduce carbon emissions ahead of global climate talks next year in Paris, Australia's Senate on Wednesday voted 39-32 to repeal a politically divisive carbon emissions price that contributed to the fall from power of three Australian leaders since it was first suggested in 2007.
Censorship

Committee Formed To Scrutinize Australia's Web Censorship Law 24

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the only-criminals-care-about-censorship dept.
Bismillah (993337) writes A government inquiry has been launched into whether or not Australian authorities are using Section 313 of the Telecommunications Act inappropriately. Last year, the Australian securities watchdog used Section 313 powers to force ISPs to block a quarter of a million web sites — in order to prevent access to just 1,200 sites the authority deemed harmful. From the inquiry page: "How law enforcement agencies use section 313 to request the disruption of such services is an important public policy question. Section 313 is also used for other purposes, but the Committee will inquire solely into and report on government agency use of section 313 for the purpose of disrupting illegal online services. The Committee invites interested persons and organizations to make submissions addressing the terms of reference by Friday 22 August 2014."
Software

Australian Electoral Commission Refuses To Release Vote Counting Source Code 112

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-can-trust-us dept.
angry tapir writes: The Australian Electoral Commission has been fighting a freedom of information request to reveal the source code of the software it uses to calculate votes in elections for Australia's upper house of parliament. Not only has the AEC refused an FOI request (PDF) for the source code, but it has also refused an order from the Senate directing that the source code be produced. Apparently releasing the code could "leave the voting system open to hacking or manipulation."
Earth

Walter Munk's Astonishing Wave-Tracking Experiment 55

Posted by samzenpus
from the gnarly-experiment-dude dept.
An anonymous reader writes in with a look at a scientist's 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.
Space

Arecibo Radio Telescope Confirms Extra-galactic Fast Radio Pulses 95

Posted by Soulskill
from the Romulan-morse-code dept.
schwit1 writes: "The Arecibo radio telescope has confirmed the existence of fast radio pulses. "Fast radio bursts (FRBs) are bright flashes of radio waves that last only a few thousandths of a second. Scientists using the Parkes Observatory in Australia recorded such events for the first time, but the lack of any similar findings by other facilities led to speculation that the Australian instrument might have been picking up signals originating from sources on or near Earth. The discovery at Arecibo is the first detection of a fast radio burst using an instrument other than the Parkes radio telescope. The position of the radio burst is in the direction of the constellation Auriga in the Northern sky.

"Our result is important because it eliminates any doubt that these radio bursts are truly of cosmic origin," continues Victoria Kaspi, an astrophysics professor at McGill University in Montreal and Principal Investigator for the pulsar-survey project that detected this fast radio burst. "The radio waves show every sign of having come from far outside our galaxy – a really exciting prospect." Exactly what may be causing such radio bursts represents a major new enigma for astrophysicists. Possibilities include a range of exotic astrophysical objects, such as evaporating black holes, mergers of neutron stars, or flares from magnetars — a type of neutron star with extremely powerful magnetic fields." Be warned: All of the above theories could also be wrong. These fast radio flashes could just as easily turn out to be something entirely unpredicted.
Government

After NSA Spying Flap, Germany Asks CIA Station Chief to Depart 219

Posted by timothy
from the wir-werden-wissen dept.
The Washington Post reports that Gemany's government has asked the CIA station chief in that country to leave. From the article, which points out the move comes after several high-profile instances of U.S. spying on German citiens, including Chancellor Angela Merkl:. "A day earlier, federal prosecutors in Germany said police had searched the office and apartment of an individual with ties to the German military who is suspected of working for U.S. intelligence. Those raids followed the arrest of an employee of Germany’s foreign intelligence service who was accused of selling secrets to the CIA. ... For years, Germany has sought to be included in a group of countries with which the United States has a non-espionage pact. Those nations include Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The Obama administration and that of George W. Bush both resisted such entreaties, in part because many U.S. intelligence officials believe that there are too many areas where German and U.S. security interests diverge."
Patents

A Brief History of Patenting the Wheel: What Goes Around Comes Around 36

Posted by samzenpus
from the round-and-round dept.
v3rgEz writes Marc Abrahams, founder of the Ig Nobel Prize, has put together a fascinating history of people patenting the wheel, including one inventor that did it to prove how ridiculous Australia's patent system was and another that put wheels on a wheel so it could wheel while it wheels. From the article: "I discovered today that the Australian patent office has — quietly — revoked the patent it granted, in the year 2001, for the wheel. The patent office had awarded Innovation Patent #2001100012 to John Keogh of Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia. Keogh’s application called his invention a “circular transportation facilitation device.” I became acquainted with Mr. Keogh when we awarded him — and the Australian Patent Office — an Ig Nobel Prize, in 2001."
Australia

Australian Police Use Telcos For Cell "Tower Dump" of All Connected Users' Data 60

Posted by timothy
from the banning-opaque-envelopes-too dept.
AHuxley (892839) writes The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting that Australian federal and state police are using a no warrant cell phone tower metadata access technique called a "tower dump". A "tower dump" provides the identity, activity and location of all cell phones that connect a cellphone tower(s) over time (an hour or two). The metadata from thousands of phones and numbers connected are then sorted. Australian law-enforcement agencies made 330,000 requests for metadata in 2012-13. AHuxley links to some U.S. views on the same kind of massive data grab: The Wall Street Journal says they caputure innocent users' data; the Chicago Police Department is being sued for information on its purchases of equipment associated with this kind of slurping; and the EFF asks whether warrant protection for users' data will be extended by voice-comm companies as it has been for ISPs. I wonder what people would think of an occasional "postal zone dump" employing the same kind of dragnet but for communications on paper.
Australia

Tractor Beam Created Using Water Waves 71

Posted by samzenpus
from the get-over-here dept.
KentuckyFC writes The idea that light waves can push a physical object is far from new. But a much more recent idea is that a laser beam can also pull objects like a tractor beam. Now a team of Australian physicists has used a similar idea to create a tractor beam with water waves that pulls floating objects rather than pushes them. Their technique is to use an elongated block vibrating on the surface of water to create a train of regular plane waves. When the amplitude of these waves is small, they gradually push the surface of the water along, creating a flow that pushes floating objects with it. However, when the amplitude increases, the waves become non-linear and begin to interact with each other in a complex way. This sets up a flow of water on the surface in the opposite direction to the movement of the waves. The result is that floating objects--ping pong balls in the experiment--are pulled towards the vibrating block, like a tractor beam.
Australia

New Zealand ISP's Anti-Geoblocking Service Makes Waves 153

Posted by samzenpus
from the open-it-up dept.
angry tapir writes New Zealanders and Australians are often blocked from using cheap streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu and instead at the mercy of local content monopolies for popular shows such as Game of Thrones. However, a New Zealand ISP, Slingshot, has caused a stir by making a previously opt-in service called 'Global Mode' a default for its customers. The new service means that people in NZ don't need to bother with VPNs or setting up proxies if they want to sign up to Netflix — they can just visit the site. The service has also caused a stir in Australia where the high price for digital goods, such as movies from the iTunes store, is a constant source of irritation for consumers.

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