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Canada

Millions of Spiders Seen In Mass Dispersal Event In Nova Scotia 75

Posted by samzenpus
from the arachnophobia dept.
Freshly Exhumed writes A bizarre and oddly beautiful display of spider webs have been woven across a large field along a walking trail in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada. "Well it's acres and acres; it's a sea of web," said Allen McCormick. Prof. Rob Bennett, an expert on spiders who works at the Royal British Columbia Museum in Victoria, BC, Canada, said tiny, sheet-web weaver spiders known as Erigoninae linyphiidae most likely left the webs. Bennett said the spiders cast a web net to catch the wind and float away in a process known as ballooning. The webs in the field are the spiders' drag lines, left behind as they climb to the top of long grass to be whisked away by the wind. Bennett said it's a mystery why these spiders take off en masse.
Republicans

Republicans Block Latest Attempt At Curbing NSA Power 406

Posted by Soulskill
from the and-everybody-will-have-forgotten-about-it-in-two-years dept.
Robotron23 writes: The latest attempt at NSA reform has been prevented from passage in the Senate by a margin of 58 to 42. Introduced as a means to stop the NSA collecting bulk phone and e-mail records on a daily basis, the USA Freedom Act has been considered a practical route to curtailment of perceived overreach by security services, 18 months since Edward Snowden went public. Opponents to the bill said it was needless, as Wall Street Journal raised the possibility of terrorists such as ISIS running amok on U.S. soil. Supporting the bill meanwhile were the technology giants Google and Microsoft. Prior to this vote, the bill had already been stripped of privacy protections in aid of gaining White House support. A provision to extend the controversial USA Patriot Act to 2017 was also appended by the House of Representatives.
Transportation

Collin Graver and his Wooden Bicycle (Video) 69

Posted by Roblimo
from the we'll-stick-to-our-metal-bikes-for-the-moment-thank-you dept.
This is not a practical bike. "Even on smooth pavement, your vision goes blurry because you're vibrating so hard," Collin said to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter back in 2012 when he was only 15 -- and already building wooden bicycles. Collin's wooden bikes are far from the first ones. Wikipedia says, "The first bicycles recorded, known variously as velocipedes, dandy horses, or hobby horses, were constructed from wood, starting in 1817." And not all wooden bicycles made today are as crude as Collin's. A Portland (OR) company called Renovo makes competition-quality hardwood bicycle frames -- for as little as $2200, and a bunch more for a complete bike with all its hardware fitted and ready to roll.

Of course, while it might be sensible to buy a Renovo product if you want a wood-framed bike to Race Across America, you won't improve your woodworking skills the way Collin's projects have improved his to the point where he's made a nice-looking pair of wood-framed sunglasses described in his WOOD YOU? SHOULD YOU? blog. (Alternate Video Link)
Australia

Laser Creates Quantum Whirlpool 57

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-fall-in dept.
Quantus347 writes: Physicists at The Australian National Univ. (ANU) have engineered a spiral laser beam and used it to create a whirlpool of hybrid light-matter particles called polaritons. Polaritons are hybrid particles that have properties of both matter and light. The ability to control polariton flows in this way could aid the development of completely novel technology to link conventional electronics with new laser- and fiber-based technologies. Polaritons form in semiconductors when laser light interacts with electrons and holes (positively charged vacancies) so strongly that it is no longer possible to distinguish light from matter.
Books

Machine-Learning Algorithm Ranks the World's Most Notable Authors 54

Posted by Soulskill
from the dr.-seuss-oddly-absent dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Every year the works of thousands of authors enter the public domain, but only a small percentage of these end up being widely available. So how do organizations such as Project Gutenberg choose which works to focus on? Allen Riddell has developed an algorithm that automatically generates an independent ranking of notable authors for any given year. It is then a simple task to pick the works to focus on or to spot notable omissions from the past. Riddell's approach is to look at what kind of public domain content the world has focused on in the past and then use this as a guide to find content that people are likely to focus on in the future.

Riddell's algorithm begins with the Wikipedia entries of all authors in the English language edition (PDF)—more than a million of them. His algorithm extracts information such as the article length, article age, estimated views per day, time elapsed since last revision, and so on. This produces a "public domain ranking" of all the authors that appear on Wikipedia. For example, the author Virginia Woolf has a ranking of 1,081 out of 1,011,304 while the Italian painter Giuseppe Amisani, who died in the same year as Woolf, has a ranking of 580,363. So Riddell's new ranking clearly suggests that organizations like Project Gutenberg should focus more on digitizing Woolf's work than Amisani's. Of the individuals who died in 1965 and whose work will enter the public domain next January in many parts of the world, the new algorithm picks out TS Eliot as the most highly ranked individual. Others highly ranked include Somerset Maugham, Winston Churchill, and Malcolm X.
Science

Electric Shock Study Suggests We'd Rather Hurt Ourselves Than Others 122

Posted by Soulskill
from the unless-it's-over-the-internet dept.
sciencehabit writes: If you had the choice between hurting yourself or someone else in exchange for money, how altruistic do you think you'd be? In one infamous experiment, people were quite willing to deliver painful shocks to anonymous victims when asked by a scientist. But a new study that forced people into the dilemma of choosing between pain and profit finds that participants cared more about other people's well-being than their own. It is hailed as the first hard evidence of altruism for the young field of behavioral economics.
Medicine

The Dutch Village Where Everyone Has Dementia 228

Posted by samzenpus
from the last-town dept.
HughPickens.com writes Josh Planos writes at The Atlantic that the isolated village of Hogewey on the outskirts of Amsterdam has been dubbed "Dementia Village" because it is home to residents who are only admitted if they're categorized as having severe cases of dementia or Alzheimer's disease. "There are no wards, long hallways, or corridors at the facility," writes Planos. "Residents live in groups of six or seven to a house, with one or two caretakers. Perhaps the most unique element of the facility—apart from the stealthy "gardener" caretakers—is its approach toward housing. Hogeway features 23 uniquely stylized homes, furnished around the time period when residents' short-term memories stopped properly functioning. There are homes resembling the 1950s, 1970s, and 2000s, accurate down to the tablecloths, because it helps residents feel as if they're home."

In Holland, everyone pays into the state health care system during their working years, with the money then disbursed to pay for later-in-life expenses — and that means living in Hogewey does not cost any more than a traditional nursing home. The inspiration came about in 1992, when Yvonne van Amerongen and another member of staff at a traditional nursing home both had their own mothers die, being glad that their elderly parents had died quickly and had not had to endure hospital-like care. A series of research and brainstorming sessions in 1993 found that humans choose to surround and interact with other like-minded people of similar backgrounds and experiences; the arrangement at Hogewey provides this by ensuring that residents with similar backgrounds continue to live closely together. On a physical level, residents at Hogewey require fewer medications; they eat better and they live longer. On a mental level, they also seem to have more joy. "The people here keep their independence, as much as they can have of it, and they stay active," says Theo Visser. "Here they still have a life. It's not the sort of slow, quiet death you get in other places. Here everyone feels at home."
Wikipedia

Researchers Forecast the Spread of Diseases Using Wikipedia 61

Posted by samzenpus
from the searching-sick dept.
An anonymous reader writes Scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory have used Wikipedia logs as a data source for forecasting disease spread. The team was able to successfully monitor influenza in the United States, Poland, Japan, and Thailand, dengue fever in Brazil and Thailand, and tuberculosis in China and Thailand. The team was also able to forecast all but one of these, tuberculosis in China, at least 28 days in advance.
The Media

Assassin's Creed: Unity Launch Debacle Pulls Spotlight Onto Game Review Embargos 473

Posted by timothy
from the hey-can-you-hold-this? dept.
RogueyWon (735973) writes "The latest entry in the long-running Assassin's Creed game series, Assassin's Creed: Unity released this week. Those looking for pre-release reviews on whether to make a purchase were out of luck; the publisher, Ubisoft, had provided gaming sites with advance copies, but only on condition that their reviews be withheld until 17 hours after the game released in North America. Following the game's release, many players have reported finding it in a highly buggy state, with severe performance issues affecting all three release platforms (PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One). Ubisoft has been forced onto the defensive, taking the unprecedented step of launching a live-blog covering their efforts at debugging the game, but the debacle has already had a large impact on the company's share value and the incident has drawn widespread attention to the increasingly common practice of review embargoes."
Stats

Debunking a Viral Internet Post About Breastfeeding Racism 350

Posted by timothy
from the believe-the-worst dept.
Bennett Haselton writes: A editorial with 24,000 Facebook shares highlights the differences in public reaction to two nearly identical breastfeeding photos, one showing a black woman and one showing a white woman, each breastfeeding an infant. The editorial decries the outrage provoked by the black woman's photo compared to the mild reaction elicited by the white woman's photo, and attributes the difference to racism. I tried an experiment using Amazon's Mechanical Turk to test that theory. Read on to see the kind of results Bennett found.
Books

Book Review: Countdown To Zero Day 58

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
benrothke writes A word to describe the book Takedown: The Pursuit and Capture of Americas Most Wanted Computer Outlaw was hyperbole. While the general storyline from the 1996 book was accurate, filler was written that created the legend of Kevin Mitnick. This in turn makes the book a near work of historical fiction. Much has changed in nearly 20 years and Countdown to Zero Day: Stuxnet and the Launch of the Worlds First Digital Weapon has certainly upped the ante for accurate computer security journalism. The book is a fascinating read and author Kim Zetters attention to detail and accuracy is superb. In the inside cover of the book, Kevin Mitnick describes this as an ambitious, comprehensive and engrossing book. The irony is not lost in that Mitnick was dogged by misrepresentations in Markoff's book. Keep reading for the rest of Ben's review.
Google

Google "Evicted" the Berlin Wall From Property It Bought 59

Posted by samzenpus
from the get-off-my-lawn dept.
theodp writes Sunday marks the 25th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, which Google commemorates in today's Doodle. "Seeking inspiration for this doodle," notes the Google Doodle Team, "we took a short bike ride from our Mountain View, California headquarters to our local public library to study an actual piece of the Berlin Wall" (the Berlin Wall segments are featured in the Doodle). Interestingly, the post doesn't mention Google's connection to how the two sections of the Berlin Wall wound up at the library. After Google bought the Bayside Business Plaza in 2012, where the 12-foot-tall remnants had been kept for decades by German-born businessman Frank Golzen before his death, it reportedly gave the Golzen family until summer 2013 to get the Berlin Wall off its lawn. "Although the donating family has until next summer to remove the installation from the current location," reads a 2012 City of Mountain View Staff Report, "their preference (and the preference of the new owner of the property) is to remove it sooner." A recommendation to relocate the seven ton concrete slabs to remote Charleston Park, adjacent to the Googleplex, was nixed by the City Council, who voted instead to move the Berlin Wall sections to its current home in front of a downtown public library.
Supercomputing

Researchers Simulate Monster EF5 Tornado 61

Posted by Soulskill
from the any-way-the-wind-blows dept.
New submitter Orp writes: I am the member of a research team that created a supercell thunderstorm simulation that is getting a lot of attention. Presented at the 27th Annual Severe Local Storms Conference in Madison, Wisconsin, Leigh Orf's talk was produced entirely as high def video and put on YouTube shortly after the presentation. In the simulation, the storm's updraft is so strong that it essentially peels rain-cooled air near the surface upward and into the storm's updraft, which appears to play a key role in maintaining the tornado. The simulation was based upon the environment that produced the May 24, 2011 outbreak which included a long-track EF5 tornado near El Reno Oklahoma (not to be confused with the May 31, 2013 EF5 tornado that killed three storm researchers).
Math

Mathematical Proof That the Universe Could Come From Nothing 429

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-are-a-long-term-fluctuation dept.
TaleSlinger writes: One of the great theories of modern cosmology is that the universe began in a "Big Bang", but the mathematical mechanism by which this occurred has been lacking. Cosmologists at the Wuhan Institute have published a proof that the Big Bang could indeed have occurred spontaneously because of quantum fluctuations. "The new proof is based on a special set of solutions to a mathematical entity known as the Wheeler-DeWitt equation. In the first half of the 20th century, cosmologists struggled to combine the two pillars of modern physics— quantum mechanics and general relativity—in a way that reasonably described the universe. As far as they could tell, these theories were entirely at odds with each other.

At the heart of their thinking is Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. This allows a small empty space to come into existence probabilistically due to fluctuations in what physicists call the metastable false vacuum. When this happens, there are two possibilities. If this bubble of space does not expand rapidly, it disappears again almost instantly. But if the bubble can expand to a large enough size, then a universe is created in a way that is irreversible. The question is: does the Wheeler-DeWitt equation allow this? "We prove that once a small true vacuum bubble is created, it has the chance to expand exponentially," say the researchers.
Science

First Experimental Demonstration of a Trapped Rainbow Using Silicon 79

Posted by timothy
from the can-you-trap-it-in-my-tastebuds? dept.
KentuckyFC writes Back in 1947, a pair of physicists demonstrated that when a beam of light reflects off a surface, the point of reflection can shift forward when parts of the beam interfere with each other. 60 years later, another group of physicists discovered that this so-called Goos-Hanchen effect could sometimes be negative so the point of reflection would go back toward the source rather than away from it. They even suggested that if the negative effect could be made big enough, it could cancel out the forward movement of the light. In other words, the light would become trapped at a single location. Now, physicists have demonstrated this effect for the first time using light reflected off a sheet of silica. The trick they've employed is to place a silicon diffraction grating in contact with the silica to make the interference effect large enough to counteract the forward motion of the light. And by using several gratings with different spacings, they've trapped an entire rainbow. The light can be easily released by removing the grating. Until now, it has only been possible to trap light efficiently inside Bose Einstein Condensates at temperatures close to absolute zero. The new technique could be used as a cheap optical buffer or memory, making it an enabling technology for purely optical computing.
Wikipedia

Meet the 36 People Who Run Wikipedia 140

Posted by samzenpus
from the who's-running-things dept.
blastboy writes By pretty much any logic, Wikipedia shouldn't work: A vast website, built on the labor of volunteers, with very few tangible rewards and a fairly weird hierarchy. From the article: "The stewards would prefer to go unnoticed. Only one has ever had any real fame—Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales served as a steward from 2006 to 2009. They operate above the fray, giving and taking user privileges and intervening in matters that lower-ranking editors can’t handle. You can summon them for emergencies in the Wikimedia Stewards IRC chat room by typing '!steward.' Their secrecy has a certain irony, given the very public product they manage, but perhaps it’s emblematic of Wikimedia as a whole. When your foundational value is that 'every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge,' hierarchies become a necessary evil."
Programming

The Effect of Programming Language On Software Quality 217

Posted by Soulskill
from the hold-on-to-your-hats dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Discussions whether a given programming language is "the right tool for the job" inevitably lead to debate. While some of these debates may appear to be tinged with an almost religious fervor, most people would agree that a programming language can impact not only the coding process, but also the properties of the resulting product. Now computer scientists at the University of California — Davis have published a study of the effect of programming languages on software quality (PDF) using a very large data set from GitHub. They analyzed 729 projects with 80 million SLOC by 29,000 authors and 1.5 million commits in 17 languages. The large sample size allowed them to use a mixed-methods approach, combining multiple regression modeling with visualization and text analytics, to study the effect of language features such as static vs. dynamic typing, strong vs. weak typing on software quality. By triangulating findings from different methods, and controlling for confounding effects such as team size, project size, and project history, they report that language design does have a significant, but modest effect on software quality.

Quoting: "Most notably, it does appear that strong typing is modestly better than weak typing, and among functional languages, static typing is also somewhat better than dynamic typing. We also find that functional languages are somewhat better than procedural languages. It is worth noting that these modest effects arising from language design are overwhelmingly dominated by the process factors such as project size, team size, and commit size. However, we hasten to caution the reader that even these modest effects might quite possibly be due to other, intangible process factors, e.g., the preference of certain personality types for functional, static and strongly typed languages."
The Military

The Plane Crash That Gave Us GPS 236

Posted by Soulskill
from the location-location-location dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Sarah Laskow reports at The Atlantic about the aftereffects of the KAL 007 incident, where the Soviet Union shot down a passenger plane on September 1, 1983. All 269 passengers were killed, including a U.S. Congressman en route from New York City to Seoul via Anchorage. At first, the Soviet Union wouldn't even admit its military had shot the plane down, but the Reagan administration immediately started pushing to establish what had happened and stymie the operations of the Soviet Aeroflot airline. It is widely believed that Korean Air Lines Flight 007 was already well off course when the crew routinely radioed that it was over its proper ''way point,'' or checkpoint, at a 90-degree angle to Shemya Island in the West Aleutian chain. Ultimately, the Boeing 747 jumbo jet cut across the lower tip of the Kamchatka Peninsula and the southern tip of Sakhalin Island, where it was shot down by a Soviet fighter.

This resulted in President Reagan making a notable choice. While this choice was reported at the time, it was not the biggest news to come out of this event: Reagan decided to speed up the timeline for civilian use of GPS. The U.S. had already launched almost a dozen satellites into orbit that could help locate its military craft, on land, in the air, or on the sea. But the use of the system was restricted. Now, Reagan said, as soon as the next iteration of the GPS system was working, it would be available for free. It took more than $10 billion and over 10 years for the second version of the U.S.'s GPS system to come fully online. But in 1995, as promised, it was available to private companies for consumer applications. It didn't take long, though, for commercial providers of GPS services to start complaining about the system's "selective availability" which reserved access to the best, most precise signals for the U.S. military. In 2000, not that long before he left office, President Clinton got rid of selective availability and freed the world from ever depending on paper maps or confusing directions from relatives again.
Google

Ask Slashdot: Single Sign-On To Link Google Apps and Active Directory? 168

Posted by timothy
from the all-in-the-same-gang dept.
trazom28 writes to seek answers to a problem faced by many businesses (and, as in this case, schools): "We are looking for a solution to a single sign on to coordinate Active Directory and Google. You can sync the passwords easily enough with Google Apps Password Sync, but ideally we would like the students and staff to be able to sign in once and be done. Additionally, the Google login requires the @domain.k12.wi.us so it would have to take the AD username, pass it along and tack on the domain to log into Google.

Has anyone seen any solution for this that actually works, or is this the Holy Grail of all IT? Please hold off on any Google haters, that's a different discussion for a different forum.

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