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Ask Slashdot: How To Pick Up Astronomy and Physics As an Adult? 230

Posted by timothy
from the productive-member-of-socety dept.
First time accepted submitter samalex01 (1290786) writes "I'm 38, married, two young kids, and I have a nice job in the IT industry, but since I was a kid I've had this deep love and passion for astronomy and astrophysics. This love and passion though never evolved into any formal education or anything beyond just a distant fascination as I got out of high school, into college, and started going through life on more of an IT career path. So my question, now that I'm 38 is there any hope that I could start learning more about astronomy or physics to make it more than just a hobby? I don't expect to be a Carl Sagan or Neil deGrasse Tyson, but I'd love to have enough knowledge in these subjects to research and experiment to the point where I could possibly start contributing back to the field. MIT Open Courseware has some online courses for free that cover these topics, but given I can only spend maybe 10 hours a week on this would it be a pointless venture? Not to mention my mind isn't as sharp now as it was 20 years ago when I graduated high school. Thanks for any advice or suggestions."
Classic Games (Games)

Commander Keen: Keen Dreams Source Code Released 72

Posted by Soulskill
from the better-late-than-never dept.
New submitter ildon writes: Recently, the rights holder of former game publisher Softdisk's game library put the rights to some of their old titles up for sale, including Commander Keen: Keen Dreams, one of the few games in the series not to be published by Apogee. A group of fans created an Indiegogo campaign to purchase those rights. We are just now seeing the fruits of that effort with the full source code of the game being published to GitHub. About a year ago, Tom Hall found the sources to episodes 4-6, but it's not clear what, if any, progress has been made on getting Bethesda to allow that code to be released.

Astronomers Find Star-Within-a-Star, 40 Years After First Theorized 72

Posted by Soulskill
from the plot-a-course-and-engage-at-warp-six dept.
derekmead writes: After 40 years, astronomers have likely found a rather strange celestial body known as a Thorne–Zytkow object (TZO), in which a neutron star is absorbed by a red supergiant. Originally predicted in the 1970s, the first non-theoretical TZO was found earlier this year, based on calculations presented in a paper forthcoming in MNRAS.

TZOs were predicted by astronomer Kip Thorne and Anna Zytkow, who wasthen postdoctoral fellow at CalTech. The pair imagined what might happen if a neutron star in a binary system merged with its partner red supergiant. This wouldn't be like two average stars merging. Neutron stars are the ancient remnants of stars that grew too big and exploded. Their cores remain small — about 12.5 miles across — as they shed material out into space. Red supergiants are the largest stars in the galaxy, with radii up to 800 times that of our sun, but they aren't dense.

New Global Plan Would Crack Down On Corporate Tax Avoidance 323

Posted by Soulskill
from the bring-our-benjamins-home dept. writes: Reuters reports that plans for a major rewriting of international tax rules have been unveiled by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that could eliminate structures that have allowed companies like Google and Amazon to shave billions of dollars off their tax bills. For more than 50 years, the OECD's work on international taxation has been focused on ensuring companies are not taxed twice on the same profits (and thereby hampering trade and limit global growth). But companies have been using such treaties to ensure profits are not taxed anywhere. A Reuters investigation last year found that three quarters of the 50 biggest U.S. technology companies channeled revenues from European sales into low tax jurisdictions like Ireland and Switzerland, rather than reporting them nationally.

For example, search giant Google takes advantage of tax treaties to channel more than $8 billion in untaxed profits out of Europe and Asia each year and into a subsidiary that is tax resident in Bermuda, which has no income tax. "We are putting an end to double non-taxation," says OECD head of tax Pascal Saint-Amans.For the recommendations to actually become binding, countries will have to encode them in their domestic laws or amend their bilateral tax treaties. Even if they do pass, these changes are likely 5-10 years away from going into effect.
Speaking of international corporate business: U.K. mainframe company Micro Focus announced it will buy Attachmate, which includes Novell and SUSE.

Developing the First Law of Robotics 165

Posted by Soulskill
from the thou-shalt-not-kill-all-humans dept.
wabrandsma sends this article from New Scientist: In an experiment, Alan Winfield and his colleagues programmed a robot to prevent other automatons – acting as proxies for humans – from falling into a hole. This is a simplified version of Isaac Asimov's fictional First Law of Robotics – a robot must not allow a human being to come to harm. At first, the robot was successful in its task. As a human proxy moved towards the hole, the robot rushed in to push it out of the path of danger. But when the team added a second human proxy rolling toward the hole at the same time, the robot was forced to choose. Sometimes, it managed to save one human while letting the other perish; a few times it even managed to save both. But in 14 out of 33 trials, the robot wasted so much time fretting over its decision that both humans fell into the hole. Winfield describes his robot as an "ethical zombie" that has no choice but to behave as it does. Though it may save others according to a programmed code of conduct, it doesn't understand the reasoning behind its actions.

Browser To Facilitate Text Browsing In Emergencies 40

Posted by timothy
from the do-you-want-to-upgrade-flash-now dept.
Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes "Programmers at Fast Company are developing the Cosmos browser to allow text browsing from Android phones when networks are buckling under the load of local disasters. A common phenomenon when disaster strikes is the overloading of cell and data networks by massively increased traffic. The Cosmos browser is intended to facilitate using SMS text messages, which often still get through in such circumstances. To quote one developer, "We want this to be a way for people to get information when they're in dire need of it." Sort of a Lynx comes to Android affair. The Smithsonian contemplates the possibilities, here."

The Future According To Stanislaw Lem 195

Posted by Soulskill
from the drugs-and-nanotech dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Paris Review has an article about SF author Stanislaw Lem, explaining Lem's outlook on the future and his expectations for technological advancement. Lem tended toward a view that technology would infect and eventually supplant biological evolution. But he also suggested an interesting explanation for why we haven't detected alien civilizations: "Perhaps ... they are so taken up with perfecting their own organisms that they've abandoned space exploration entirely. According to a similar hypothesis, such beings are invisible because technological ease has resulted in a 'Second Stone Age' of 'universal illiteracy and idleness.' When everyone's needs are perfectly met, it 'would be hard, indeed, to find one individual who would choose as his life's work the signaling, on a cosmic scale, of how he was getting along.' Rather than constructing Dyson Spheres, Lem suggests, advanced civilizations are more likely to spend their time getting high.""

Liquid Sponges Extract Hydrogen From Water 113

Posted by Soulskill
from the solid-sponges-are-so-2013 dept.
New submitter gaelfx writes: Researchers at Glasglow University have an interesting method for separating the hydrogen out of water: Liquid Sponges. Most methods of extracting the hydrogen involve some form electrolysis, but these generally require some pretty expensive materials. The researchers claim that they can accomplish this using less electricity, cheaper materials and 30 times faster to boot. With both Honda and Toyota promising hydrogen fuel cell cars in Japan within the next few years (other manufacturers must be considering it as well, if not as publicly), does this spell a new future for transportation technology?

Learning About Enea's Real Time Linux Embedded OS (Video) 27

Posted by Roblimo
from the not-quite-real-time-but-almost dept.
Jon Aldama is the Product Marketing Manager for Enea A.B., but he prides himself on being a developer first and a marketer second -- a point he stresses early in today's video. Enea is behind Operating System Embedded, whose Wikipedia page, some say, "appears to be written like an advertisement," which an unkind person could also say about the Enea A.B. Wikipedia page. In any case, Enea works with the Linux Foundation's Yocto Project workgroup, whose main webpage says, "It's not an embedded Linux distribution – it creates a custom one for you." This is all open source, which Jon says is a big corporate principle at Enea -- and he should know, since his previous job was as an Open Source Compliance Officer and Software Analyst at Ericsson. (Alternate Video Link)

Northwest Passage Exploration Ship Found 80

Posted by Soulskill
from the forgot-to-bring-their-GPS dept.
Kittenman writes: The BBC (and several other sources) are carrying the news that the Canadian government has found the sunken remains of one of Sir John Franklin's ships (either the Erebus, or the Terror), that went missing in the 1840s, causing sensation in Victorian London. Sir John and his entire crew were never seen alive again. The search for traces of the expedition went for over ten years in the 19th century, partly led by Sir John's widow. The discovery has been called the biggest archaeological event since the discovery of Tutankhamen's tomb.

Book Review: Architecting the Cloud 75

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
benrothke writes Most books about cloud computing are either extremely high-level quasi-marketing tomes about the myriad benefits of the cloud without any understanding of how to practically implement the technology under discussion. The other type of cloud books are highly technical references guides, that provide technical details, but for a limited audience. In Architecting the Cloud: Design Decisions for Cloud Computing Service Models, author Michael Kavis has written perhaps the most honest book about the cloud. Make no doubt about it; Kavis is a huge fan of the cloud. But more importantly, he knows what the limits of the cloud are, and how cloud computing is not a panacea. That type of candor makes this book an invaluable guide to anyone looking to understand how to effective deploy cloud technologies. Keep reading below for the rest of Ben's review.

How Astrophysicists Hope To Turn the Entire Moon Into a Cosmic Ray Detector 74

Posted by samzenpus
from the that's-no-moon dept.
KentuckyFC writes One of the great mysteries in astrophysics surrounds the origin of ultra-high energy cosmic rays, which can have energies of 10^20 electron volts and beyond. To put that in context, that's a single proton with the same energy as a baseball flying at 100 kilometers per hour. Nobody knows where ultra-high energy cosmic rays come from or how they get their enormous energies. That's largely because they are so rare--physicists detect them on Earth at a rate of less than one particle per square kilometer per century. So astronomers have come up with a plan to see vastly more ultra high energy cosmic rays by using the Moon as a giant cosmic ray detector. When these particles hit the lunar surface, they generate brief bursts of radio waves that a highly sensitive radio telescope can pick up. No radio telescope on Earth is currently capable of this but astronomers are about to start work on a new one that will be able to pick up these signals for the first time. That should help them finally tease apart the origins of these most energetic particles in the Universe .

Restoring Salmon To Their Original Habitat -- With a Cannon 147

Posted by timothy
from the going-up? dept.
StartsWithABang writes Hydroelectric dams are one of the best and oldest sources of green, renewable energy, but — as the Three Gorges Dam in China exemplifies — they often cause a host of environmental and ecological problems and challenges. One of the more interesting ones is how to coax fish upstream in the face of these herculean walls that can often span more than 500 feet in height. While fish ladders might be a solution for some of the smaller dams, they're limited in application and success. Could Whooshh Innovations' Salmon Cannon, a pneumatic tube capable of launching fish up-and-over these dams, finally restore the Columbia River salmon to their original habitats?

Ask Slashdot: Best Service To Digitize VHS Home Movies? 130

Posted by timothy
from the nod-is-as-good-as-a-wink dept.
An anonymous reader writes Could someone recommend a service to convert old VHS home movies to a lossless archival format such as FFV1? The file format needs to be lossless so I can edit and convert the files with less generation loss, it needs 4:1:1 or better chroma subsampling in order to get the full color resolution from the source tapes, and preferably it should have more than 8 bits per channel of color in order to avoid banding while correcting things like color, brightness, and contrast.

So far, the best VHS archival services I've found use either the DV codec or QuickTime Pro-Res, both of which are lossy.
United Kingdom

New DNA Analysis On Old Blood Pegs Aaron Kosminski As Jack the Ripper 135

Posted by timothy
from the everybody's-got-a-theory dept.
It surely won't be the last theory offered, but a century and a quarter after the notorious crimes of Jack the Ripper, an "armchair detective" has employed DNA analysis on the blood-soaked shawl of one of the Ripper's victims, and has declared it in a new book an unambiguous match with Jewish immigrant Aaron Kosminski, long considered a suspect. Kosminski died in 1919 in an insane asylum. The landmark discovery was made after businessman Russell Edwards, 48, bought the shawl at auction and enlisted the help of Dr Jari Louhelainen, a world-renowned expert in analysing genetic evidence from historical crime scenes. Using cutting-edge techniques, Dr Louhelainen was able to extract 126-year-old DNA from the material and compare it to DNA from descendants of [Ripper victim Catherine] Eddowes and the suspect, with both proving a perfect match. (Also at The Independent.) It's not the first time DNA evidence has been used to try to pin down the identity of Jack the Ripper, but the claimed results in this case are far less ambiguous than another purported mitochondrial DNA connection promoted by crime novelist Patricia Cornwell in favor of artist Walter Sickert as the killer in a 2002 book. Update: 09/07 16:03 GMT by T : Corrected Sickert's first name, originally misstated as "William."

"Net Neutrality" Coiner Tim Wu Is Running For Lt. Governor of New York 40

Posted by timothy
from the well-tim's-a-good-name dept.
speedplane (552872) writes Tim Wu, the popular Columbia Law Professor, author of The Master Switch, and the guy who coined the term Net Neutrality, is running for Lieutenant Governor of the great state of New York. He "has waged a shoestring anti-establishment campaign," that is well underway, and has even begun receiving attacks from the incumbent: "It has not always been smooth for Mr. Wu .... Surrogates for Mr. Cuomo have pounced on his admitted lack of 'message discipline' for comments he made comparing net neutrality to the suffragist movement (which he says were taken out of context) and sympathizing with Airbnb (which he says is 'fair game' because he has a 'wait-and-see approach' to regulating start-ups)."

UCLA, CIsco & More Launch Consortium To Replace TCP/IP 254

Posted by timothy
from the still-involves-controls-and-protocols dept.
alphadogg writes Big name academic and vendor organizations have unveiled a consortium this week that's pushing Named Data Networking (NDN), an emerging Internet architecture designed to better accommodate data and application access in an increasingly mobile world. The Named Data Networking Consortium members, which include universities such as UCLA and China's Tsinghua University as well as vendors such as Cisco and VeriSign, are meeting this week at a two-day workshop at UCLA to discuss NDN's promise for scientific research. Big data, eHealth and climate research are among the application areas on the table. The NDN effort has been backed in large part by the National Science Foundation, which has put more than $13.5 million into it since 2010.
Open Source

Slashdot Talks with David Nalley About Apache CloudStack (Video) 13

Posted by Roblimo
from the my-cloud-is-cloudier-than-your-cloud dept.
This Citrix Web page at says, "David is a PMC (Project Management Commitee) member of the Apache CloudStack project, jClouds committer, Fedora contributor and an Open Source Evangelist for the Open Source Business Office at Citrix." CloudStack has been an Apache Top Level Project since March 2013, with David on board all the way. He's obviously the right person to turn to for an Apache CloudStack update, including some commentary on the differences between Apache CloudStack and OpenStack, two projects often viewed as competitors. (Alternate Video Link)
The Military

Could Tech Have Stopped ISIS From Using Our Own Heavy Weapons Against Us? 448

Posted by Soulskill
from the smart-phones-are-way-smarter-than-smart-bombs dept.
JonZittrain writes: This summer, ISIS insurgents captured Mosul — with with it, three divisions' worth of advanced American military hardware. After ISIS used it to capture the Mosul Dam, the U.S. started bombing its own pirated equipment. Could sophisticated military tanks and anti-aircraft missiles given or sold to countries like Iraq be equipped with a way to disable them if they're compromised, without opening them up to hacking by an enemy?

We already require extra authentication at a distance to arm nuclear weapons, and last season's 24 notwithstanding, we routinely operate military drones at a distance. Reportedly in the Falkland Islands war, Margaret Thatcher was able to extract codes to disable Argentina's Exocet missiles from the French. The simplest implementation might be like the proposal for land mines that expire after a certain time. Perhaps tanks — currently usable without even an ignition key — could require a renewal code digitally signed by the owning country to be entered manually or received by satellite every six months or so.

I'm a skeptic of kill switches, especially in consumer devices, but still found myself writing up the case for a way to disable military hardware in the field. There are lots of reasons it might not work — or work too well — but is there a way to improve on what we face now?

Bringing New Security Features To Docker 29

Posted by timothy
from the password-is-stevedore dept.
Czech37 writes SELinux lead Dan Walsh wrote last month that Docker "containers do not contain" and that the host system isn't completely protected. Today, Walsh details the steps that Docker, Red Hat, and the open source community are taking to make Docker more secure: "Basically, we want to put in as many security barriers to break out as possible. If a privileged process can break out of one containment tool, we want to block them with the next. With Docker, we are want to take advantage of as many security components of Linux as possible. If "Docker" isn't a familiar word, the project's website is informative; the very short version is that it's a Linux-based "open platform for developers and sysadmins to build, ship, and run distributed applications"; Wikipedia has a good explanation, too.

The generation of random numbers is too important to be left to chance.