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Space

Astronomers Solve Puzzle of the Mountains That Fell From Space 49

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the just-a-crashed-ring-station dept.
KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "Iapetus, Saturn's third largest moon, was first photographed by the Cassini spacecraft on 31 December 2004. The images created something of a stir. Clearly visible was a narrow, steep ridge of mountains that stretch almost halfway around the moon's equator. The question that has since puzzled astronomers is how this mountain range got there. Now evidence is mounting that this mountain range is not the result of tectonic or volcanic activity, like mountain ranges on other planets. Instead, astronomers are increasingly convinced that this mountain range fell from space. The latest evidence is a study of the shape of the mountains using 3-D images generated from Cassini data. They show that the angle of the mountainsides is close to the angle of repose, that's the greatest angle that a granular material can form before it landslides. That's not proof but it certainly consistent with this exotic formation theory. So how might this have happened?

Astronomers think that early in its life, Iapetus must have been hit by another moon, sending huge volumes of ejecta into orbit. Some of this condensed into a new moon that escaped into space. However, the rest formed an unstable ring that gradually spiraled in towards the moon, eventually depositing the material in a narrow ridge around the equator. Cassini's next encounter with Iapetus will be in 2015 which should give astronomers another chance to study the strangest mountain range in the Solar System."
Media

Bill Gates Patents Detecting, Responding To "Glassholes" 132

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the fighting-back-against-the-thousand-eyes dept.
theodp (442580) writes "As Google Glass goes on sale [ed: or rather, went on sale] to the general public, GeekWire reports that Bill Gates has already snagged one patent for 'detecting and responding to an intruding camera' and has another in the works. The invention proposes to equip computer and device displays with technology for detecting and responding to any cameras in the vicinity by editing or blurring the content on the screen, or alerting the user to the presence of the camera. Gates and Nathan Myhrvold are among the 16 co-inventors of the so-called Unauthorized Viewer Detection System and Method, which the patent application notes is useful 'while a user is taking public transportation, where intruding cameras are likely to be present.' So, is Bill's patent muse none other than NYC subway rider Sergey Brin?" A more cynical interpretation: closing the analog hole. Vaguely related, mpicpp pointed out that Google filed a patent for cameras embedded in contact lenses.
United States

Study Finds US Is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy 715

Posted by Soulskill
from the cats-and-dogs-governing-together dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Researchers from Princeton University and Northwestern University have concluded, after extensive analysis of 1,779 policy issues, that the U.S. is in fact an oligarchy and not a democracy. What this means is that, although 'Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance,' 'majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts.' Their study (PDF), to be published in Perspectives on Politics, found that 'When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.'"
Government

Slashdot Asks: How Do You Pay Your Taxes? 380

Posted by timothy
from the what-you're-billed-and-what-you-owe-aren't-identical dept.
April 15, 2014 isn't just a full moon: it's Tax Day in the U.S. That means most American adults have already submitted a tax return, or an extension request, to the IRS and -- except for a few lucky states -- to their state governments as well. I filed my (very simple) tax return online. After scanning the free options, since I live in a state -- Texas -- that does not collect personal income tax, I chose Tax Act's free services. That meant enduring a series of annoying upgrade plugs throughout the process, but I could live with that; I have no reason to think it was better or worse than TurboTax or any of the other e-Filing companies, but I liked Tax Act’s interface, and it seemed less skeevy in all those upgrade plugs than the others I glanced at. The actual process took an hour and 19 minutes once I sat down with the papers I needed. My financial life is pretty simple, though: I didn't buy or sell a house, didn't buy or sell stocks outside of a retirement account mutual fund, and didn't move from one state to another. How do you do your taxes? Do you have an argument for one or another of the online services, or any cautionary tales? Do you prefer to send in forms on paper? Do you hire an accountant? (And for readers outside the U.S., it's always interesting to hear how taxes work in other countries, too. Are there elements of the U.S. system you'd prefer, or that you're glad you don't need to deal with?)
Government

Is Crimea In Russia? Internet Companies Have Different Answers 279

Posted by timothy
from the now-that-depends-who-you-gentleman-are-with dept.
judgecorp (778838) writes "Three weeks after Russia asserted that Crimea is part of its territory, the social networks have a problem: how to categories their users from the region? Facebook and the largest Russian social network, Vkontakte, still say Crimeans are located in Ukraine, while other Russian social networks say they are Russians. Meanwhile, on Wikipedia, an edit war has resulted in Crimea being part of Russia, but shaded a different colour to signify the territory is disputed. Search engine Yandex is trying to cover both angles: its maps service gives a different answer, depending on which location you send your query from."
Japan

Humans Are Taking Jobs From Robots In Japan 80

Posted by timothy
from the totally-unfair dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Bloomberg reports that humans are taking the place of machines in plants across Japan so workers can develop new skills and figure out ways to improve production lines and the car-building process. "We need to become more solid and get back to basics, to sharpen our manual skills and further develop them," says Mitsuru Kawai, a half century-long company veteran tapped by President Akio Toyoda to promote craftsmanship at Toyota's plants. "When I was a novice, experienced masters used to be called gods (Kami-sama in Japanese), and they could make anything."

According to Kawai, learning how to make car parts from scratch gives younger workers insights they otherwise wouldn't get from picking parts from bins and conveyor belts, or pressing buttons on machines. At about 100 manual-intensive workspaces introduced over the last three years across Toyota's factories in Japan, these lessons can then be applied to reprogram machines to cut down on waste and improve processes. In an area Kawai directly supervises at the forging division of Toyota's Honsha plant, workers twist, turn and hammer metal into crankshafts instead of using the typically automated process. Experiences there have led to innovations in reducing levels of scrap and shortening the production line and Kawai also credits manual labor for helping workers improve production of axle beams and cut the costs of making chassis parts. "We cannot simply depend on the machines that only repeat the same task over and over again," says Kawai. "To be the master of the machine, you have to have the knowledge and the skills to teach the machine.""
Transportation

The Best Parking Apps You've Never Heard Of and Why You Haven't 163

Posted by samzenpus
from the park-that-anywhere dept.
Bennett Haselton writes "If you read no further, use either the BestParking or ParkMe app to search all nearby parking garages for the cheapest spot, based on the time you're arriving and leaving. I'm interested in the question of why so few people know about these apps, how is it that they've been partially crowded out by other 'parking apps' that are much less useful, and why our marketplace for ideas and intellectual properly is still so inefficient." Read below to see what Bennett has to say.
Math

Mathematicians Use Mossberg 500 Pump-Action Shotgun To Calculate Pi 307

Posted by samzenpus
from the less-common-core-math dept.
KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "Imagine the following scenario. The end of civilization has occurred, zombies have taken over the Earth and all access to modern technology has ended. The few survivors suddenly need to know the value of pi and, being a mathematician, they turn to you. What do you do? According to a couple of Canadian mathematicians, the answer is to repeatedly fire a Mossberg 500 pump action shotgun at a square aluminum target about 20 meters away. Then imagine that the square is inscribed with an arc drawn between opposite corners that maps out a quarter circle. If the sides of the square are equal to 1, then the area of the quarter circle is pi/4. Next, count the number of pellet holes that fall inside the area of the quarter circle as well as the total number of holes. The ratio between these is an estimate of the ratio between the area of the quarter circle and the area of a square, or in other words pi/4. So multiplying this number by 4 will give you an estimate of pi. That's a process known as a Monte Carlo approximation and it is complicated by factors such as the distribution of the pellets not being random. But the mathematicians show how to handle these too. The result? According to this method, pi is 3.13, which is just 0.33 per cent off the true value. Handy if you find yourself in a post-apocalyptic world."
Sci-Fi

Ask Slashdot: Are You Apocalypse-Useful? 723

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it-and-i-feel-disenfranchised dept.
An anonymous reader writes: "Young people, when choosing a profession, are often told to 'do what you love.' That's why we have experts in such abstruse fields as medieval gymel. But let's talk hypotheticals: if there's a worldwide catastrophe in which civilization is interrupted, somebody specializing in gymel wouldn't provide much use to fellow survivors. In a post-apocalypse world, medical doctors would be useful, as would most scientists and engineers. The bad news for Slashdotters is that decades without computers would render computer science and related professions useless. What do you consider to be the most useful and mostly useless post-apocalypse professions? How long would it take for society to rebuild enough for your profession to be useful?"
Math

Mathematical Proof That the Cosmos Could Have Formed Spontaneously From Nothing 590

Posted by Soulskill
from the something-from-nothing dept.
KentuckyFC writes: "One of the great theories of modern cosmology is that the universe began in a Big Bang. It's backed up by numerous lines of evidence, such as the cosmic microwave background and so on. But what caused the Big Bang, itself? For many years, cosmologists have fallen back on the idea that the universe formed spontaneously; that the Big Bang was result of quantum fluctuations in which the universe came into existence from nothing. But is this compatible with what we know about the Big Bang itself and the theories that describe it? Now cosmologists have come up with the first rigorous proof that the Big Bang could indeed have occurred spontaneously and produced the universe we see today. The proof is developed within a mathematical framework known as the Wheeler-DeWitt equation. Heisenberg's uncertainty principle allows a small region of empty space to come into existence probabilistically due to quantum fluctuations. Most of the time, such a bubble will collapse and disappear. The question these scientists address is whether a bubble could also expand exponentially to allow a universe to form in an irreversible way. Their proof (PDF) shows that this is indeed possible. There is an interesting corollary: the role of the cosmological constant is played by a property known as the quantum potential. This is a property introduced in the 20th century by the physicist David Bohm, which has the effect of making quantum mechanics deterministic while reproducing all of its predictions. It's an idea that has never caught on. Perhaps that will change now."
Communications

New French Law Prohibits After-Hours Work Emails 476

Posted by timothy
from the annual-non-performance-review dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Lucy Mangan reports at The Guardian that a new labor agreement in France means that employees must ignore their bosses' work emails once they are out of the office and relaxing at home – even on their smartphones. Under the deal, which affects a million employees in the technology and consultancy sectors (including the French arms of Google, Facebook, and Deloitte), employees will also have to resist the temptation to look at work-related material on their computers or smartphones – or any other kind of malevolent intrusion into the time they have been nationally mandated to spend on whatever the French call la dolce vita. "We must also measure digital working time," says Michel De La Force, chairman of the General Confederation of Managers. "We can admit extra work in exceptional circumstances but we must always come back to what is normal, which is to unplug, to stop being permanently at work." However critics say it will impose further red tape on French businesses, which already face some of the world's tightest labor laws." (Continues)
Science

LHCb Confirms Existence of Exotic Hadrons 99

Posted by Soulskill
from the pushing-back-the-boundaries-of-physics dept.
An anonymous reader sends this news from CERN: "The Large Hadron Collider beauty (LHCb) collaboration today announced results that confirm the existence of exotic hadrons – a type of matter that cannot be classified within the traditional quark model. Hadrons are subatomic particles that can take part in the strong interaction – the force that binds protons inside the nuclei of atoms. Physicists have theorized since the 1960s, and ample experimental evidence since has confirmed, that hadrons are made up of quarks and antiquarks that determine their properties. A subset of hadrons, called mesons, is formed from quark-antiquark pairs, while the rest – baryons – are made up of three quarks. ... The Belle Collaboration reported the first evidence for the Z(4430) in 2008. They found a tantalizing peak in the mass distribution of particles that result from the decays of B mesons. Belle later confirmed the existence of the Z(4430) with a significance of 5.2 sigma on the scale that particle physicists use to describe the certainty of a result. LHCb reports a more detailed measurement of the Z(4430) that confirms that it is unambiguously a particle, and a long-sought exotic hadron at that. They analyzed more than 25,000 decays of B mesons selected from data from 180 trillion (180x10^12) proton-proton collisions in the Large Hadron Collider."
The Military

Navy Debuts New Railgun That Launches Shells at Mach 7 630

Posted by Soulskill
from the playing-instagib-on-the-high-seas dept.
Jeremiah Cornelius writes: "The U.S. Navy's new railgun technology, developed by General Atomics, uses the Lorentz force in a type of linear, electric motor to hurl a 23-pound projectile at speeds exceeding Mach 7 — in excess of 5,000 mph. The weapon has a range of 100 miles and doesn't require explosive warheads. 'The electromagnetic railgun represents an incredible new offensive capability for the U.S. Navy,' says Rear Adm. Bryant Fuller, the Navy's chief engineer. 'This capability will allow us to effectively counter a wide range of threats at a relatively low cost, while keeping our ships and sailors safer by removing the need to carry as many high-explosive weapons.' Sea trials begin aboard an experimental Navy catamaran, the USNS Millinocket, in 2016."
Data Storage

Data Storage Pioneer Wins Millennium Technology Prize 40

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the thanks-for-getting-us-to-a-buck-a-gig dept.
jones_supa (887896) writes "The British scientist Stuart Parkin, whose work made it possible for hard disks to radically expand in size, has been awarded the Millennium Technology Prize (Millennium-teknologiapalkinto). Professor Parkin's discoveries rely on magneto-resistive thin-film structures and the development of the giant magnetoresistance (GMR) spin-valve read head. These advances allow more information to be stored on each disk platter. Technology Academy Finland — the foundation behind the award — justifies the prize by saying that Parkin's innovations allow us to store large volumes of data in cloud services." He is currently working on Racetrack memory, which would obsolete flash and hard disks (and probably even RAM).
Transportation

Land Rover Demos "Transparent Hood" 172

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the oh-look-a-possum dept.
cartechboy (2660665) writes "When we were kids, we were promised flying cars in the future, like The Jetsons. Well, now it's the future, and we don't have any flying cars. But Land Rover just unveiled some crazy new technology called the Transparent Hood system. It's brilliant in its simplicity, and yet quite complex in its implementation. Using a web of camera images and projectors, the Transparent Hood system projects the area just in front of and underneath the nose of the vehicle onto a head-up display along the lower portion of the windshield. Not only is this obviously breathtaking, but when it comes to off-roading—or parking in tight urban spaces—this could change the game. It will allow drivers to see precisely what's below them and immediately in front of them allowing precise placement of the vehicle's front wheels. The system also displays key vehicle data including speed, incline, roll angle, steering position, and drive mode. People, this is the future, and the future is now."
Australia

Australia Declares Homeopathy Nonsense, Urges Doctors to Inform Patients 408

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the healing-crystals-considered-harmful dept.
jones_supa (887896) writes "Homeopathy is a 200-year-old form of alternative medicine based on the principle that substances that produce symptoms in a healthy person can be used to treat similar symptoms in a sick person. The National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia has officially declared that homeopathic remedies are useless for human health. The body today released a guide for doctors (PDF) on how to talk to their patients about the lack of evidence for many such therapies. Doctors will also be told to warn patients of possible interactions between alternative and conventional medicines. On top of that, the council has produced a 300-page draft report that reviews the evidence for homoeopathy in treating 68 clinical conditions. It concludes 'there is no reliable evidence that homoeopathy is effective for treating health conditions'.

Representing the opposite viewpoint, Australian Homeopathic Association spokesman Greg Cope said he was disappointed at the narrow evidence relied on by the NHMRC in its report. 'What they have looked at is systematic trials for named conditions when that is not how homeopathy works,' he said. Homeopathy worked on the principle of improving a person's overall health and wellness, and research such as a seven-year study conducted in Switzerland was a better measure of its usefulness, he added. There are about 10,000 complementary medicine products sold in Australia but most consumers are unaware they are not evaluated by the domestic medicines safety watchdog before they are allowed on the market."
Programming

Born To RUN: Dartmouth Throwing BASIC a 50th B-Day Party 146

Posted by Soulskill
from the over-the-hill dept.
theodp writes: "Still hanging on to a dog-eared copy of BASIC Computer Games? Back issues of Creative Computing? Well then, Bunky, mark your calendar for April 30th, because Dartmouth College is throwing BASIC a 50th birthday party that you won't want to miss! From the 'invite' to BASIC at 50: 'At 4 a.m. on May 1, 1964, in the basement of College Hall, Professor John Kemeny and a student programmer simultaneously typed RUN on neighboring terminals. When they both got back correct answers to their simple programs, time-sharing and BASIC were born. Kemeny, who later became Dartmouth's 13th president, Professor Tom Kurtz, and a number of undergraduate students worked together to revolutionize computing with the introduction of time-sharing and the BASIC programming language. Their innovations made computing accessible to all Dartmouth students and faculty, and soon after, to people across the nation and the world [video — young Bill Gates cameo @2:18]. This year, Dartmouth is celebrating 50 years of BASIC with a day of events on Wednesday, April 30. Please join us as we recognize the enduring impact of BASIC, showcase innovation in computing at Dartmouth today, and imagine what the next 50 years may hold.' Be sure to check out the vintage photos on Flickr to see what real cloud computing looks like, kids!"
Ubuntu

A Conversation with Ubuntu's Jono Bacon (Video) 53

Posted by Roblimo
from the the-world's-leading-death-metal-free-software-advocate dept.
You've probably heard Jono Bacon speak at a Linux or Open Source conference. Or maybe you've heard one of his podcasts or read something he's written in his job as Ubuntu's community manager or even, perhaps, read The Art of Community, which is Jono's well-regarded book about building online communities. Jono also wrote and performed the heavy metal version of Richard M. Stallman's infamous composition, The Free Software Song. An excerpt from the Jono version kicks off our interview, and the complete piece (about two minutes long) closes the video. Please note that this video is a casual talk with Jono Bacon, the person, rather than a talk with the "official" Ubuntu Jono Bacon. So please, pull up a chair, lean back, and join us. (Alternate Video Link)
Crime

Smart Car Tipping Trending In San Francisco 369

Posted by timothy
from the siphoning-next-the-gas-from-this-tesla dept.
First time accepted submitter hackajar1 (1700328) writes "Is it a crime of opportunity or another page in the current chapter of Anti-Tech movement in San Francisco? Either way, the new crime trending in San Francisco invloves tipping Smart Cars on their side. While they only take 3 — 4 people to tip, this could just be kids simply having "fun" at the very expensive cost of car owners. Alternatively it could be part of a larger movement in San Francisco against anyone associated with HiTech, which is largely being blamed for neighborhood gentrification and rent spikes in recent years." This sounds like a story that would catch the ears of veteran reporter Roland Hedley.

"From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere." -- Dr. Seuss

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