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Space

The Underfunded, Disorganized Plan To Save Earth From the Next Giant Asteroid 81 81

Posted by Soulskill
from the how's-that-space-program-coming-along dept.
New submitter citadrianne sends a story about the beginnings of our asteroid defense efforts, and how initial concern over an asteroid strike wasn't sustained long enough to establish consistent funding: Until a few decades ago, the powers that be didn't take the threat of asteroids very seriously. This changed on March 23, 1989, when an asteroid 300 meters in diameter called 1989FC passed within half a million miles of Earth. As the New York Times put it, "In cosmic terms, it was a close call." After this arguably close brush with total annihilation, Congress asked NASA to prepare a report on the threat posed by asteroids. The 1992 document, "The Spaceguard Survey: Report of the NASA International Near-Earth-Object Detection Workshop," was, suffice it to say, rather bleak.

If a large NEO were to hit Earth, the report said, its denizens could look forward to acid rain, firestorms, and an impact winter induced by dust being thrown miles into the stratosphere. ... After reports from the National Research Council made it clear that meeting the discovery requirement outlined in the Congressional mandate was impossible given the lack of program funding, NEOO got a tenfold budget increase from 2009 to 2014. Yet it still faces a number of difficulties. A program audit released last September described the NEOO program as a one-man operation that is poorly integrated and lacking in objectives and oversight.
Education

AP CS Test Takers and Pass Rates Up, Half of Kids Don't Get Sparse Arrays At All 111 111

Posted by timothy
from the kids-these-days dept.
theodp writes: Each June, the College Board tweets out teasers of the fuller breakouts of its Advanced Placement (AP) test results, which aren't made available until the fall. So, here's a roundup of this year's AP Computer Science tweetstorm: 1. "Wow — massive gains in AP Computer Science participation (25% growth) AND scores this year; big increase in % of students earning 4s & 5s!" 2. "2015 AP Computer Science scores: 5: 24.4%; 4: 24.6%; 3: 15.3%; 2: 7.1%; 1: 28.6%." [3 or above is passing] 3."Count them: a whopping 66 AP Computer Science students out of 50,000 worldwide earned all 80 pts possible on this year's exam." 4. "Remember that AP exam standards are equated from year to year, so when scores go up, it's a direct indication of increased student mastery." 5. "Many AP Computer Science students did very well on Q1 (2D array processing–diverse array); >20% earned all 9/9 pts" [2015 AP CS A Free-Response Questions] 6. "The major gap in this year's AP Computer Sci classrooms seems to be array list processing; Q3 (sparse array): 47% of students got 0/9 pts."
Government

How Uber Takes Over a City 195 195

Posted by timothy
from the taking-the-offensive dept.
schwit1 suggests Bloomberg's story on one aspect of Uber's corporate behavior that may leave a sour taste in the mouth of anyone who'd like to believe the Uber-vs.-the-Cartels narrative. The company hired David Plouffe, known for managing Barack Obama's rise to fame, and many others as well, to help them navigate inevitable and ongoing moves for regulation. The scale is impressive; according to the article: Over the past year, Uber built one of the largest and most successful lobbying forces in the country, with a presence in almost every statehouse. It has 250 lobbyists and 29 lobbying firms registered in capitols around the nation, at least a third more than Wal-Mart Stores. That doesn't count municipal lobbyists. In Portland, the 28th-largest city in the U.S., 10 people would ultimately register to lobby on Uber's behalf. And while the article focuses mostly on the example of Portland, the effort is ongoing and nationwide.
Microsoft

New Leaked Build Is Evidence That Windows 10 Will Be Ready By July 29 207 207

Posted by timothy
from the is-that-an-obscure-linux-distro? dept.
Ammalgam writes: A new pre-released build of Microsoft's latest Operating System Windows 10 leaked to the internet today. The build (10151) shows a more refined and significantly faster user interface than previous versions of the product. Microsoft seem to be focused on last minute refinements of the UI at this point and the product looks almost ready for prime time. A picture gallery of Windows 10 build 10151 can be found here.
Transportation

Solar Impulse, Continuing World-Spanning Trip, Attempts To Cross The Pacific 37 37

Posted by timothy
from the can't-find-your-bags-at-all-sir dept.
The BBC reports that Solar Impulse has resumed its 'round-the-world attempt, having taken off today from Nagoya, Japan for what is intended to be a 120-hour voyage to Hawaii. [If pilot Andre Borschberg] succeeds, it will be the longest-duration solo flight in aviation history, as well as the furthest distance flown by a craft that is powered only by the Sun. The Pacific crossing is the eighth leg of Solar Impulse's journey around the world. But this stage has proven to be the most difficult, and has been hit by weeks of delays." The circumnavigation attempt began earlier this year.
Bug

Chromecast Update Bringing Grief For Many Users 132 132

Posted by timothy
from the everyone-complains dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Last week, many Chromecast users were automatically "upgraded" to build 32904. Among the issues seen with this update are placing some users on the 'beta' release track, issues with popular apps such as Plex, HBO GO, (more embarassingly) YouTube, and others. Google so far has been slow to respond or even acknowledge the issues brought by customers, save for the beta release mishap. If you're a Chromecast user, what's been your experience?
Medicine

Pass the Doritos, Scientists Develop Computer Game Targeted At Healthy Choices 78 78

Posted by timothy
from the it-puts-the-lotion-on-its-skin-or-else-it-gets-basal-cell-carcinoma dept.
MojoKid writes: Psychologists at the University of Exeter and Cardiff University have published a study that demonstrates how a simple computer game can help people lose weight. Participants in the study who played the specialized game lost and average of 1.5 pounds in the first seven days, and 4.5 pounds after six months. They also reduced their daily caloric consumption by 220 calories. Dr. Natalia Lawrence led the team of researchers that developed the computer game for the study. It was designed to train people to resist unhealthy food snack foods through a "stop versus go" process. Participants sat in front of a Pentium 3 PC running Matlab software on a 17-inch monitor. They were then instructed to press certain keys when images of things like fruits and clothes would appear, indicating a "go." But for images of calorie-dense foods (chips and cake, for example) they were instructed not to do anything, indicating a "stop" action.
Build

Ask Slashdot: For What Are You Using 3-D Printing? 242 242

Posted by timothy
from the endless-dollhouse-furniture dept.
An anonymous reader writes: I've been thinking about getting a 3-D printer for a while: the quality is rising, the software is better, STL files really do seem a sufficiently good standard ("sufficiently standard," that is — I'm not worried that printers are going to stop supporting it anytime soon), and prices have dropped quite a bit. Importantly to me, it also seems like less of a jumping-off-a-cliff decision, since I can get a completely assembled one from places as wild and crazy as ... the Home Depot (not that I plan to). However, even the stretchiest practical things I can think of to print can't truly actually justify the price, and that's OK — I hope not to require enough replacement knobs and chess pieces to necessarily *need* one, and playing around with it is the main likely upshot, which I'm OK with. But still, I'd like to hear what uses you have been putting your 3-D printer to, including printers that aren't yours but belong to a hackerspace, public library, eccentric neighbor, etc. What actually practical / useful tasks have you been using 3-D printing for, and with what printer technology? What playful purposes? It's OK if you just keep printing out those chess pieces and teapots, but I'm curious about less obvious reasons to have one around. (And I might just use the local Tech Shop's anyhow, but the question still applies.) If you've purchased a 3D printer, are you happy with the experience? If so, or if not, what kind did you get?
Power

Samsung Nanotech Breakthrough Nearly Doubles Li-Ion Battery Capacity 117 117

Posted by timothy
from the don't-worry-phone-makers-will-keep-up dept.
The Korea Times reports that Samsung researchers have published in Nature Communications the results of research (here's the abstract) that could lead to vastly greater storage capacity for lithium-ion batteries. The researchers, by growing graphene on silicon anodes, were able to preserve the shape of the anodes, an outcome which has formerly eluded battery designers: silicon tends to deform over numerous charging cycles. From the linked abstract: Here we report direct graphene growth over silicon nanoparticles without silicon carbide formation. The graphene layers anchored onto the silicon surface accommodate the volume expansion of silicon via a sliding process between adjacent graphene layers. When paired with a commercial lithium cobalt oxide cathode, the silicon carbide-free graphene coating allows the full cell to reach volumetric energy densities of 972 and 700Whl1 at first and 200th cycle, respectively, 1.8 and 1.5 times higher than those of current commercial lithium-ion batteries. Also at ZDNet.
Censorship

BBC Curates The "Right To Be Forgotten" Links That Google Can't 139 139

Posted by timothy
from the good-on-them dept.
An anonymous reader writes, quoting the BBC's Internet Blog: "Since a European Court of Justice ruling last year, individuals have the right to request that search engines remove certain web pages from their search results. Those pages usually contain personal information about individuals." The BBC, however, is not obligated to completely censor the results, and so has taken an approach that other media outlets would do well to emulate: they're keeping a list of those pages delisted by the search engines, and making them easy to find through the BBC itself. Why? The BBC has decided to make clear to licence fee payers which pages have been removed from Google's search results by publishing this list of links. Each month, we'll republish this list with new removals added at the top. We are doing this primarily as a contribution to public policy. We think it is important that those with an interest in the “right to be forgotten” can ascertain which articles have been affected by the ruling. We hope it will contribute to the debate about this issue. We also think the integrity of the BBC's online archive is important and, although the pages concerned remain published on BBC Online, removal from Google searches makes parts of that archive harder to find.
AI

Detecting Nudity With AI and OpenCV 160 160

Posted by timothy
from the swapping-out-the-interns dept.
mikejuk writes: AI gets put to some strange tasks. Not satisfied with the Turing test or inventing Skynet, Algorithmia have put together a nudity detector. Take one face detector from OpenCV and use it to find a nose. Take the skin color from the nose and then see what parts of the body are skin colored in the photo. If there is lot of skin color shout NUDE! Actually, the website lets you put in your own photos and classifies them into Rude or Good and gives you a confidence estimate. Obama with his top off — no problem but the familiar image processing test photo of Lena the pin up girl rates a 'Rude'.
AI

WSJ Overstates the Case Of the Testy A.I. 191 191

Posted by timothy
from the how-do-you-feel-about-me-being-eliza dept.
mbeckman writes: According to a WSJ article titled "Artificial Intelligence machine gets testy with programmer," a Google computer program using a database of movie scripts supposedly "lashed out" at a human researcher who was repeatedly asking it to explain morality. After several apparent attempts to politely fend off the researcher, the AI ends the conversation with "I'm not in the mood for a philosophical debate." This, says the WSJ, illustrates how Google scientists are "teaching computers to mimic some of the ways a human brain works."

As any AI researcher can tell you, this is utter nonsense. Humans have no idea how the human, or any other brain, works, so we can hardly teach a machine how brains work. At best, Google is programming (not teaching) a computer to mimic the conversation of humans under highly constrained circumstances. And the methods used have nothing to do with true cognition.

AI hype to the public has gotten progressively more strident in recent years, misleading lay people into believing researchers are much further along than they really are — by orders of magnitude. I'd love to see legitimate A.I. researchers condemn this kind of hucksterism.
Advertising

Google Will Reduce Accidental Mobile Ad Clicks, With Mandatory Borders and More 70 70

Posted by timothy
from the next-step-per-tab-muting dept.
Mark Wilson submits news that Google is throwing a bone to mobile users annoyed by ads that (accidentally, or accidentally-on-purpose) make it too easy to accidentally click, breaking your browsing flow, by making those ads a bit less clickable. Writes Beta News: The company is taking steps to make the 'user experience' of ads a little better. It recognizes that advertisements that get clicked accidentally don't benefit anybody. They end up irritating the clicker, and are unlikely to be of value to the company that placed the ad. With around half of ad clicks being made by mistake, Google is now taking steps to stop this from happening — great news for users advertisers alike. In all, Google is making three key changes to ads that appear on smartphones and tablets, starting off by adding an unclickable border to the outer edges of advertisements.
Networking

Scientists Overcome One of the Biggest Limits In Fiber Optic Networks 61 61

Posted by timothy
from the ok-everyone-this-time-together dept.
Mark.JUK writes: Researchers at the University of California in San Diego have demonstrated a way of boosting transmissions over long distance fiber optic cables and removing crosstalk interference, which would mean no more need for expensive electronic regenerators (repeaters) to keep the signal stable. The result could be faster and cheaper networks, especially on long-distance international subsea cables. The feat was achieved by employing a frequency comb, which acts a bit like a concert conductor; the person responsible for tuning multiple instruments in an orchestra to the same pitch at the beginning of a concert. The comb was used to synchronize the frequency variations of the different streams of optical information (optical carriers) and thus compensate in advance for the crosstalk interference, which could also then be removed.

As a result the team were able to boost the power of their transmission some 20 fold and push data over a "record-breaking" 12,000km (7,400 miles) long fiber optic cable. The data was still intact at the other end and all of this was achieved without using repeaters and by only needing standard amplifiers.
ISS

A Failure For SpaceX: Falcon 9 Explodes During Ascension 286 286

Posted by timothy
from the harsh-news dept.
MouseR writes with bad news about this morning's SpaceX launch: About 2:19 into its flight, Falcon 9 exploded along stage 2 and the Dragon capsule, before even the stage 1 separation. Telemetry and videos are inconclusive, without further analysis as to what went wrong. Everything was green lights. This is a catastrophe for SpaceX, which enjoyed, until now, a perfect launch record. TechCrunch has coverage of the failure, which of course also means that today's planned stage one return attempt has failed before it could start; watch this space for more links. Update: 06/28 15:06 GMT by T : See also stories at NBC News, The Washington Post, and the Associated Press (via ABC News). According to the Washington Post, what was a catastrophe for this morning's launch is only a setback for the ISS and its crew, rather than a disaster: A NASA slide from an April presentation said that with current food levels, the space station would reach what NASA calls “reserve level” on July 24 and run out by Sept. 5, according to SpaceNews. [NASA spokeswoman Stephanie] Schierholz said, however, that the supplies would last until the fall, although she could not provide a precise date. Even if something were to go wrong with the SpaceX flight, she said, there are eight more scheduled this year, including several this summer, “so there are plenty of ways to ensure the station continues to be well-supplied.” Of note: One bit of cargo that was aboard the SpaceX craft was a Microsoft Hololens; hopefully another will make it onto one of the upcoming supply runs instead.

Elon Musk has posted a note on the company's Twitter channel: "Falcon 9 experienced a problem shortly before first stage shutdown. Will provide more info as soon as we review the data."