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Bidding In Government Auction of Airwaves Reaches $34 Billion

Mon, 11/24/2014 - 2:05am
An anonymous reader sends word that the 2014 wireless spectrum license auction has surpassed $34 billion. "A government auction of airwaves for use in mobile broadband has blown through presale estimates, becoming the biggest auction in the Federal Communications Commission's history and signaling that wireless companies expect demand for Internet access by smartphones to continue to soar. And it's not over yet. Companies bid more than $34 billion as of Friday afternoon for six blocks of airwaves, totaling 65 megahertz of the electromagnetic spectrum, being sold by the F.C.C. That total is more than three times the $10.5 billion reserve price that the commission put on the sale, the first offering of previously unavailable airwaves in six years."

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Study: Space Rock Impacts Not Random

Sun, 11/23/2014 - 11:05pm
sciencehabit writes When it comes to small space rocks blowing up in Earth's atmosphere, not all days are created equal. Scientists have found that, contrary to what they thought, such events are not random, and these explosions may occur more frequently on certain days. Rather than random occurrences, many large airbursts might result from collisions between Earth and streams of debris associated with small asteroids or comets. The new findings may help astronomers narrow their search for objects in orbits that threaten Earth, the researchers suggest.

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How the World's Agricultural Boom Has Changed CO2 Cycles

Sun, 11/23/2014 - 8:09pm
An anonymous reader writes Every year levels of carbon dioxide drop in the summer as plants "inhale," and climb again as they exhale after the growing season in the Northern Hemisphere. However, the last 50 years has seen the size of this swing has increase by as 50%, for reasons that aren't fully understood. A team of researchers may have the answer. They have shown that agricultural production, corn in particular, may generate up to 25% of the increase in this seasonal carbon cycle. "This study shows the power of modeling and data mining in addressing potential sources contributing to seasonal changes in carbon dioxide" program director for the National Science Foundation's Macro Systems Biology Program, who supported the research, Liz Blood says. "It points to the role of basic research in finding answers to complex problems."

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Alva Noe: Don't Worry About the Singularity, We Can't Even Copy an Amoeba

Sun, 11/23/2014 - 5:00pm
An anonymous reader writes "Writer and professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, Alva Noe, isn't worried that we will soon be under the rule of shiny metal overlords. He says that currently we can't produce "...machines that exhibit the agency and awareness of an amoeba." He writes at NPR: "One reason I'm not worried about the possibility that we will soon make machines that are smarter than us, is that we haven't managed to make machines until now that are smart at all. Artificial intelligence isn't synthetic intelligence: It's pseudo-intelligence. This really ought to be obvious. Clocks may keep time, but they don't know what time it is. And strictly speaking, it is we who use them to tell time. But the same is true of Watson, the IBM supercomputer that supposedly played Jeopardy! and dominated the human competition. Watson answered no questions. It participated in no competition. It didn't do anything. All the doing was on our side. We played Jeapordy! with Watson. We used 'it' the way we use clocks.""

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NASA Remasters 20-Year-Old Galileo Photographs of Jupiter's Moon, Europa

Sun, 11/23/2014 - 3:46pm
An anonymous reader writes with news that NASA has released remastered pictures of Europa taken by the Galileo spacecraft. "Scientists have produced a new version of what is perhaps NASA's best view of Jupiter's ice-covered moon, Europa. The mosaic of color images was obtained in the late 1990s by NASA's Galileo spacecraft. This is the first time that NASA is publishing a version of the scene produced using modern image processing techniques. This view of Europa stands out as the color view that shows the largest portion of the moon's surface at the highest resolution. An earlier, lower-resolution version of the view, published in 2001, featured colors that had been strongly enhanced. The new image more closely approximates what the human eye would see. Space imaging enthusiasts have produced their own versions of the view using the publicly available data, but NASA has not previously issued its own rendition using near-natural color."

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2014 Hour of Code: Do Ends Justify Disney Product Placement Means?

Sun, 11/23/2014 - 2:29pm
theodp writes "The purpose of product placement/product integration/branded entertainment," explains Disney in a job posting, "is to give a brand exposure outside of their traditional media buy." So, one imagines the folks in Disney Marketing must be thrilled that Disney Frozen princesses Anna and Elsa will be featured in the 'signature tutorial' for CSEdWeek's 2014 Hour of Code, which aims to introduce CS to 100 million schoolkids — including a sizable captive audience — in the weeks before Christmas. "Thanks to Disney Interactive," announced Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi, "Code.org's signature tutorial for the 2014 Hour of Code features Disney Infinity versions of Disney's 'Frozen' heroines Anna and Elsa!." Partovi adds, "The girl-power theme of the tutorial is a continuation of our efforts to expand diversity in computer science and broaden female participation in the field, starting with younger students." In the tutorial, reports the LA Times, "students will learn to write code to help Anna and Elsa draw snowflakes and snowmen, and perform magical 'ice craft.' Disney is also donating $100,000 to support Code.org's efforts to bring computer science education to after-school programs nationwide."

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Highly Advanced Backdoor Trojan Cased High-Profile Targets For Years

Sun, 11/23/2014 - 1:15pm
An anonymous reader points out this story at Ars about a new trojan on the scene. Researchers have unearthed highly advanced malware they believe was developed by a wealthy nation-state to spy on a wide range of international targets in diverse industries, including hospitality, energy, airline, and research. Backdoor Regin, as researchers at security firm Symantec are referring to the trojan, bears some resemblance to previously discovered state-sponsored malware, including the espionage trojans known as Flame and Duqu, as well as Stuxnet, the computer worm and trojan that was programmed to disrupt Iran's nuclear program. Regin likely required months or years to be completed and contains dozens of individual modules that allowed its operators to tailor the malware to individual targets.

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Elon Musk Talks "X-Wing" Fins For Reusable Rockets, Seafaring Spaceport Drones

Sun, 11/23/2014 - 12:09pm
An anonymous reader writes Elon Musk sent a number of tweets recently in which he detailed a program to test the function of "X-Wing" style grid fins that could help spacecraft navigate upon re-entry. The tweets describing how it would work, also include an autonomous seafaring platform, which can hold its position within three meters even in a heavy storm, that would act as a landing pad. From the article: "The SpaceX reusable rocket program has been progressing with varying results, including an explosion over Texas back in August. While the incident didn't result in any injury or even 'near injuries,' Musk conceded in a tweet that this was evidence that '[r]ockets are tricky.' An earlier test flight from this summer involving an ocean splashdown was considered more successful, proving that the Space X Falcon 9 booster could re-enter earth's atmosphere, restart its engines, deploy its landing legs and make a touch down at 'near zero velocity.'"

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Blame America For Everything You Hate About "Internet Culture"

Sun, 11/23/2014 - 11:03am
An anonymous reader writes If you hate cat videos, personality quizzes, and endless list stories about a specific school or region, then you should blame the USA according to this story. From the article: "'In France, articles about cats do not work,' Buzzfeed's Scott Lamb told Le Figaro, a leading Parisian paper. Instead, he explained, Buzzfeed's first year in the country has shown it that 'the French love sharing news and politics on social networks – in short, pretty serious stuff.' This is interesting for two reasons: first, as conclusive proof that the French are irredeemable snobs; second, as a crack in the glossy, understudied facade of what we commonly call 'Internet culture.'....American audiences love animals and 'light content,' Lamb said, but readers in other countries have reacted differently. Germans were skeptical of the site's feel-good frivolity, he said, and some Australians were outright 'hostile.' Meanwhile, in France — land of la mode and le Michelin — critics immediately complained, right at Buzzfeed's French launch, that the articles were too fluffy and poorly translated. Instead, Buzzfeed quickly found that readers were more likely to share articles about news, politics and regional identity, particularly in relation to the loved/hated Paris, than they were to share the site's other fare."

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Prospects Rise For a 2015 UN Climate Deal, But Likely To Be Weak

Sun, 11/23/2014 - 9:58am
An anonymous reader writes with news that a global climate deal seems to be on the horizon. "A global deal to combat climate change in 2015 looks more likely after promises for action by China, the United States and the European Union, but any agreement will probably be too weak to halt rising temperatures. Delegates from almost 200 nations will meet in Lima, Peru, from Dec. 1-12 to work on the accord due in Paris in a year's time, also spurred by new scientific warnings about risks of floods, heatwaves, ocean acidification and rising seas. After failure to agree a sweeping U.N. treaty at a summit in Copenhagen in 2009, the easier but less ambitious aim now is a deal made up of 'nationally determined' plans to help reverse a 45 percent rise in greenhouse gas emissions since 1990."

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Spaceport America Loses $1.7 Million Due To Virgin Galactic Delays

Sun, 11/23/2014 - 8:40am
An anonymous reader writes "Officials of New Mexico's Spaceport Authority were grilled by lawmakers about the now vacant Spaceport America following the deadly crash of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo. The spaceport was built as a hub for commercial space flights. Its immediate future is uncertain since Virgin Galactic has indefinitely pushed back the launch date of its space tourism flights. From the article: "Christine Anderson, the authority's executive director, learned last week that she might have to do so one legislator at a time. Anderson was called out by Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup, for handing members of an interim legislative finance committee a presentation filled mostly with photographs. Lundstrom and other lawmakers wanted hard numbers and more details about what plan the authority has to get past the Virgin Galactic mishap and get the taxpayer-financed spaceport off the ground. 'It just made all of us look like idiots, like we don't do our homework,' Anderson said. 'That's not the case whatsoever.'"

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Corning Reveals Gorilla Glass 4, Promises No More Broken IPhones

Sun, 11/23/2014 - 7:33am
An anonymous reader writes "Corning introduced next-generation Gorilla Glass, which it said is ten times tougher than any competitive cover glass now in the market. The company says that the Gorilla Glass 4 so launched is to address the No.1 problem among the smartphones users- screen breakage due to everyday drops."

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DreamWorks Reveals Glimpse of "Super Cinema" Format For VR Films

Sun, 11/23/2014 - 6:27am
An anonymous reader writes Warren Mayoss, Head of Technology Product Development at DreamWorks Animation, spoke at the 2014 Samsung Developer Conference last week about the company's forays into the young medium of virtual reality. In addition to real-time experiences, DreamWorks is exploring ways to enabled their bread and butter in VR: high-fidelity pre-rendered CGI. One method the company is exploring is a "Super Cinema" format: pre-rendered 360 degree 3D frames to be projected around the user in virtual reality. On stage, Mayoss showed a video glimpse of the format using assets from the company's "How to Train Your Dragon" franchise.

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In a Self-Driving Future, We May Not Even Want To Own Cars

Sun, 11/23/2014 - 5:23am
HughPickens.com writes: Jerry Hirsch writes in the LA Times that personal transportation is on the cusp of its greatest transformation since the advent of the internal combustion engine. For a century, cars have been symbols of freedom and status. But according to Hirsch, passengers of the future may well view vehicles as just another form of public transportation, to be purchased by the trip or in a subscription. Buying sexy, fast cars for garages could evolve into buying seat-miles in appliance-like pods, piloted by robots, parked in public stalls. "There will come a time when driving the car is like riding the horse," says futurist Peter Schwartz. "Some people will still like to do it, but most of us won't." People still will want to own vehicles for various needs, says James Lentz, chief executive of Toyota's North American operations. They might live in a rural area and travel long distances daily. They might have a big family to haul around. They might own a business that requires transporting supplies. "You will still have people who have the passion for driving the cars and feeling the road," says Lentz. "There may be times when they want the cars to drive them, but they won't be buying autonomous-only cars." One vision of the future is already playing out in Grenoble, France, where residents can rent from a fleet of 70 pod-like Toyota i-Road and Coms electric cars for short city trips. "It is a sharing program like what you see in Portland with bicycles," says Lentz. Drivers can check out and return the cars at various charging points. Through a subscription, they pay the equivalent of $3.75 for 30 minutes. Because the vehicles are so small, its easy to build out their parking and charging infrastructure. Skeptics should consider the cynicism that greeted the horseless carriage more than a century ago, says Adam Jonas. He adds that fully autonomous vehicles will be here far sooner than the market thinks (PDF). Then, Jonas says, skeptics asked: "Why would any rational person want to replace the assuredness of that hot horse body trustily pulling your comfortable carriage with an unreliable, oil-spurting heap of gears, belts and chains?"

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How "Big Ideas" Are Actually Hurting International Development

Sun, 11/23/2014 - 2:10am
schnell writes: The New Republic is running a fascinating article that analyzes the changing state of foreign development. Tech entrepreneurs and celebrities are increasingly realizing the inefficiencies of the old charitable NGO-based model of foreign aid, and shifting their support to "disruptive" new ideas that have been demonstrated in small experiments to deliver disproportionately beneficial results. But multiple studies now show that "game changing" ideas that prove revolutionary in limited studies fail to prove effective at scale, and are limited by a simple and disappointing fact: no matter how revolutionary your idea is, whether it works or not is wholly dependent on 1.) the local culture and circumstances, and 2.) who is implementing the program.

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Great Firewall of China Blocks Edgecast CDN, Thousands of Websites Affected

Sat, 11/22/2014 - 11:01pm
An anonymous reader writes: Starting about a week ago, The Great Firewall of China began blocking the Edgecast CDN. This was spurred by Great Fire's Collateral Freedom project, which used CDNs to get around censorship of individual domains. It left China with either letting go of censorship, or breaking significant chunks of the Internet for their population. China chose to do the latter, and now many websites are no longer functional for Chinese users. I just helped a friend diagnose this problem with his company's site, so it's likely many people are still just starting to discover what's happened and the economic impact is yet to be fully realized. Hopefully pressure on China will reverse the decision.

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Judge Unseals 500+ Stingray Records

Sat, 11/22/2014 - 8:03pm
An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from Ars Technica: A judge in Charlotte, North Carolina, has unsealed a set of 529 court documents in hundreds of criminal cases detailing the use of a stingray, or cell-site simulator, by local police. This move, which took place earlier this week, marks a rare example of a court opening up a vast trove of applications made by police to a judge, who authorized each use of the powerful and potentially invasive device According to the Charlotte Observer, the records seem to suggest that judges likely did not fully understand what they were authorizing. Law enforcement agencies nationwide have taken extraordinary steps to preserve stingray secrecy. As recently as this week, prosecutors in a Baltimore robbery case dropped key evidence that stemmed from stingray use rather than fully disclose how the device was used.

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Samsung Seeking To Block Nvidia Chips From US Market

Sat, 11/22/2014 - 4:05pm
An anonymous reader writes: Bloomberg reports that Samsung has filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission asking them to block the import of Nvidia's graphics chips . This is part of Samsung's retaliation for a similar claim filed by Nvidia against Samsung and Qualcomm back in September. Both companies are wielding patents pertaining to the improved operation of graphics chips in cell phones and other mobile devices.

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Doubling Saturated Fat In Diet Does Not Increase It In Blood

Sat, 11/22/2014 - 3:44pm
An anonymous reader writes: A new study by researchers at Ohio State University found that dramatically increasing the amount of saturated fat in a person's diet did not increase the amount of saturated fat found in their blood. Professor Jeff Volek, the study's senior author, said it "challenges the conventional wisdom that has demonized saturated fat and extends our knowledge of why dietary saturated fat doesn't correlate with disease." The study also showed that increasing carbohydrates in the diet led to an increase in a particular fatty acid previous studies have linked to heart disease. Volek continued, "People believe 'you are what you eat,' but in reality, you are what you save from what you eat. The point is you don't necessarily save the saturated fat that you eat. And the primary regulator of what you save in terms of fat is the carbohydrate in your diet. Since more than half of Americans show some signs of carb intolerance, it makes more sense to focus on carb restriction than fat restriction."

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Ask Slashdot: Best Practices For Starting and Running a Software Shop?

Sat, 11/22/2014 - 2:28pm
An anonymous reader writes: I'm a systems architect (and a former Unix sysadmin) with many years of experience on the infrastructure side of things. I have a masters in CS but not enough practical exposure to professional software development. I'd like to start my own software product line and I'd like to avoid outsourcing as much as I can. I'm seeking advice on what you think are the best practices for running a software shop and/or good blogs/books on the subject. To be clear, I am not asking about what are the best programming practices or the merits of agile vs waterfall. Rather I am asking more about how to best run the shop as a whole. For example, how important is it to have coding standards and how much standardization is necessary for a small business? What are the pros and cons of allowing different tools and/or languages? What should the ratio of senior programmers to intermediate and junior programmers be and how should they work with each other so that nobody is bored and everyone learns something? Thanks for your help.

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