New Chip Offers Artificial Intelligence On A USB Stick

Slashdot - Sun, 01/05/2016 - 5:30pm
An anonymous reader writes: "Pretty much any device with a USB port will be able to use advanced neural networks," reports PC Magazine, announcing the new Fathom Neural Compute Stick from chip-maker (and Google supplier) Movidius. "Once it's plugged into a Linux-powered device, it will enable that device to perform neural network functions like language comprehension, image recognition, and pattern detection," and without even using an external power supply. Device manufacturers could now move AI-level processing from the cloud down to end users, PC Magazine reports, with one New York computer science professor saying the technology means that now "every robot, big and small, can now have state-of-the-art vision capabilities." The article argues that this standalone, ultra-low power neural network could start the creation of a whole new category of next-generation consumer technologies.

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Categories: Science

Engineers Plan The Most Expensive Object Ever Built

Slashdot - Sun, 01/05/2016 - 4:30pm
HughPickens.com writes: Ed Davey has an interesting story at BBC about the proposed nuclear plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset, UK which at $35 billion will be the most expensive object ever put together on Earth. For that sum you could build a small forest of Burj Khalifas -- the world's tallest building, in Dubai, which each cost $1.5 billion. You could build almost six Large Hadron Colliders, built under the border between France and Switzerland to unlock the secrets of the universe, and at a cost a mere $5.8 billion. Or you could build five Oakland Bay Bridges in San Francisco, designed to withstand the strongest earthquake seismologists would expect within the next 1,500 years at a cost of $6.5 billion... But what about historical buildings like the the pyramids. Although working out the cost of something built more than 4,500 years ago presents numerous challenges, in 2012 the Turner Construction Company estimated it could build the Great Pyramid of Giza for $5 billion. That includes about $730 million for stone and $58 million for 12 cranes. Labor is a minor cost as it is projected that a mere staff of 600 would be necessary. In contrast, it took 20,000 people to build the original pyramid with a total of 77.6 million days' labor. Using the current Egyptian minimum wage of $5.73 a day, that gives a labor cost of $445 million. But whatever the most expensive object on Earth is, up in the sky is something that eclipses all of these things. The International Space Station. Price tag: $110 billion.

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Categories: Science

Ask Slashdot: How Could You Statistically Identify The Best Sci-Fi Books?

Slashdot - Sun, 01/05/2016 - 3:30pm
jimharris writes: Over at SF Signal I wrote a piece "How Well-Read Are You in Science Fiction?" There are three databases that collect lists of popular science fiction books that try to statistically identify the best books of the genre, [offering] combined list that shows which books were cited the most. They use different sets of best-of lists, but their results are often similar. The final lists are, Classics of Science Fiction, Worlds Without End Top Listed, and Premiosylista Comparativas: Comparativas: Ciencia ficcion (Spain). Interestingly, each list has a different book in its #1 position (though both "Dune" and "Frankenstein" make the top four on at least two of the three lists). But is this really a good methodology for determining the classic canon? What would be the best way to statistically identify the greatest sci-fi books? (And have you read any good science fiction novels lately?)

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Can Quantum Entanglement Create Faster-Than-Light Communication?

Slashdot - Sun, 01/05/2016 - 2:30pm
Slashdot reader StartsWithABang writes: If you were to send a space probe to a distant star system, gather information about it and send it back to Earth, you'd have to wait years for the information to arrive. But if you have an entangled quantum system -- say, two photons, one with spin +1 and one with spin -1 -- you could know the spin of the distant one instantly by measuring the spin of the one in your possession. This "incredible idea to exploit quantum weirdness" for communication was the subject of a recent Forbes article [which blocks ad-blockers] as well as a NASA mission directorate. ("Entanglement-assisted Communication System for NASA's Deep-Space Missions: Feasibility Test and Conceptual Design".) And Friday MIT News reported a research team is now making progress toward capturing paired electron halves for quantum computing on gold film. "Our first goal is to look for the Majorana fermions, unambiguously detect them, and show this is it. " This week even 85-year-old Star Trek actor William Shatner cited quantum entanglement in a discussion of Star Trek's transporter technology, arguing that "Although a lot of the concepts in science fiction are absurd to our Newtonian minds, anything is possible because of the new language of quantum physics."

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Categories: Science

Flexible Floating Football-Field Sized Solar Panels

Slashdot - Sun, 01/05/2016 - 1:30pm
mdsolar writes: Offshore wind farms are growing in popularity as energy providers look for different ways of harvesting power from the sun without using valuable land resources. One unique idea being developed by engineers at Vienna University of Technology is a floating platform called a Heliofloat that would function as a sea-based solar power station.... an open-bottom, flexible float as large as a football field and covered from edge to edge with solar panels. Heliofloats can operate as standalone platforms for smaller operations with moderate energy requirements. Multiple heliofloats also can be connected together, forming a floating solar-harvesting power grid. Each heliofloat is 100 meters long, reportedly cheap and easy to build, and may eventually be used to power desalination plants and biomass extraction.

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On Outlander, How Much Violence Is Too Much?

Wired News - Sun, 01/05/2016 - 1:00pm
The Starz time-travel drama seems hellbent on demonstrating the infinite nature of suffering, and it may finally be wearing thin. The post On Outlander, How Much Violence Is Too Much? appeared first on WIRED.
Categories: Science

2D Spacecraft, Reprogrammable Microbes & More: NASA Eyes Wild Space Tech Ideas

Space.com - Sun, 01/05/2016 - 1:00pm
Get ready for two-dimensional spacecraft and microorganisms that can recycle Mars dirt into working electronics. While both may sound like science fiction, they could soon be a reality, thanks to the latest round of space technology funding from NASA.
Categories: Science

Drones Being Used By Peeping Toms, The Military, And Terrorists

Slashdot - Sun, 01/05/2016 - 12:30pm
An anonymous reader writes: A 19-year-old woman called Massachusetts police about a drone peeking through her second-story window at 3 a.m. -- and was told no laws had been violated. Kansas is now passing an anti-harassment law after a woman reported her neighbor's drone was hovering over their pool and outside the window where her 16-year-old daughter was washing dishes. But meanwhile, the U.S. Navy has just outfitted one supercarrier with a new drone control room, while one Dutch activist writes in Newsweek that terrorist drone attacks "are not a matter of 'If' but 'When'." Noting that drones are cheap, portable and useful, PAX's Wim Zwijnenburg warns that "Terrorists and armed militia groups are already using consumer drones in conflict situations" -- for example, in Iraq, Syria, Gaza, and the Ukraine -- "and it is likely only a matter of time before they use them to carry out attacks in Europe or the U.S." He believes ISIS is developing its own drone fleet, and warns about the possibility of swarms with "dozens of drones equipped with explosives or chemicals". Zwijnenburg proposes background checks and registrations for certain types of drones, as well as counter-drone technology to protect airports, crowded stadiums, and critical infrastructure points. Citing the blurring lines between military and civilian drones, he writes that "there needs to be an urgent and frank discussion among industry, the military, law enforcement, and most of all, the public, as to where we go from here." Meanwhile, another prison just reported a drone had flown over their wall -- this time a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Heli Ball.

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Categories: Science

The Future of Shopping: Trapping You in a Club You Didn't Know You Joined

Slashdot - Sun, 01/05/2016 - 11:30am
Just a word of caution: the next time you spot a great deal on a shopping portal, you will want to carefully look for all the radio buttons, and tick boxes -- and perhaps also skim through the ToS -- before placing the order. Bloomberg has an in-depth piece on the ordeal of a customer who purchased a lingerie item from an e-commerce website called Adore Me. Little did the customer know that the $19.95 she was spending to purchase a piece of cloth would end up costing her -- partly because of her own ignorance -- more than $300. Adore Me, you see, maintains a subscription model in which it charges users a fee of around $40 a month, even if they don't purchase anything. It might surprise many, but Adore Me isn't the only shopping portal or service that runs this sort of tactic. "It's the new thing," says Francisca Allen, the deputy district attorney of California's Santa Clara County. "There's thousands and thousands of companies that do this." What's more, these companies have made it frustratingly difficult to cancel these subscriptions -- it often requires you to sit through a one-hour call to the customer representative and listening to a bunch of funky songs that you suddenly don't adore as much. Bloomberg reports:Hundreds of customer complaints against Adore Me and other subscription e-commerce businesses are stacking up at the Federal Trade Commission, according to records obtained by Bloomberg. They follow a pattern: Shoppers believe they've been tricked into signing up for recurring credit card charges, often for a relatively small amount that can be easily overlooked in a monthly bill. Then companies make it an exasperating hassle to quit and get a refund.

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Categories: Science

'Rocket Girls' Blasts Off in Washington DC

Space.com - Sun, 01/05/2016 - 11:29am
Author Nathalia Holt signs her new book on early rocket history with an apt prescription to women who might aspire to become space scientists: "Reach for the Stars!"
Categories: Science

While You Were Offline: We Need to Know Who Becky Is. Right. Now.

Wired News - Sun, 01/05/2016 - 11:00am
This week Beyoncé dropped a new visual album and Edward Snowden released a music video. Yeah, it was weird. The post While You Were Offline: We Need to Know Who Becky Is. Right. Now. appeared first on WIRED.
Categories: Science

Your Simple (Yes, Simple) Guide to Quantum Entanglement

Wired News - Sun, 01/05/2016 - 11:00am
Quantum entanglement is thought to be one of the trickiest concepts in science, but the core issues are simple. The post Your Simple (Yes, Simple) Guide to Quantum Entanglement appeared first on WIRED.
Categories: Science

In the New Wireless Universe, You’re Finally at the Center

Wired News - Sun, 01/05/2016 - 11:00am
We’re gradually moving towards a world where you—yes, you—are the center of the wireless universe, not the big carriers. The post In the New Wireless Universe, You're Finally at the Center appeared first on WIRED.
Categories: Science

Google Helps Police With Child Porn WebCrawler

Slashdot - Sun, 01/05/2016 - 7:30am
The San Jose Mercury News is reporting that the Internet Watch Foundation, "an organization that works with police worldwide to remove images of child sexual abuse from the Internet, has credited Google with helping it develop a 'Web crawler' that finds child pornography." The pilot project makes it easier to identify and remove every copy of specific images online, and the group says "We look forward to the next phase of the Googler in Residence project in 2016." Last year Google also had an engineer working directly with the foundation, and the group's annual report says "This was just one part of the engineering support Google gave us in 2015." [PDF] Their report adds that the new technology "should block thousands of their illegal images from being viewed on the Internet."

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Categories: Science

US Spy Court Didn't Reject a Single Government Surveillance Request In 2015

Slashdot - Sun, 01/05/2016 - 3:30am
schwit1 shares news from ZDNet's security blog: In more than three decades years, the FISA Court has only rejected 12 requests. A secret court that oversees the US government's surveillance requests accepted every warrant that was submitted last year, according to new figures.The Washington DC.-based Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court received 1,457 requests from the National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to intercept phone calls and emails. In long-standing fashion, the court did not reject a single warrant, entirely or in part. The FBI also issued 48,642 national security letters, a subpoena-like power that compels a company to turn over data on national security grounds without informing the subject of the letter. The memo said the majority of these demands sought data on foreigners, but almost one-in-five were requests for data on Americans. It'll be interesting to see if the numbers go down any in 2016, since in November the court appointed five new lawyers to push back against government requests. Meanwhile, a new report shows an increase in the number of government requests to Facebook about their users, more than half of which contained a non-disclosure order prohibiting Facebook from notifying those users.

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Categories: Science

Australia: VPN Users Aren't Breaching Copyright

Slashdot - Sun, 01/05/2016 - 1:30am
Slashdot reader Zanadou writes: The Australian Government Productivity Commission in a draft report recommended that Australian consumers should be able to legally circumvent geoblocking restrictions that have prevented them from using foreign online streaming services like Netflix, and that the Australian Government needs to send a clear message that it is not an infringement of copyright for consumers to be able evade geoblocking technology. Karen Chester, a commissioner with the Productivity Commission, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that geoblocking restrictions have the opposite effect of encouraging internet piracy. "Making copyright material more accessible and more competitively priced online, and not geoblocking, is the best antidote to copyright infringement." In probably related news, Australia topped the list of countries who illegally downloaded the Game Of Thrones season six premiere, this week. In January Netflix's chief product officer admitted that the company has no magic solution to subscribers who use VPNs to circumvent geoblocking.

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Categories: Science

Amazon Beats Microsoft In 'The Battle of Seattle'

Slashdot - Sat, 30/04/2016 - 11:30pm
An anonymous reader writes: Yesterday Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos earned $5 billion in one afternoon when the company's stock price jumped 9.6%. Amazon reported an actual profit of $513 million (nearly double the amount expected), and next year Amazon's sales are projected by analysts to be 63% higher than Microsoft's, which USA Today calls "a good illustration of how growth in the sector has moved from hardware, software and chip companies to Internet firms selling goods or advertising online... [W]hile Bill Gates helped put Seattle area on the map as a U.S. tech hub, Bezos now runs the largest tech company in the State of Washington, by far, in terms of sales." Amazon's Echo and Alexa devices are believed to be outselling their Kindles (and Alexa will soon make her first appearance on a non-Amazon device). But Amazon attributed their surprise jump in revenue to a 51% annual increase in the "tens of millions" of subscribers paying for their Amazon Prime shipping service (which in San Francisco now even includes delivery from restaurants), as well as a 64% increase from their AWS cloud service, which recently announced a new automated security assessment tool. Amazon ultimately reported more than twice as much new business as Google and three times as much as Facebook, according to USA Today, which notes that now of all the tech companies, only Apple has more revenue than Amazon, and because of the jump in their stock price, Jeff Bezos is now the fourth-richest person in the world. But with all that money floating around, Seattle tech blogger Jeff Reifman is now wondering why Amazon's local home delivery vehicles in Seattle seem to be operating with out of state plates.

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Categories: Science

Germany Plans $1.4 Billion In Incentives For Electric Cars

Slashdot - Sat, 30/04/2016 - 10:30pm
An anonymous reader shares a Bloomberg article: German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government reached a deal with automakers to jointly spend 1.2 billion euros ($1.4 billion) on incentives to boost sluggish electric-car sales. Buyers will be able to receive as much as 4,000 euros in rebates to help offset the higher price of an electric vehicle, Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said at a press conference in Berlin. Purchasers of hybrid cars will get as much as 3,000 euros off the price. The industry will shoulder 50 percent of the cost. The program is set to start in May, pending approval from the German parliament's budget committee, he said. "The goal is to move forward as quickly as possible on electric vehicles," Schaeuble told reporters, adding that the aim is to begin offering the incentives next month. "With this, we are giving an impetus."

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Categories: Science

Malware Taps Windows' 'God Mode'

Slashdot - Sat, 30/04/2016 - 9:30pm
Reader wiredmikey writes: Researchers at McAfee have discovered a piece of malware dubbed "Dynamer" that is taking advantage of a Windows Easter Egg -- or a power user feature, as many see it -- called "God Mode" to gain persistency (warning: annoying popup ads) on an infected machine. God Mode, as many of you know, is a handy tool for administrators as it is essentially a shortcut to accessing the operating system's various control settings. Dynamer malware is abusing the function by installing itself into a folder inside of the %AppData% directory and creating a registry run key that persists across reboots. Using a "com4" name, Windows considers the folder as being a device, meaning that the user cannot easily delete it. Given that Windows treats the folder "com4" folder differently, Windows Explorer or typical console commands are useless when attempting to delete it.Fortunately, there's a way to remove it. McAfee writes: Fortunately, there is a way to defeat this foe. First, the malware must be terminated (via Task Manager or other standard tools). Next, run this specially crafted command from the command prompt (cmd.exe): > rd "\\.\%appdata%\com4.{241D7C96-F8BF-4F85-B01F-E2B043341A4B}" /S /Q.

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Categories: Science

Ask Slashdot: Should This Photographer Sue A Hotel For $2M?

Slashdot - Sat, 30/04/2016 - 8:30pm
Unhappy Windows User writes: An Austrian photographer was contracted by the luxury [hotel] Sofitel in Vienna to photograph the bar with an amazing view over the skyline. He was paid for his time (4200 euros) and arranged a three-year internal usage contract for the photos. After the contract expired, he still found his photos being used -- on external sites too. He is now suing for 2 million euros, based on each individual usage. My question is: Is this the real market value of his work...? It seems like the largest economic contribution to the work was from Sofitel, who allowed access to the property and closed it to customers. I don't have any issue in a photographer wanting to be paid fairly for his work, and asking for perhaps double or treble the original price for the breach of contract to match what an unlimited license would have cost. [But] with this money they could have employed a professional for a month and automatically obtained full rights to the work...it seems like this guy is trying to take advantage of an oversight by a large corporation, never to have to work again. Here's the original article in German and an English translation, and it's one of those rare cases where the copyright belongs to an individual instead of a massive entertainment conglomeration. But do you think the photographer should be suing for 2 million euros over this copyright beach?

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Categories: Science