The Outer Space Treaty Has Been Successful – But Is It Fit for the Modern Age?

Space.com - Sun, 19/02/2017 - 1:40pm
Space exploration is governed by a complex series of international treaties and agreements which have been in place for years. The first and probably most important of them celebrates its 50th anniversary on January 27 – The Outer Space Treaty.
Categories: Science

Biologists Are Figuring Out How Cells Tell Left From Right

Wired News - Sun, 19/02/2017 - 1:30pm
"Anything that's not forbidden by the laws of physics is possible." The post Biologists Are Figuring Out How Cells Tell Left From Right appeared first on WIRED.
Categories: Science

Lego Has a New Space Shuttle and It Looks Awesome

Space.com - Sun, 19/02/2017 - 12:35pm
Lego has a new space shuttle set for 2017 and it promises to be one any space fan can enjoy.
Categories: Science

Fans Choose A New Football Team's Plays With Their Smartphones

Slashdot - Sun, 19/02/2017 - 12:34pm
A new arena-league football team plays on a 50-yard field and uses a mobile app that allows fans to vote on the team's next play. An anonymous reader writes: Slate describes a receiver tackled for a short gain after the audience instructed the quarterback to throw a quick pass -- as "shouts and cheers exploded from the stands, with phones raised triumphantly in the air." The quarterback is informed of the chosen plays through an earphone in his helmet, and after one touchdown, one of the players even thanked a fan in the seats for picking a good play. "Then noses immediately returned to screens...the coach and QB were antsy, peering upward, waiting for the fans' next call as the play clock ticked down again..." The team eventually lost 78-47, but to at least make things more interactive, the players all have their Twitter handles sewn on the backs of their jerseys. Fans can also be "virtual general managers" for a small fee, dialing in to a weekly phone call to give feedback to the team's president, and fans also selected the team's head coach from online resumes and some YouTube videos of interviews. In fact, the article says the fans even picked the team's name, with the name "Screaming Eagles" finally winning out over "Teamy McTeamface" and "Spaghetti Monsters."

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Categories: Science

The Former Secretary of Defense Outlines the Future of Warfare

Wired News - Sun, 19/02/2017 - 12:00pm
The former Secretary of Defense built a bridge between tech and the Pentagon. Here, he talks about its importance in an uncertain time. The post The Former Secretary of Defense Outlines the Future of Warfare appeared first on WIRED.
Categories: Science

SpaceX, NASA Hail 1st Falcon 9 Rocket Launch from Pad Steeped in History

Space.com - Sun, 19/02/2017 - 9:10am
SpaceX's historic launch from NASA's Launch Complex 39A was a success, and so the post-launch press conference was short and full of smiling faces.
Categories: Science

Techdirt Asks Judge To Dismiss Another Lawsuit By That Guy Who Didn't Invent Email

Slashdot - Sun, 19/02/2017 - 8:34am
Three months ago Shiva Ayyadurai won a $750,000 settlement from Gawker (after they'd already gone bankrupt). He'd argued Gawker defamed him by mocking Ayyadurai's claim he'd invented email, and now he's also suing Techdirt founder Michael Masnick -- who is not bankrupt, and is fighting back. Long-time Slashdot reader walterbyrd quotes Ars Technica: In his motion, Masnick claims that Ayyadurai "is seeking to use the muzzle of a defamation action to silence those who question his claim to historical fame." He continues, "The 14 articles and 84 allegedly defamatory statements catalogued in the complaint all say essentially the same thing: that Defendants believe that because the critical elements of electronic mail were developed long before Ayyadurai's 1978 computer program, his claim to be the 'inventor of e-mail' is false"... The motion skims the history of e-mail and points out that the well-known fields of e-mail messages, like "to," "from," "cc," "subject," "message," and "bcc," were used in ARPANET e-mail messages for years before Ayyadurai made his "EMAIL" program. Ayyadurai focuses on statements calling him a "fake," a "liar," or a "fraud" putting forth "bogus" claims. Masnick counters that such phrases are "rhetorical hyperbole" meant to express opinions and reminds the court that "[t]he law provides no redress for harsh name-calling." The motion calls the lawsuit "a misbegotten effort to stifle historical debate, silence criticism, and chill others from continuing to question Ayyadurai's grandiose claims." Ray Tomlinson has been dead for less than a year, but in this fascinating 1998 article recalled testing the early email protocols in 1971, remembering that "Most likely the first message was QWERTYIOP."

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Categories: Science

In Photos: SpaceX's 1st Launch from NASA's Historic Pad 39A

Space.com - Sun, 19/02/2017 - 6:00am
On Feb. 19, 2017, SpaceX launched its first Falcon 9 rocket mission from NASA's historic Apollo-era Launch Pad 39A. See photos of the flight here.
Categories: Science

Slashdot Asks: Are Remote Software Teams More Productive?

Slashdot - Sun, 19/02/2017 - 4:34am
A recruiter with 20 years of experience recently reported on the research into whether remote software teams perform better. One study of 10,000 coding sessions concluded it takes 10-15 minutes for a programmer to resume work after an interruption. Another study actually suggests unsupervised workers are more productive, and the founders of the collaboration tool Basecamp argue the bigger danger is burnout when motivated employees overwork themselves. mikeatTB shares his favorite part of the article: One interesting take on the issues is raised by ThoughtWorks' Martin Fowler: Individuals are more productive in a co-located environment, but remote teams are often more productive than co-located teams. This is because a remote team has the advantage of hiring without geographic boundaries, and that enables employers to assemble world-class groups. The article shares some interesting anecdotes from remote workers, but I'd be interested to hear from Slashdot's readers. Leave your own experiences in the comments, and tell us what you think. Are remote software teams more productive?

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Categories: Science

Web Comic 'Pokey The Penguin' Celebrates Its 19th Anniversary

Slashdot - Sun, 19/02/2017 - 2:34am
It's one of the longest-running comics on the internet. (Slashdot is approaching its 20th anniversary, and in its first year ran two stories about Pokey.) Open source developer Steve Havelka of Portland, Oregon created the truly bizarre strip back in 1998 -- one legend says it was originally a parody of another comic drawn with Microsoft Paint -- and he's since sporadically cranked out 637 strips. Since 2010 he's also been publishing the cartoons in printed books, and this year launched an equally surreal page on Patreon identifying himself as "Steve Havelka, THE AUTHORS of Pokey the Penguin," offering supporters a "mystery item in the mail". Pokey has lots of fans -- he earned a shout-out in the videogame Hitman: Blood Money -- and very-long-time Slashdot reader 198348726583297634 informs us that on this 19th anniversary Pokey "is celebrating on Twitter!" where he's apparently accosting other web cartoonists and touting a new birthday strip. (Not to be confused with that truly horrible Pokey-goes-to-a-party movie created in Adobe Flash.) I'd like to hear from any Slashdot readers who remember Pokey the Penguin -- but I'm also curious to hear from Slashdot readers who have never read the strip. ComixTalk called it "one of those webcomics that really only exist because of the Internet -- it would be hard to see something like this in any other medium... there's just something about Pokey the Penguin that fits online."

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Categories: Science

Should International Travelers Leave Their Phones At Home?

Slashdot - Sun, 19/02/2017 - 12:34am
Long-time Slashdot reader Toe, The sums up what he learned from freeCodeCamp's Quincy Larson: "Before you travel internationally, wipe your phone or bring/rent/buy a clean one." Larson's article is titled "I'll never bring my phone on an international flight again. Neither should you." All the security in the world can't save you if someone has physical possession of your phone or laptop, and can intimidate you into giving up your password... Companies like Elcomsoft make 'forensic software' that can suck down all your photos, contacts -- even passwords for your email and social media accounts -- in a matter of minutes.... If we do nothing to resist, pretty soon everyone will have to unlock their phone and hand it over to a customs agent while they're getting their passport swiped... And with this single new procedure, all the hard work that Apple and Google have invested in encrypting the data on your phone -- and fighting for your privacy in court -- will be a completely moot point. The article warns Americans that their constitutional protections don't apply because "the U.S. border isn't technically the U.S.," calling it "a sort of legal no-man's-land. You have very few rights there." Larson points out this also affects Canadians, but argues that "You can't hand over a device that you don't have."

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Categories: Science

RSA Conference Attendees Get Hacked

Slashdot - Sat, 18/02/2017 - 11:34pm
The RSA Conference "is perhaps the world's largest security event, but that doesn't mean that it's necessarily a secure event," reports eSecurityPlanet. Scanning the conference floor revealed rogue access points posing as known and trusted networks, according to security testing vendor Pwnie Express. storagedude writes: What's worse, several attendees fell for these dummy Wi-Fi services that spoof well-known brands like Starbucks. The company also found a number of access points using outdated WEP encryption. So much for security pros... At least two people stayed connected to a rogue network for more than a day, according to the article, and Pownie Express is reminding these security pros that connecting to a rogue network means "the attacker has full control of all information going into and out of the device, and can deploy various tools to modify or monitor the victim's communication."

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Categories: Science

Software Goes Through Beta Testing. Should Online College Courses?

Slashdot - Sat, 18/02/2017 - 10:34pm
"Testing online courses is not standard practice at traditional colleges," points out a new article at EdSurge -- though beta-testing is part of the process for other online learning sites. jyosim summarizes their report: Coursera has recruited a volunteer corp of more than 2,500 beta testers to try out MOOCs before they launch. Other free online course providers have set up systems that catch things like mistakes in tests, or just whether videos are confusing. Traditional colleges have shied away from checking online course content before going live, citing academic freedom. But some colleges are developing checklists to judge course design and accessibility. "It would be lovely if universities would consider ways of adopting the practice of beta testing," says Phillip Long, chief innovation officer and associate vice provost for learning sciences at the University of Texas at Austin. One factor, though, is cost. "How do you scale that at a university that has thousands of courses being taught," he asks... How much beta testing makes sense for courses, and what's the best way to do it? A senior instructional designer at the State University of New York says "On most campuses, instructional designers have their hands full and don't have time to review the courses before they go live... We're still trying to find the magic bullet that motivates people to review other people's courses when they're not being paid."

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Categories: Science

German Government Tells Parents: Destroy This WiFi-Connected Doll

Slashdot - Sat, 18/02/2017 - 9:34pm
It's illegal in Germany now to sell a talking doll named "My Friend Cayla," according to a story shared by Slashdot reader Bruce66423. And that's just the beginning. The Verge reports: A German government watchdog has ordered parents to "destroy" an internet-connected doll for fear it could be used as a surveillance device. According to a report from BBC News, the German Federal Network Agency said the doll (which contains a microphone and speaker) was equivalent to a "concealed transmitting device" and therefore prohibited under German telecom law... In December last year, privacy advocates said the toy recorded kids' conversations without proper consent, violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. Cayla uses a microphone to listen to questions, sending this audio over Wi-Fi to a third-party company that converts it to text. This is then used to search the internet, allowing the doll to answer basic questions, like "What's a baby kangaroo called?" as well as play games. In addition to privacy concerns over data collection, security researchers found that Cayla can be easily hacked. The doll's insecure Bluetooth connection can be compromised, letting a third party record audio via the toy, or even speak to children using its voice. The Electronic Privacy Information Center has said toys like this "subject young children to ongoing surveillance...without any meaningful data protection standards." One researcher pointed out that the doll was accessible from up to 33 feet away -- even through walls -- using a bluetooth-enabled device.

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Categories: Science

SAP License Fees Also Due For Indirect Users, Court Rules

Slashdot - Sat, 18/02/2017 - 8:34pm
SAP's licensing fees "apply even to related applications that only offer users indirect visibility of SAP data," according to a Thursday ruling by a U.K. judge. Slashdot reader ahbond quotes Network World: The consequences could be far-reaching for businesses that have integrated their customer-facing systems with an SAP database, potentially leaving them liable for license fees for every customer that accesses their online store. "If any SAP systems are being indirectly triggered, even if incidentally, and from anywhere in the world, then there are uncategorized and unpriced costs stacking up in the background," warned Robin Fry, a director at software licensing consultancy Cerno Professional Services, who has been following the case... What's in dispute was whether the SAP PI license fee alone is sufficient to allow Diageo's sales staff and customers to access the SAP data store via the Salesforce apps, or whether, as SAP claims, those staff and customers had to be named as users and a corresponding license fee paid. On Thursday, the judge sided with SAP on that question.

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Categories: Science

New Kit Turns A Raspberry Pi Into A Robot Arm

Slashdot - Sat, 18/02/2017 - 7:34pm
An anonymous reader writes: A new kit turns your Raspberry Pi into a robotic arm. It's controlled by an on-board joystick, or even a web browser, and "because it's connected to the Pi you can program it through any of the various programming languages that already run on the Pi," according to its creators. "There's also free software available which lets you program it through a web interface using drag and drop programming environments like Scratch and Blockly or with Python and Javascript for the more experienced." They explain in a video on Kickstarter that "Our mission is to get children excited about technology through building and programming their own robots," and they've already raised three times their original $12,411 fundraising goal. The Raspberry Pi blog describes it as "a great kit for anyone wanting to step into the world of digital making." Long-time Slashdot reader bjpirt adds that "It's completely open source and hackable."

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Categories: Science

SpaceX's Next Launch Carries Colonies Of A Drug-Resistant Superbug

Slashdot - Sat, 18/02/2017 - 6:34pm
An anonymous reader quotes Business Insider: SpaceX is preparing to launch a lethal, antibiotic-resistant superbug into orbit...to live its days in the microgravity environment of the International Space Station. The idea is not to weaponize space with MRSA -- a bacterium that kills more Americans every year than HIV/AIDS, Parkinson's disease, emphysema, and homicide combined -- but to send its mutation rates into hyperdrive, allowing scientists to see the pathogen's next moves well before they appear on Earth. The NASA-funded study will see SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launch colonies of MRSA into space, to be cultivated in the US National Laboratory on the International Space Station. "We will leverage the microgravity environment on the ISS to accelerate the Precision Medicine revolution here on Earth," lead researcher Anita Goel, CEO of biotech company Nanobiosym, told Yahoo News... "Our ability to anticipate drug-resistant mutations with Gene-RADAR will lead to next generation antibiotics that are more precisely tailored to stop the spread of the world's most dangerous pathogens," says Goel. That launch was scheduled for today, but postponed it to "take a closer look at positioning of the second stage engine nozzle." Two more externally-mounted payloads will conduct other experiments, with one monitoring lightning strikes on earth and the other measuring chemicals in the earth's atmosphere. In addition, there's also 21 science experiments that were submitted by high school students Meanwhile, Slashdot reader tomhath brings news that researchers have discovered the red berries of a U.S. weed can help fight superbugs. The researchers found "extracts from the Brazilian peppertree, which traditional healers in the Amazon have used for hundreds of years to treat skin and soft-tissue infections, have the power to stop methicillin-resistant MRSA infections in mice." One of the researchers said the extract "weakens the bacteria so the mouse's own defenses work better."

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Categories: Science

Lost Package Derails Project To Preserve Super Nintendo Games

Slashdot - Sat, 18/02/2017 - 5:34pm
A developer's quest to preserve (and validate) every game ROM for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System has hit a glitch -- thanks to the U.S. postal service. Byuu, the creator of the Higan SNES emulator, had been expecting a package with 100 games from the PAL region (covering most of Europe, Africa, South America, and Oceania). wertigon writes: As it turns out, someone at the USPS thought it was a good idea to lose the package, thereby robbing the project of roughly $5000 and the sad hopes of ever seeing a full indexing, like the one done to the U.S set. Byuu writes... "I do still want to dump and scan the Japanese games I already purchased. But we will never have a complete PAL set. Kotaku reports the games were worth up to £8,000, and though Byuu says the sender never requested reimbursement, it's going to happen "because I can't live with myself if it doesn't." He's asking for donations on Patreon, adding "If the package ultimately arrives, I will be refunding all donations." In that Thursday update, Byuu writes that the post office had finally shipped him the label from the package "and nothing else, claiming the machine ate it." They've launched an investigation, reports Byuu, adding "It's still an incredibly long shot that they'll find anything, but we'll see. I really, really hope that they do."

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Categories: Science

SpaceX to Make Its 1st Launch from Historic Apollo-Era Pad Today

Space.com - Sat, 18/02/2017 - 5:00pm
The private spaceflight company SpaceX is scheduled to launch its tenth cargo mission to the International Space Station for NASA today (Feb. 18) at 10:01 a.m. EST (1501 GMT).
Categories: Science

Thousands Of Disabled People Are Living In 'Virtual Utopias' In Second Life

Slashdot - Sat, 18/02/2017 - 4:34pm
"For many disabled residents, who may spend 12 hours a day or more in Second Life, the most important moments and relationships of their lives happen inside the virtual world," reports Backchanel. "For them, the fevered fantasies of a decade ago have become reality: Second Life is where they live." mirandakatz shares this article: Wagner James Au, who has written extensively about Second Life, estimates they may account for roughly 20 percent of users. Some active members estimate the number higher -- at as much as 50 percent... Abundant research shows imagining movement, without actually moving the body, can have positive effects on motor skills, balance, and learning... Studies suggest the therapeutic benefits of virtual reality extend beyond movement disorders -- to chronic pain, cognitive functioning in people with ADHD and PTSD, and social skills for people on the autism spectrum. The article describes a 90-year-old former nurse, now living in a retirement community, who's spent eight years living in a Second Life archipelago called "Virtual Ability Island" with over a thousand other members. "Watching her avatar hike trails and dance gave her the confidence to try things in the physical world that she hadn't tried in a half decade -- like stepping off a curb or standing up without any help."

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Categories: Science