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Space

Are the World's Religions Ready For ET? 429

Posted by Soulskill
from the Alf-as-messiah dept.
Science_afficionado writes: At the current rate of discovery, astronomers will have identified more than a million exoplanets by the year 2045. That means, if life is at all common in the Milky Way, astronomers could soon detect it. Realization that the nature of the debate about life on other worlds is about to fundamentally change, lead Vanderbilt astronomer David Weintraub to begin thinking seriously about how people will react to such a discovery. He realized that people's reactions will be heavily influenced by their religious beliefs, so he decided to find out what theologians and leaders from the world's major religions have to say about the matter. The result is a book titled Religions and Extraterrestrial Life, published by Springer this month. He discovered that from Baptists to Buddhists, from Catholics to Mormons, from Islam to the Anglican Communion, religious views on alien life differ widely.
Facebook

Interview With Facebook's Head of Open Source 29

Posted by timothy
from the complete-transparency dept.
Czech37 writes Facebook may be among the world's most well-known tech companies, but it's not renowned for being at the forefront of open source. In reality, they have over 200 open source projects on GitHub and they've recently partnered with Google, Dropbox, and Twitter (among others) to create the TODO group, an organization committed to furthering the open source cause. In an interview with Opensource.com, Facebook's James Pearce talks about the progress the company has made in rebooting their open source approach and what's on the horizon for the social media network.
Security

Security Collapse In the HTTPS Market 185

Posted by Soulskill
from the many-points-of-failure dept.
CowboyRobot writes: HTTPS has evolved into the de facto standard for secure Web browsing. Through the certificate-based authentication protocol, Web services and Internet users first authenticate one another ("shake hands") using a TLS/SSL certificate, encrypt Web communications end-to-end, and show a padlock in the browser to signal that a communication is secure. In recent years, HTTPS has become an essential technology to protect social, political, and economic activities online. At the same time, widely reported security incidents (such as DigiNotar's breach, Apple's #gotofail, and OpenSSL's Heartbleed) have exposed systemic security vulnerabilities of HTTPS to a global audience. The Edward Snowden revelations (notably around operation BULLRUN, MUSCULAR, and the lesser-known FLYING PIG program to query certificate metadata on a dragnet scale) have driven the point home that HTTPS is both a major target of government hacking and eavesdropping, as well as an effective measure against dragnet content surveillance when Internet traffic traverses global networks. HTTPS, in short, is an absolutely critical but fundamentally flawed cybersecurity technology.
Communications

Facebook To Start Testing Internet-Beaming Drones In 2015 42

Posted by timothy
from the don't-worry-that's-next-year dept.
Zothecula writes There was an understandable amount of skepticism when Amazon announced its grand plans for delivery drones last year. But if the last twelve months are any indication, Jeff Bezos and his fellow tech heavyweights are actually kinda serious about the potential of unmanned aerial vehicles. Speaking at the Social Good Summit in New York on Monday, engineering director at Facebook Connectivity Lab, Yael Maguire, has further detailed the company's vision of internet-carrying drones, with plans to begin testing in 2015.
Google

Google Quietly Nixes Mandatory G+ Integration With Gmail 137

Posted by timothy
from the maybe-now-I'll-like-it-better dept.
An anonymous reader writes Back in 2012, Google had made it mandatory for new Gmail users to simultaneously create Google+ (G+) accounts. This is no longer so. Following the departure of G+ founder Vic Gundotra in April 2014, Google has been quietly decoupling its social media site from its other services. First, YouTube was freed, then Google+ Photos. Now, anyone who wants to create a new Gmail account unencumbered with a G+ profile can also do so.
Science

Ancient Campfires Led To the Rise of Storytelling 89

Posted by samzenpus
from the pull-up-a-stump dept.
sciencehabit writes A study of evening campfire conversations by the Ju/'hoan people of Namibia and Botswana suggests that by extending the day, fire allowed people to unleash their imaginations and tell stories, rather than merely focus on mundane topics. As scientists report, whereas daytime talk was focused almost entirely on economic issues, land rights, and complaints about other people, 81% of the firelight conversation was devoted to telling stories, including tales about people from other Ju/'hoan communities. The team suggests that campfires allowed human ancestors to expand their minds in a similar way and also solidified social networks.
Businesses

Small Restaurant Out-Maneuvers Yelp In Reviews War 249

Posted by timothy
from the slumming-with-the-stars dept.
An anonymous reader writes Yelp has, for the past year or so, garnered a reputation for extorting businesses into paying for advertising on their site. Allegations include incessant calls for advertising contracts, automatic listing of a business, and suppressing good reviews should a business decide to opt out of paying Yelp for listing them. One small Italian trattoria, however, may have succeeded in flipping Yelp's legally sanctioned business practices in its favor. The owners of Botto Bistro in Redmond, CA, initially agreed to pay for advertising on Yelp one year ago apparently because they were tired of getting calls from Yelp's sales team. But even after buying advertising, the owners claim that they kept receiving calls. So they started a campaign to get as many one-star reviews as they could, even offering 25% discounts to customers. As of this writing they have 866, and a casual perusal of them reveals enthusiastic tongue-in-cheek support for the restaurant. One-star reviews, once Yelp's best scare tactic, is now this particular business's badge of quality. And they didn't even have to pay Yelp for it.
Facebook

NY Magistrate: Legal Papers Can Be Served Via Facebook 185

Posted by timothy
from the never-friend-a-process-server dept.
New submitter Wylde Stile writes with an interesting case that shows just how pervasive social networking connections have become, including in the eyes of the law. A Staten Island, NY family court support magistrate allowed a Noel Biscoch to serve his ex-wife legal papers via Facebook. Biscoch tried to serve his ex-wife Anna Maria Antigua the old-fashioned way — in person and via postal mail — but his ex-wife had moved with no forwarding address. Antigua maintains an active Facebook account, though, and had even liked some photos on the Biscoch's present wife's Facebook page days before the ruling. The magistrate concluded that the ex-wife could be served through Facebook. If this catches on, I bet a lot of people will end up with legally binding notices caught by spam filters or in their Facebook accounts' "Other" folders.
Social Networks

Netropolitan Is a Facebook For the Affluent, and It's Only $9000 To Join 178

Posted by samzenpus
from the paying-the-price dept.
MojoKid writes Facebook has become too crowded and too mundane. With around 1.3 billion Facebook users, it's understandable to be overwhelmed by everything and want to get away from it all. However, unlike Facebook which is looking to connect everyone to the internet, there is a new site called Netropolitan that focuses more on exclusivity and privacy. The site was founded by composer and former conductor of the Minnesota Philharmonic Orchestra James Touchi-Peters who wanted to provide a social media site for affluent and accomplished individuals. People wishing to join need only pay a mere $9,000 to join. Of that amount, $6,000 is the initiation fee and the remaining $3,000 is for the annual membership fee which users will continue to pay. So what does the initiation and annual fee get you? For starters, Netropolitan will offer an ad-free experience and will not promote any kind of paid promotions to its members. However, it will allow the creation of groups by businesses in which members can advertise to each other under certain guidelines.
Education

ISIS Bans Math and Social Studies For Children 978

Posted by Soulskill
from the control-through-indoctrination dept.
mpicpp sends this news from CNN: In swaths of Syria now controlled by ISIS, children can no longer study math or social studies. Sports are out of the question. And students will be banned from learning about elections and democracy. Instead, they'll be subjected to the teachings of the radical Islamist group. And any teacher who dares to break the rules "will be punished." ISIS revealed its new educational demands in fliers posted on billboards and on street poles. The Sunni militant group has captured a slew of Syrian and Iraqi cities in recent months as it tries to establish a caliphate, or Islamic state, spanning Sunni parts of both countries. Books cannot include any reference to evolution. And teachers must say that the laws of physics and chemistry "are due to Allah's rules and laws." Update: 09/18 16:26 GMT by S : CNN has pulled the story over "concerns about the interpretation of the information provided." They promise to update it when they get the facts straight.
First Person Shooters (Games)

Early Reviews of Destiny: Unfulfilled Potential 93

Posted by Soulskill
from the your-mileage-may-vary dept.
Destiny is a first-person shooter set in a persistent, online world. It was released on Tuesday by Bungie, the development studio behind Halo, and billed as a blending of console shooters and progression-based MMOs. Reviews for the game are finally trickling out, and most publications say it's merely average. (Though it's worth noting that the social and multiplayer portions of the game are difficult to evaluate in such a short timeframe, and like many MMOs, Destiny will continue to see active development.) Polygon's Arthur Gies reports, "Destiny doesn't look real, but rather, it looks like painted concept art, meticulously assembled and presented to you at all times. Instead, it's the suggestion, through Destiny's concept, its soundtrack and its visual presentation, that Destiny is big. That there's a whole universe out there to explore, a reality worth discovering. There isn't, though."

Jeff Gerstmann at Giant Bomb had a similar reaction: "There are cool little flashes of brilliance in Destiny, but a lot of it feels like a game designed by people who weren't sure what sort of game they were designing. Is it a loot shooter? Sort of, but the loot isn't very good. Is it an MMO? No, but you'll occasionally encounter other players out in the field. A story-driven shooter like the Halo franchise? Sure, if you don't mind digging through the developer's website to find those little bits of lore." The Escapist's Jim Sterling concludes, "Destiny exists in the shadow of multiple games, taking a little from each, and doing nothing truly remarkable with any of it. It's a prime example of how the nebulous concept of 'content' can be used to puff up a game without adding anything to it."
Data Storage

SanDisk Releases 512GB SD Card 210

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-big-or-go-home dept.
Lucas123 writes: SanDisk has announced the world's highest capacity SD card, a 512GB model that represents a 1,000-fold increase over the company's first 512MB card that it shipped a decade ago. The SanDisk Extreme PRO SDXC UHS-I memory card has a max read/write rate of 95MB/s and 90MB/s, respectively. The card is rated to function in temperatures from -13 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit. The 512GB model retails for $800. The card also comes in 128GB and 256GB capacities.
Build

Two Bit Circus is 'a Big Band of Nerds' (Video) 8

Posted by Roblimo
from the games-that-take-physical-movement-are-healthy-games dept.
Brent Bushnell, CEO of Two Bit Circus, is today's interview victim. Two Bit Circus is an amalgamation of technology, play, entertainment, and "immersive social amusements." They develop games like the ones shown in their Great Forest Challenge demo reel video. Their big push right now is preparing for STEAM Carnival – Los Angeles, which will be held October 25 and October 26 at CRAFTED, a permanent craft market at the Port of Los Angeles. The STEAM Carnival is also available as a traveling event; if you'd like to host it in your town, Two Bit Circus just might be able to accommodate you. (Alternate Video Link)
Transportation

Surprising Result of NYC Bike Lanes: Faster Traffic for Cars 213

Posted by timothy
from the zipping-along dept.
A report at vox.com says that the implementation of bike lanes in traffic-heavy New York City has one possibly non-intuitive result: car traffic was sped up as a result. The bike lanes have caused the lanes for cars to be narrowed, but as a result of the street redesign to accomodate bikes, one big change has especially helped to keep cars moving forward more steadily: Although narrower streets can slow traffic, that doesn't seem to have happened here — perhaps because traffic in this area was crawling at around 11 miles per hour to begin with. Instead, the narrower lanes were capable of handling just as much traffic, and one major improvement to intersection design helped them handle more, while also letting bikes travel more safely. This improvement was something called a pocket lane for left-hand turns: a devoted turning lane at most intersections that takes the place of the parking lane, which gets cars out of the way of moving traffic when they're making a left.
Cellphones

Under the Apple Hype Machine, Amazon Drops Fire Phone Price To 99 Cents 134

Posted by timothy
from the now-how-much-would-you-pay dept.
Whatever it is that Apple's going to announce a few hours from now, it seems Amazon has decided it's probably not going to send people rushing to buy its Fire phone. Amazon's cut the price of the phone from $199 to 99 cents. At that price, the Fire phone comes with free Amazon Prime membership, too -- but also a 2-year contract with (exclusive carrier) AT&T. Writes ExtremeTech: Whether that’s going to be enough to stimulate sales is an open question — $450 unlocked is still a tough sell for a device that is overmatched by products like the cheaper Nexus 5, or the recently unveiled $500 second-gen Moto X. In August, adoption data from advertising agency Chitika claimed that total Amazon Fire Phone sales were paltry, representing just 0.015-0.02% of phones in use, or fewer than 30,000 phones. That number will have doubtlessly ticked up slightly since then, and it’s true that Amazon’s partners, like AT&T, have aggressively pushed the phone in online stores.
Crime

Private Police Intelligence Network Shares Data and Targets Cash 142

Posted by samzenpus
from the mine-now-I-take-it dept.
Advocatus Diaboli writes Operating in collaboration with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other federal entities, Black Asphalt members exchanged tens of thousands of reports about American motorists, many of whom had not been charged with any crimes, according to a company official and hundreds of internal documents obtained by The Post. For years, it received no oversight by government, even though its reports contained law enforcement sensitive information about traffic stops and seizures, along with hunches and personal data about drivers, including Social Security numbers and identifying tattoos. Black Asphalt also has served as a social hub for a new brand of highway interdictors, a group that one Desert Snow official has called 'a brotherhood.' Among other things, the site hosts an annual competition to honor police who seize the most contraband and cash on the highways. As part of the contest, Desert Snow encouraged state and local patrol officers to post seizure data along with photos of themselves with stacks of currency and drugs. Some of the photos appear in a rousing hard-rock video that the Guthrie, Okla.-based Desert Snow uses to promote its training courses.
Facebook

Facebook's Auto-Play Videos Chew Up Expensive Data Plans 108

Posted by timothy
from the rude-to-users-is-the-short-term-business-mindset dept.
Another good reason to be annoyed by autoplaying videos online: it eats up dataplan allowances, making for some rude surprises. I'm always nervous about data allowances, and sites should be cautious about what they shove at you; turning off the autoplay feature isn't hard (and it's explained in the second article linked above), but I sure wish it was the default setting, or at least caught and handled by a browser extension. (Perhaps this is a job for Social Fixer's next iteration.) Is Facebook the worst offender on this front?
Privacy

Responding to Celeb Photo Leaks, Reddit Scotches "Fappening" Subreddit 307

Posted by timothy
from the whew-that's-a-relief-said-all-the-celebrities dept.
4chan might have introduced a DMCA policy, but Reddit goes farther: VentureBeat reports that the online community known as The Fappening has been dissolved by Reddit, in response to its use in posting and sharing many of the photos leaked from dozens of celebrities. This isn’t the first time Reddit has decided to take action to ban certain questionable communities from its site, as its previously killed other subreddits like Creepshots for similar invasions of privacy as well as banned well-known power users shown to enable such actions. ... Reddit system admin Jason Harvey (aka “alienth”) attempted to cool some of the fuss by starting that discussion about why the company decided to ban the subreddit. Most of it boils down to Reddit waiting too long to speak up about it before making the decision to ban, while assuming its users would mostly understand why it took place. ... “If Reddit is truly to be a platform that’s open in any way, it needs transparency when (heavy handed) actions such as these are taken,” said Reddit user SaidTheCanadian in response to Harvey, while also suggesting the company create a “public log” of sorts showing all banning actions as well as explanations for each instance of a banned community. “I don’t want to be part of a community where community voices are silenced without meaningful notice or explanation. (No one really does like that secret police feeling.)”
Microsoft

Protesters Blockade Microsoft's Seattle Headquarters Over Tax Breaks 246

Posted by timothy
from the orchestrated-outrage-on-display dept.
reifman (786887) writes "A thousand unionized healthcare workers protested outside Microsoft's Seattle offices over its Nevada tax dodge on Friday. Microsoft shareholders have pocketed more than $5.34 billion in tax savings as Washington State social services and schools have taken huge cuts. In a hearing Wednesday, the Supreme Court suggested it may hold the Legislature in contempt and order it to repeal all tax breaks to restore proper funding to K-12 schools and universities." I suspect Microsoft's lawyers are careful to engage in legal tax avoidance rather than illegal tax evasion. Geekwire notes "The South Lake Union satellite facility is not a major office for Microsoft, compared to its presence in Redmond. It’s not clear why the workers didn’t protest at Microsoft headquarters."
Facebook

Facebook Blamed For Driving Up Cellphone Bills, But It's Not Alone 131

Posted by samzenpus
from the do-not-like-this dept.
colinneagle writes "Consumer site MoneySavingExpert.com reported today that it has seen "many complaints" from users who believe a recent increase in data-related charges on their cellphone bills are the result of Facebook's auto-play feature. The default setting for the auto-play feature launches and continues to play videos silently until the user either scrolls past it or clicks on it; if the user does the latter, the video then goes full-screen and activates audio. The silent auto-play occurs regardless of whether users are connected to Wi-Fi, LTE, or 3G.

However, it's likely that Facebook isn't entirely to blame for this kind of trend, but rather, with the debut of its auto-play feature, threw gas on an already growing fire of video-sharing services. Auto-play for video is a default setting on Instagram's app, although the company refers to it as "preload." Instagram only introduced video last summer, after the Vine app, a Twitter-backed app that auto-plays and loops six-second videos, started to see significant growth.

I use technology in order to hate it more properly. -- Nam June Paik

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