Google

'Mobilegeddon': Google To Punish Mobile-Hostile Sites Starting Today 57

Posted by timothy
from the now-there's-a-nudge dept.
jfruh writes: Google has announced that it will be adding mobile-friendliness to the list of factors that will get a site bumped up in search rankings. Sites that have no mobile versions — which includes sites owned by Wikipedia, the BBC and the European Union — will find themselves with lower Google search placement, starting today.
Robotics

Robot Workers' Real Draw: Reducing Dependence on Human Workers 96

Posted by Soulskill
from the it-can-do-your-job-and-won't-complain-about-the-coffee dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Zeynep Tufekci writes in an op-ed at the NY Times that machines are getting better than humans at figuring out who to hire, who's in a mood to pay a little more for that sweater, and who needs a coupon to nudge them toward a sale. It turns out most of what we think of as expertise, knowledge and intuition is being deconstructed and recreated as an algorithmic competency, fueled by big data. "Machines aren't used because they perform some tasks that much better than humans, but because, in many cases, they do a "good enough" job while also being cheaper, more predictable and easier to control than quirky, pesky humans," writes Tufekci. "Technology in the workplace is as much about power and control as it is about productivity and efficiency."

According to Tufekci technology is being used in many workplaces: to reduce the power of humans, and employers' dependency on them, whether by replacing, displacing or surveilling them. Optimists insist that we've been here before, during the Industrial Revolution, when machinery replaced manual labor, and all we need is a little more education and better skills. Tufekci points out that one historical example is no guarantee of future events. "Confronting the threat posed by machines, and the way in which the great data harvest has made them ever more able to compete with human workers, must be about our priorities," concludes Tufekci. "This problem is not us versus the machines, but between us, as humans, and how we value one another."
AI

Computer Beats Humans At Arimaa 56

Posted by timothy
from the call-back-when-it-can-make-a-good-egg-cream dept.
An anonymous reader writes A computer engine has beaten humans at Arimaa, an abstract strategy game, in the official human–computer challenge of the year. Sharp, as the bot is called, had to beat each of three strong human players in a best 2-out-3 contest and managed to sweep the first two rounds, thereby already guaranteeing victory. Its developer David Wu will receive a $12,000 prize, contingent on him submitting a paper describing the program to the International Computer Games Association.
Math

Mandelbrot Zooms Now Surpass the Scale of the Observable Universe 149

Posted by timothy
from the from-here-you-can-see-forever dept.
StartsWithABang writes You're used to real numbers: that is, numbers that can be expressed as a decimal, even if it's an arbitrarily long, non-repeating decimal. There are also complex numbers, which are numbers that have a real part and also an imaginary part. The imaginary part is just like the real part, but is also multiplied by i, or the square root of -1. It's a simple definition: the Mandelbrot set consists of every possible complex number, n, where the sequence n, n^2 + n, (n^2 + n)^2 + n, etc.—where each new term is the prior term, squared, plus n—does not go to either positive or negative infinity. The scale of zoom visualizations now goes well past the limits of the observable Universe, with no signs of loss of complexity at all.
Math

Can High Intelligence Be a Burden Rather Than a Boon? 382

Posted by timothy
from the how-can-I-still-go-on? dept.
HughPickens.com writes David Robson has an interesting article at BBC on the relationship between high intelligence and happiness. "We tend to think of geniuses as being plagued by existential angst, frustration, and loneliness," writes Robson. Think of Virginia Woolf, Alan Turing, or Lisa Simpson – lone stars, isolated even as they burn their brightest." As Ernest Hemingway wrote: "Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know." The first steps to studying the question were taken in 1926 when psychologist Lewis Terman decided to identify and study a group of gifted children. Terman selected 1,500 pupils with an IQ of 140 or more – 80 of whom had IQs above 170. Together, they became known as the "Termites", and the highs and lows of their lives are still being studied to this day. "As you might expect, many of the Termites did achieve wealth and fame – most notably Jess Oppenheimer, the writer of the classic 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy. Indeed, by the time his series aired on CBS, the Termites' average salary was twice that of the average white-collar job. But not all the group met Terman's expectations – there were many who pursued more "humble" professions such as police officers, seafarers, and typists. For this reason, Terman concluded that "intellect and achievement are far from perfectly correlated". Nor did their smarts endow personal happiness. Over the course of their lives, levels of divorce, alcoholism and suicide were about the same as the national average." According to Robson, one possibility is that knowledge of your talents becomes something of a ball and chain. During the 1990s, the surviving Termites were asked to look back at the events in their 80-year lifespan. Rather than basking in their successes, many reported that they had been plagued by the sense that they had somehow failed to live up to their youthful expectations (PDF).
Space

The Origin of the First Light In the Universe 132

Posted by timothy
from the was-just-born-there dept.
StartsWithABang writes Before there were planets, galaxies, or even stars in the Universe, there really was light. We see that light, left over today, in the form of the Cosmic Microwave Background, or the remnant glow from the Big Bang. But these photons outnumber the matter in our Universe by more than a-billion-to-one, and are the most numerous thing around. So where did they first come from? Science has the answer.
The Military

Scientists Locate Sunken, Radioactive Aircraft Carrier Off California Coast 192

Posted by Soulskill
from the what-you-leave-behind dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Aaron Kinney reports in the San Jose Mercury News that scientists have captured the first clear images of the USS Independence, a radioactivity-polluted World War II aircraft carrier that rests on the ocean floor 30 miles off the coast of Half Moon Bay. The Independence saw combat at Wake Island and other decisive battles against Japan in 1944 and 1945 and was later blasted with radiation in two South Pacific nuclear tests. Assigned as a target vessel for the Operation Crossroads atomic bomb tests, she was placed within one-half-mile of ground zero and was engulfed in a fireball and heavily damaged during the 1946 nuclear weapons tests at Bikini Atoll. The veteran ship did not sink, however (though her funnels and island were crumpled by the blast), and after taking part in another explosion on 25 July, the highly radioactive hull was later taken to Pearl Harbor and San Francisco for further tests and was finally scuttled off the coast of San Francisco, California, on 29 January 1951. "This ship is an evocative artifact of the dawn of the atomic age, when we began to learn the nature of the genie we'd uncorked from the bottle," says James Delgado. "It speaks to the 'Greatest Generation' — people's fathers, grandfathers, uncles and brothers who served on these ships, who flew off those decks and what they did to turn the tide in the Pacific war."

Delgado says he doesn't know how many drums of radioactive material are buried within the ship — perhaps a few hundred. But he is doubtful that they pose any health or environmental risk. The barrels were filled with concrete and sealed in the ship's engine and boiler rooms, which were protected by thick walls of steel. The carrier itself was clearly "hot" when it went down and and it was packed full of fresh fission products and other radiological waste at the time it sank. The Independence was scuttled in what is now the Gulf of the Farallones sanctuary, a haven for wildlife, from white sharks to elephant seals and whales. Despite its history as a dumping ground Richard Charter says the radioactive waste is a relic of a dark age before the enviornmental movement took hold. "It's just one of those things that humans rather stupidly did in the past that we can't retroactively fix.""
Stats

Social Science Journal 'Bans' Use of p-values 202

Posted by Soulskill
from the let's-argue-about-sabermetrics-instead dept.
sandbagger writes: Editors of Basic and Applied Social Psychology announced in a February editorial that researchers who submit studies for publication would not be allowed to use common statistical methods, including p-values. While p-values are routinely misused in scientific literature, many researchers who understand its proper role are upset about the ban. Biostatistician Steven Goodman said, "This might be a case in which the cure is worse than the disease. The goal should be the intelligent use of statistics. If the journal is going to take away a tool, however misused, they need to substitute it with something more meaningful."
Security

FBI Accuses Researcher of Hacking Plane, Seizes Equipment 267

Posted by Soulskill
from the security-theater dept.
chicksdaddy writes: The Feds are listening, and they really can't take a joke. That's the apparent moral of security researcher Chris Roberts' legal odyssey on Wednesday, which saw him escorted off a plane in Syracuse by two FBI agents and questioned for four hours over a humorous tweet Roberts posted about his ability to hack into the cabin control systems of the Boeing 737 he was flying. Roberts (aka @sidragon1) joked that he could "start playing with EICAS messages," a reference to the Engine Indicating and Crew Alerting System.

Roberts was traveling to Syracuse to give a presentation. He said local law enforcement and FBI agents boarded the plane on the tarmac and escorted him off. He was questioned for four hours, with officers alleging they had evidence he had tampered with in-flight systems on an earlier leg of his flight from Colorado to Chicago. Roberts said the agents questioned him about his tweet and whether he tampered with the systems on the United flight -something he denies doing. Roberts had been approached earlier by the Denver office of the FBI which warned him away from further research on airplanes. The FBI was also looking to approach airplane makers Boeing and Airbus and wanted him to rebuild a virtualized environment he built to test airplane vulnerabilities to verify what he was saying.

Roberts refused, and the FBI seized his encrypted laptop and storage devices and has yet to return them, he said. The agents said they wished to do a forensic analysis of his laptop. Roberts said he declined to provide that information and requested a warrant to search his equipment. As of Friday, Roberts said he has not received a warrant.
Television

StarTalk TV Show With Neil DeGrasse Tyson Starts Monday 75

Posted by Soulskill
from the way-better-than-reality-tv dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Neil DeGrasse Tyson of StarTalk Radio and Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey has a TV show starting on Monday, April 20, at 11 p.m. ET/10 p.m. CT on NatGeo. Based on Dr. Tyson's prominent podcast of the same name, the hour-long, weekly series infuses pop culture with science, while bringing together comedians and celebrities to delve into a wide range of topics. Each week, in a private interview, Dr. Tyson explores all the ways science and technology have influenced the lives and livelihoods of his guests, whatever their background.
Microsoft

Microsoft's Role As Accuser In the Antitrust Suit Against Google 192

Posted by samzenpus
from the on-the-other-side dept.
HughPickens.com writes Danny Hakim reports at the NYT that as European antitrust regulators formally accuse Google of abusing its dominance, Microsoft is relishing playing a behind-the-scenes role of scold instead of victim. Microsoft has founded or funded a cottage industry of splinter groups to go after Google. The most prominent, the Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace, or Icomp, has waged a relentless public relations campaign promoting grievances against Google. It conducted a study that suggested changes made by Google to appease regulators were largely window dressing. "Microsoft is doing its best to create problems for Google," says Manfred Weber, the chairman of the European People's Party, the center-right party that is the largest voting bloc in the European Parliament. "It's interesting. Ten years ago Microsoft was a big and strong company. Now they are the underdog."

According to Hakim, Microsoft and Google are the Cain and Abel of American technology, locked in the kind of struggle that often takes place when a new giant threatens an older one. Microsoft was frustrated after American regulators at the Federal Trade Commission didn't act on a similar antitrust investigation against Google in 2013, calling it a "missed opportunity." It has taken the fight to the state level, along with a number of other opponents of Google. Microsoft alleges that Google's anti-competitive practices include stopping Bing from indexing content on Google-owned YouTube; blocking Microsoft Windows smartphones from "operating properly" with YouTube; blocking access to content owned by book publishers; and limiting the flow of ad campaign information back to advertisers, making it more expensive to run ads with rivals. "Over the past year, a growing number of advertisers, publishers, and consumers have expressed to us their concerns about the search market in Europe," says Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel. "They've urged us to share our knowledge of the search market with competition officials."
Wikipedia

How Many Hoaxes Are On Wikipedia? No One Knows 186

Posted by timothy
from the citation-not-sufficient dept.
An anonymous reader writes The Washington Post's Caitlin Dewey has written a lengthy feature covering one of Wikipedia's most intractable problems: carefully inserted hoax information that is almost impossible to detect. Dewey's investigation starts with the recent discovery of the nonexistent Australian god "Jar'Edo Wens" (which lasted almost ten years), and discusses a Wikipediocracy post about a recent experiment by critic Greg Kohs, in which 30 articles received cleverly-chosen minor falsehoods. More than half survived for more than two months. Included is also a chart showing that editing participation in Wikipedia has "atrophied" since 2007. It is quite rare to see a feature in a major media outlet as critical as this, of Wikipedia and its little-known internal problems. Especially on the heels of a very favorable CBS 60 Minutes report. As Kohs says, "I think this has proved, beyond a reasonable doubt, that it's not fair to say Wikipedia is 'self-correcting.'"
The Internet

India's Net Neutrality Campaign Picks Up Steam, Sites Withdraw From Internet.org 75

Posted by samzenpus
from the leaving-the-ship dept.
First time accepted submitter arvin (916235) writes The Huffington Post reports on prominent Indian websites withdrawing from Facebook's internet.org initiative. The net neutrality debate in the country has focused on zero-rating, where ISPs offer a free data plan which provides access to a set of websites that pay to be included. Internet.org provides free access to Facebook, Bing, Wikipedia and a few other websites. Another similar service, Airtel Zero, lost its flagship partner as e-commerce company Flipkart withdrew following a social media backlash.

Net neutrality activists believe that as these plans proliferate, access to the open internet will become extremely expensive or unavailable, innovation will slow as for startups are prevented from reaching the market, and the competitive consumer ISP market will be replaced with a cartel negotiating against internet companies. In a campaign similar to that in the US, over 630,000 Indians sent responses to their regulator through the website savetheinternet.in.
The Almighty Buck

'We the People' Petition To Revoke Scientology's Tax Exempt Status 699

Posted by Soulskill
from the brought-to-you-by-years-of-pointless-irritation dept.
An anonymous reader writes: There has been a lot of interest in the activities of the Church of Scientology recently, especially since the release of Alex Gibney's documentary Going Clear. A petition against tax-exempt status for Scientology has been started on the U.S. White House petition website. If it receives more than 100,000 signatures, it will qualify for an official White House response. Even Slashdot has had its own run-ins with Scientology in the past — one of many internet sites to face legal threats from the Church. Has the time come for Scientology go "clear?"
Businesses

How Mission Creep Killed a Gaming Studio 131

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-actually-about-duke-nukem-forever dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes: Over at Kotaku, there's an interesting story about the reported demise of Darkside Game Studios, a game-development firm that thought it finally had a shot at the big time only to collapse once its project requirements spun out of control. Darkside got a chance to show off its own stuff with a proposed remake of Phantom Dust, an action-strategy game that became something of a cult favorite. Microsoft, which offered Darkside the budget to make the game, had a very specific list of requirements for the actual gameplay. The problem, as Kotaku describes, is those requirements shifted after the project was well underway. Darkside needed more developers, artists, and other skilled tech pros to finish the game with its expanded requirements, but (anonymous sources claimed) Microsoft refused to offer up more money to actually hire the necessary people. As a result, the game's development imploded, reportedly followed by the studio. What's the lesson in all this? It's one of the oldest in the book: Escalating and unanticipated requirements, especially without added budget to meet those requirements, can have devastating effects on both a project and the larger software company.
Government

Bolivia Demands Assange Apologize For Deliberately False Leaks To the US 160

Posted by timothy
from the well-it's-not-swatting-if-it's-the-usaf dept.
Rei writes In 2013, during Edward Snowden's brief and chaotic search for asylum that ultimately landed him in Russia, the US faced criticism for handing information to various European nations that Bolivian president Evo Morales was smuggling him out of Russia, leading to the grounding of his flight. In a new twist, in the documentary Terminal F about this time period, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange admitted that he was the one who deliberately leaked the fake information to the US government. Bolivia has been none too pleased with this news and is now demanding that Assange apologize for putting their president's life at risk.
Books

Book Review: Networking For System Administrators 33

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
Saint Aardvark writes Michael W. Lucas has been writing technical books for a long time, drawing on his experience as both a system and a network administrator. He has mastered the art of making it both easy and enjoyable to inhale large amounts of information; that's my way of saying he writes books well and he's a funny guy. Networking for System Administrators, available both in DRM-free ebook and dead tree formats, is his latest book, and it's no exception to this trend. Keep reading for the rest of Saint Aardvark's review.
Earth

California Looks To the Sea For a Drink of Water 332

Posted by samzenpus
from the taking-the-salt-out dept.
HughPickens.com writes Justin Gillis writes in the NYT that as drought strikes California, residents can't help noticing the substantial reservoir of untapped water lapping at their shores — 187 quintillion gallons of it, more or less, shimmering invitingly in the sun. Once dismissed as too expensive and harmful to the environment desalination is getting a second look. A $1 billion desalination plant to supply booming San Diego County is under construction and due to open as early as November, providing a major test of whether California cities will be able to resort to the ocean to solve their water woes. "It was not an easy decision to build this plant," says Mark Weston, chairman of the agency that supplies water to towns in San Diego County. "But it is turning out to be a spectacular choice. What we thought was on the expensive side 10 years ago is now affordable."

Carlsbad's product will sell for around $2,000 per acre-foot (the amount used by two five-person U.S. households per year), which is 80 percent more than the county pays for treated water from outside the area. Water bills already average about $75 a month and the new plant will drive them up by $5 or so to secure a new supply equal to about 7 or 8 percent of the county's water consumption. Critics say the plant will use a huge amount of electricity, increasing the carbon dioxide emissions that cause global warming, which further strains water supplies. And local environmental groups, which fought the plant, fear a substantial impact on sea life. "There is just a lot more that can be done on both the conservation side and the water-recycling side before you get to [desalination]," says Rick Wilson, coastal management coordinator with the environmental group Surfrider Foundation. "We feel, in a lot of cases, that we haven't really explored all of those options."
Space

Supernovae May Not Be Standard Candles; Is Dark Energy All Wrong? 199

Posted by Soulskill
from the either-that-or-it-isn't dept.
StartsWithABang writes: The accelerated expansion of the Universe — and hence, dark energy — was discovered by taking the well-understood phenomenon of type Ia supernovae and measuring them out to great distances. The results indicated that they were fainter than expected, and hence more distant, and hence the Universe's expansion must be accelerating. But new results have just come out, showing that supernovae may not be standard after all. Does this mean dark energy may not be real, or that it may just be slightly weaker than we previously thought?
Software

BitTorrent Launches Beta of Torrent-Based Browser Project Maelstrom 35

Posted by timothy
from the bits-and-pieces-from-all-over dept.
An anonymous reader writes BitTorrent today launched Project Maelstrom, the company's distributed browser, in beta. The company also released new tools on GitHub that let developers and publishers build content for the browser. Announced in December, Project Maelstrom, then just an invite-only alpha, was described as "the first torrent-based browser." The launch today is an open beta, meaning anyone can now try an early version of Maelstrom. You do, however, need a Windows computer. Windows users can download the beta now from here. Since the alpha, BitTorrent says it has improved stability, integrated support for automatic updates, and added DHT visualization for users when loading torrents.