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Fermi Satellite Clocks Pulsar Going 2.5 Million Miles Per Hour

Slashdot - March 24, 2019 - 2:34pm
schwit1 quotes UPI: Astronomers have discovered a pulsar traveling at unprecedented speeds. Observations by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope suggest the star is moving through space at 2.5 million miles per hour.... "Thanks to its narrow dart-like tail and a fortuitous viewing angle, we can trace this pulsar straight back to its birthplace," Frank Schinzel, a scientist at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in New Mexico, told NASA. "Further study of this object will help us better understand how these explosions are able to 'kick' neutron stars to such high speed...." Scientists named the high-speed pulsing star PSR J0002+6216, or J0002 for short. The star is located in the Cassiopeia constellation, 6,500 light-years from Earth... Analysis of the pulsar's trajectory and pulsing tail suggest the spinning neutron star was ejected by a supernova named CTB 1. Scientists estimated J0002 was expelled from CTB 1 approximately 10,000 years ago. Scientists aren't totally sure how J0002 accelerated to such tremendous speeds. In the wake of the supernova explosion from which the pulsar originated, expelled gas and dust from the exploded companion star likely outraced J0002. Eventually, the shell of stellar shrapnel was slowed by interactions with interstellar gas, but astronomers theorize that some of stellar debris may have coalesced into a region of dense matter, forming a "gravitational tugboat" that is pulling J0002 through space. J0002 was discovered by "citizen scientists" scanning data from NASA's Fermi satellite, according to the article. "Participants in the Einstein@Home project have identified 13 gamma ray pulsars."

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The Washington Post Asks: Should 8chan Be Considered a Terrorist Recuiting Site?

Slashdot - March 24, 2019 - 1:34pm
An anonymous reader quotes the Washington Post: As most of the world condemned last week's mass shooting in New Zealand, a contrary story line emerged on 8chan, the online message board where the alleged shooter had announced the attack and urged others to continue the slaughter. "Who should i kill?" one anonymous poster wrote. "I have never been this happy," wrote another. "I am ready. I want to fight...." The persistence of the talk of violence on 8chan has led some experts to call for tougher actions by the world's governments, with some saying the site increasingly looks like the jihadi forums organized by the Islamic State and al-Qaeda... 8chan's founder, Fredrick Brennan, said Jim Watkins [8chan's sole administrator] owns other Internet businesses and has built a technical fortress to guard 8chan from potential takedowns: He owns nearly every component securing the site to the backbone of the Web, including its servers, which are scattered around the world. "You can send a complaint, but no one's going to do anything. He owns the whole operation," Brennan said. "It's how he keeps people confused and guessing...." Watkins is content to lose money, Brennan said, because he sees it as a pet project: "8chan is like a boat to Jim. It doesn't matter if it makes money. He just enjoys using it...." 8chan, however, is shielded in another way: the U.S. web-services giant Cloudflare, which helps websites guard against "distributed denial of service," or DDoS, attacks that online vigilante groups have used to target 8chan in the past. The Post reports that Brennan "worries there are no true technical solutions beyond a total redesign of the Web, focused around identification and moderation, that could undermine it as a venue for free expression." Brennan tells the Post that "The Internet as a whole is not made to be censored. It was made to be resilient. And as long as there's a contingent of people who like this content, it will never go away." On Tuesday, 8chan posted tips on Twitter for what to do "If your ISP is blocking a website you'd like to browse" -- a tweet which is now pinned to the top of its feed.

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Elon Musk Makes Surprise Visit To Flint, Michigan Elementary School

Slashdot - March 24, 2019 - 1:04pm
An anonymous reader quotes the Detroit Metro Times: Tech billionaire Elon Musk surprised students at an assembly at Flint's Doyle-Ryder Elementary School on Friday, announcing the creation of a new STEM-focused junior high school and inviting some students to tour his SpaceX rocket factory in California... Students will be selected by the district based on academic merits, with funding for the trip provided by the Musk Foundation. "My hope is to inspire the students of Flint to want to make things, just as I did as a child and as a young engineer," Musk said, according to the statement. "I want students to know that through hard work and a belief in themselves, they can pursue and achieve the unimaginable...." Musk became involved with Flint thanks to Twitter trolls. After Musk tried, and failed, to develop a miniature submarine to rescue a soccer team trapped in a Thailand cave last summer -- Thai Navy SEALs beat him to the punch, rescuing all of the party -- Twitter users goaded him into doing something to help Flint.

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82-Year-Old Pope Francis Is 'First Pope To Write a Line of Code'

Slashdot - March 24, 2019 - 12:34pm
Long-time Slashdot reader theodp writes: After seeing to it that UK Prime Minister David Cameron, US President Barack Obama, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau all received (widely-publicized) coding lessons, Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi noted in late 2016 that he was "still working on Pope Francis." GeekWire reports that Partovi was able to cross that one off his bucket list Thursday, as he helped Pope Francis become 'the first Pope to write a line of code' at a 'Programming for Peace' event organized by the Pope's foundation, Scholas Occurrentes, in Vatican City (not ready for Twitch.TV video). "In the 21st century, computer science is a fundamental subject that all students should learn," said Partovi, whose tech-bankrolled nonprofit has entered a partnership with Scholas to introduce children to computer science. "Schools should teach computer science to prepare students for the future, empower children with creativity and teach how to harness technology and creativity." The Pontiff's programming lesson comes a month after Partovi's next-door neighbor, Microsoft President and Code.org Board member Brad Smith, had a sit-down with the Pope to discuss the ethical use of AI and ways to bridge the digital divide between rich and poor nations.

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More Than One Reality Exists (in Quantum Physics)

Slashdot - March 24, 2019 - 11:34am
Zorro (Slashdot reader #15,797) quotes Live Science: Can two versions of reality exist at the same time? Physicists say they can -- at the quantum level, that is. Researchers recently conducted experiments to answer a decades-old theoretical physics question about dueling realities. This tricky thought experiment proposed that two individuals observing the same photon could arrive at different conclusions about that photon's state -- and yet both of their observations would be correct. For the first time, scientists have replicated conditions described in the thought experiment. Their results, published Feb. 13 in the preprint journal arXiv, confirmed that even when observers described different states in the same photon, the two conflicting realities could both be true. "You can verify both of them," study co-author Martin Ringbauer, a postdoctoral researcher with the Department of Experimental Physics at the University of Innsbruck in Austria, told Live Science.

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What If Your Electronic Parts Were More Like Legos?

Slashdot - March 24, 2019 - 10:34am
Long-time Slashdot reader beckman101 writes: This week Electric Dollar Store opened its doors, selling interchangeable postage-stamp sized I2C-based modules for prices between $1.00 and $1.80. The modules include lights, buzzers, counters and sensors — the range is aimed at electronic makers. These aren't manufacturing rejects shipping from Asia — they're assembled, tested and shipped from a small farming town in California, where winter labor is cheap. All the code for the project is BSD licensed. The project is a spin-off from the popular open-source I2CDriver hardware debugger.

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Airline Passenger Walked Past Security With a Loaded Gun Magazine

Slashdot - March 24, 2019 - 9:34am
An airline passenger "passed a security checkpoint with a loaded gun magazine," reports the Associated Press, citing information from an airport duty manager: Bob Rotiski said the passenger who apparently had visited a shooting range packed a loaded magazine in his carry-on bag. He said an officer identified the magazine during security screening, but the wrong bag was pulled from the line. By that time, the passenger had already left the checkpoint with the bag containing the magazine.... Security lines were closed and flights were temporarily grounded at a San Francisco International Airport terminal...for nearly an hour, and United Airline flights out of Terminal 3 were grounded Saturday morning as TSA officers looked for the passenger. "Rotiski said the lines reopened after officers located the passenger and brought him back for re-screening."

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Facebook Now 'Vulnerable' To Government Regulators, Analysts Warn

Slashdot - March 24, 2019 - 7:34am
Citing new warnings from several analysts, Fortune reports that Facebook's business model now faces threats from "a growing array of bi-partisan criticism and fresh regulatory issues." Analysts are now flagging an opinion piece in The New York Times, by Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline, a Democrat who's chairman of the House Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law. Cicilline wrote about the company's "pattern of misconduct" and called for "an investigation into whether Facebook's conduct has violated antitrust laws." "Investors should pay attention to the fact that there are people sitting in some very relevant seats that are attacking Facebook in ways that we have not seen in our almost two decade history of covering internet companies," Stifel's Scott Devitt wrote in a note. Recent issues may be transient, Devitt said, and Facebook shares may prove cheap relative to the company's earnings power, but "something feels very different to us this time." He flagged Cicilline's item as "further evidence that this may be more than a passing fad." He rates Facebook shares hold. Beacon Policy Advisors said in a note that "the potential action that regulators at the FTC could take against Facebook is far more significant" than rhetoric from Congress about reining the company in, whether via forced separation of Instagram or WhatsApp or by taxing companies that collect user data. A "substantial financial penalty," along with other remedies, may be part of a settlement with the FTC in the coming weeks regarding user data provided to Cambridge Analytica, they said.

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'Your AirPods Will Die Soon' -- The Shrinking Charge Capacities of Lithium-Ion Batteries

Slashdot - March 24, 2019 - 3:34am
Some of the same podcasters who first extolled AirPods are now complaining about them, reports the Atlantic: The battery can no longer hold a charge, they say, rendering them functionally useless. Apple bloggers agree: "AirPods are starting to show their age for early adopters," Zac Hall, an editor at 9to5Mac, wrote in a post in January, detailing how he frequently hears a low-battery warning in his AirPods now. Earlier this month, Apple Insider tested a pair of AirPods purchased in 2016 against a pair from 2018, and found that the older pair died after two hours and 16 minutes. "That's less than half the stated battery life for a new pair," the writer William Gallagher concluded. Desmond Hughes, who is 35 and lives in Newport News, Virginia, has noticed a similar thing about his own set: At first, their charge lasted five hours, but now they sometimes last only half an hour. He frequently listens to one while charging the other -- not optimal conditions for expensive headphones. He's now gearing up to plunk down more money on another pair.... The lithium-ion batteries that power AirPods are everywhere. One industry report forecast that sales would grow to $109.72 billion by 2026, from $36.2 billion in 2018. They charge faster, last longer, and pack more power into a small space than other types of batteries do. But they die faster, too, often after just a few years, because every time you charge them, they degrade a little. They can also catch fire or explode if they become damaged, so technology companies make them difficult, if not impossible, for consumers to replace themselves. The result: A lot of barely chargeable AirPods and wireless mice and Bluetooth speakers are ending up in the trash as consumers go through products -- even expensive ones -- faster than ever.... Of the 3.4 million tons of electronic waste generated in America in 2012 -- an 80 percent increase from 2000 -- just 29 percent was recycled. The article notes that Wednesday Apple announced a new generation of AirPods -- but "did not say whether the devices would have longer lives." They also report that Apple "does allow consumers to pay for what it calls a 'battery replacement' for AirPods, but each 'replaced' AirPod is $49."

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How The FBI Easily Retrieved Michael Cohen's Data From Both Apple and Google

Slashdot - March 24, 2019 - 12:34am
Court documents unsealed Tuesday showed just how much information America's FBI was able to gather on Donald Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen -- from both Google and Apple products. An anonymous reader quotes CNN: Notably, the FBI made use of Cohen's use of Touch ID and Face ID on his Apple devices, which allow users to quickly log into iPhones and computers by scanning their face or fingerprint rather than typing in a password... But that gives law enforcement an additional means to access those devices. In one warrant application for Cohen, an FBI agent requested authorization "to press the fingers (including thumbs) of Cohen to the Touch ID sensors of the Subject Devices, or hold the Subject Devices in front of Cohen's face, for the purpose of attempting to unlock the Subject Devices via Touch ID or Face ID...." One warrant requested not simply access to three of Cohen's Gmail accounts, as well as other email accounts, but also some of the wide array of information Google keeps for its users by default, including search history, web cookies associated with an account, device information, and a host of other metadata categories. One affidavit describes how the FBI narrowed down Cohen's temporary location at the Loews Regency Hotel in New York through his cell phone location data. Agents then used a "triggerfish" -- a reference to a stingray, or IMSI catcher, a suitcase-sized device that mimics a cell tower to convince a cell phone to connect and reveal its location... Prosecutors also made use of a new law that Trump recently signed. Investigators in the Southern District of New York compelled Google to turn over some documents on Cohen, but the tech giant initially "declined to produce data that it stored on computer servers located outside of the United States," according to an affidavit submitted to the court by an FBI agent working on Cohen's case. Weeks later, Trump signed the CLOUD Act into law, which gave US law enforcement more legal pathways to pursue data stories overseas.... In an April 2018 affidavit, the FBI agent argued that "providers are required to disclose data even if it is stored abroad" under the new law. The judge approved the new search warrant later that day, giving investigators access to additional information from Google, including Cohen's emails, attachments, address book and files stored on Google Drive. One technology law expert told CNN that police now seek access to more and more information. "I think any of the electronic debris that people leave online on these services is all potentially subject to being used against you."

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Pwn2Own Competitors Crack Tesla, Firefox, Safari, Microsoft Edge, and Windows 10

Slashdot - March 23, 2019 - 9:34pm
A research duo who hacked a Tesla were the big winners at the annual Pwn2Own white hat security contest, reports ZDNet. "The duo earned $375,000 in prize money, of the total of $545,000 awarded during the whole three-day competition... They also get to keep the car." Team Fluoroacetate -- made up of Amat Cama and Richard Zhu -- hacked the Tesla car via its browser. They used a JIT bug in the browser renderer process to execute code on the car's firmware and show a message on its entertainment system... Besides keeping the car, they also received a $35,000 reward. "In the coming days we will release a software update that addresses this research," a Tesla spokesperson told ZDNet today in regards to the Pwn2Own vulnerability. Not coincidentally, Team Fluoroacetate also won the three-day contest after earning 36 "Master of Pwn" points for successful exploits in Apple Safari, Firefox, Microsoft Edge, VMware Workstation, and Windows 10... [R]esearchers also exploited vulnerabilities in Apple Safari, Microsoft Edge, VMware Workstation, Oracle Virtualbox, and Windows 10.

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Cringely Pans Self-Driving Car Hype, Says They're Years Away

Slashdot - March 23, 2019 - 7:34pm
In what may be his final year of technology predictions, columnist Robert X. Cringely argues "I can't say that we're going to see anything beyond more beta tests of self-driving cars in 2019... We simply aren't ready and probably won't be for years to come...." "The problem isn't with the self-driving cars, it's with the cars that aren't self-driving, cars that are driven by idiots like me." It will eventually happen. Once half the fleet has been replaced with cars that could be self-drivers if we allowed them to be, then there will be a huge financial incentive to get the other half off the street. This will be especially the case if climate change is still accelerating. I'm guessing that most cars from 2020-on could be self-driving with only a software upgrade, which is why Elon Musk is predicting Tesla will have full autonomy by the end of 2019. But notice that Elon isn't predicting Tesla will be allowed to have its cars drive themselves everywhere... So why is the world talking so much about self-driving cars and full autonomy? Some of it is Tesla hype, some of it is marketing as the car companies try to get us to buy cars that will eventually be self-driving, but probably not until their second owners. And the other reason why we're talking so much about self-driving cars is because Uber is planning to go public later this year...an IPO that will go smoother if the driving public thinks autonomous cars are something that we'll be seeing soon. Uber has a labor problem. If it can spin a story that surly and expensive human drivers are soon to be replaced with electrons, that will be very reassuring to Wall Street. But as I explained, it also isn't true. The world isn't yet ready -- something Uber and Tesla and all the others will suddenly admit in about a year (post-IPO). Cringely also argues that the problem isn't just the "millions of drivers who are still controlling their vehicles the old fashion way, which is often in a barely competent fashion..." "We keep our cars longer because they don't rust and we can't afford to replace them so often. The result is that while we could expect a complete turnover in car technology every decade, now it takes closer to two decades."

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Florida Citrus Trees To Be Sprayed With Thousands of Kilograms of Antiobiotics

Slashdot - March 23, 2019 - 6:34pm
Long-time Slashdot reader memnock quotes Nature: In the next month or so, orange trees across Florida will erupt in white blossoms, signalling the start of another citrus season. But this year, something different will be blowing in the winds. Farmers are preparing to spray their trees with hundreds of thousands of kilograms of two common antibiotics to combat citrus greening, a bacterial disease that has been killing Florida citrus trees for more than a decade. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the process of allowing growers to use streptomycin and oxytetracycline as routine treatments, spraying trees several times per year, beginning with the 'first flush' of leaves this spring. Growers in the state could end up using as much as 440,000 kilograms of the drugs. Although the compounds, which are both used in human medicine, have been sprayed on other crops in the past and applied in limited amounts to citrus groves, the scale of this application has researchers and public-health advocates alarmed.... There is little publicly available science on the long-term use of these drugs in crop settings... Critics are particularly galled because there is also little convincing evidence that spraying will keep the scourge at bay. One Florida public radio station reports that environmental groups have delivered a petition with more than 45,000 signatures to the EPA, urging them to halt the expanded use of antibiotics. "The fear is an increase in antibiotic-resistant diseases for humans."

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Google Play Store Mistakenly Removed KDE Connect

Slashdot - March 23, 2019 - 5:34pm
Google's Play Store made a bad mistake on Tuesday, long-time Slashdot reader sombragris writes: KDE Connect, a project designed to enable seamless communcation and control between a desktop computer and a mobile phone, was suddenly removed from Android's Google Play store. According to a Twitter thread by Albert Vaca, KDE Connect's maintainer, the removal was allegedly because the app was in breach of Google's new SMS policy. There's an exemption which applies to KDE Connect, but the maintainer was unable to contact anyone at Google to provide support. "There is simply no way to talk to a human being at @Google", he said. Cintora also announced on Twitter that while trying to comply with the Play Store's new policy, he'd initially been stopped again by technical problems. "The @GooglePlay console gives me an internal error, so I can't upload the version without SMS support." But on Thursday Cintora tweeted that KDE Connect "finally got approved, and SMS support is back in version 1.12.4, both on the Play Store and F-Droid!" Cintora credits this resolution partly to his Twitter thread, which got over half a million impressions. Its last tweet now features a picture of a celebrating parrot.

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Stallman Suggests Install Fest 'Deals With Devil' Include Actual Man Dressed As Devil

Slashdot - March 23, 2019 - 4:34pm
This weekend's annual LibrePlanet conference, hosted by the Free Software Foundation, prompted a new essay about "install fests" from Richard Stallman: Install fests invite users to bring their computers so that experts can install GNU/Linux on them... The problem is that most computers can't run with a completely free GNU/Linux distro. They contain peripherals, or coprocessors, that won't operate unless the installed system contains some nonfree drivers or firmware... This presents the install fest with a dilemma. If it upholds the ideals of freedom, by installing only free software from 100%-free distros, partly-secret machines won't become entirely functional and the users that bring them will go away disappointed. However, if the install fest installs nonfree distros and nonfree software which make machines entirely function, it will fail to teach users to say no for freedom's sake. They may learn to like GNU/Linux, but they won't learn what the free software movement stands for.... In effect, the install fest makes the deal with the devil, on the user's behalf, behind a curtain so the user doesn't recognize that it is one. I propose that the install fest show users exactly what deal they are making. Let them talk with the devil individually, learn the deal's bad implications, then make a deal -- or refuse! As always, I call on the install fest itself to install only free software, taking a strict stance. In this way it can set a clear moral example of rejecting nonfree software. My new idea is that the install fest could allow the devil to hang around, off in a corner of the hall, or the next room. (Actually, a human being wearing a sign saying "The Devil," and maybe a toy mask or horns.) The devil would offer to install nonfree drivers in the user's machine to make more parts of the computer function, explaining to the user that the cost of this is using a nonfree (unjust) program... Those users that get nonfree drivers would see what their moral cost is, and that there are people in the community who refuse to pay that cost. They would have the chance to reflect afterwards on the situation that their flawed computers have put them in, and about how to change that situation, in the small and in the large. Stallman adds that the Free Software Foundation itself would never let a devil near its events. "But given the fact that most install fests quietly play the role of the devil, I think that an explicit devil would be less bad. "It would convert the install-fest dilemma from a debilitating contradiction into a teaching experience."

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How Science Fiction Imagines Data Storage

Slashdot - March 23, 2019 - 3:34pm
Esther Schindler (Slashdot reader #16,185) shared this story from Hewlett Packard's Enterprise blog: Storage is a staple of both science and science fiction, and forms the basis, or a crucial component, of many a piece of speculative fiction... [H]ere are eight past visions of the storage future that either passed their error checks or succumbed to bit rot. Why store vast quantities of data on a device when you can just slap it into someone's head? The article acknowledges that in many science fiction stories, data is simply preserved using such primitive technologies as "the written word" and "brute-force [human] memory," as well as ordinary real-world storage technologies like the server room in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, or basic non-cloud-based computers. But there's also wetware -- think "Johnny Mnemonic "-- and the data crystals in Babylon Five. The article even acknowledges that time Batman beat Mr. Freeze by carving binary code into a wall, giving future generations the recipe for antifreeze.

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8chan Criticized By Its Founder, Blocked by Australian and NZ ISPs

Slashdot - March 23, 2019 - 2:34pm
Several major ISPs in Australia temporarily blocked access to 8chan, along with "dozens" of web sites that hosted video of last week's mass shooting in Christchurch New Zealand, Ars Technica reports -- noting that the ISPs acted on their own in response to "community expectations." Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports that 8chan founder Fredrick Brennan (who "cut ties" with the site in December) is now criticizing 8chan moderators for their slowness in removing posts inciting violence, including last week's post from the Christchurch shooter Brenton Tarrant: Their reluctance to do so, along with the proliferation of posts on 8chan praising Tarrant's actions, have persuaded Brennan that the toxic, white-supremacist culture that lives on parts of the site could someday be linked to another mass shooting.... Brennan, 25 years old, expressed regret that the site had consumed so much of his life. "I didn't spend enough time making friends in real life," he said. High-school events and classes in upstate New York didn't matter to him at all. What mattered was the community of like-minded provocateurs, trolls, libertarians and conservative thinkers he discovered online as a boy and that formed his identity as a young man. "I just feel like I wasted too much time on this stuff," he said. Washington Post reporter Drew Harwell (in a Post video) argues that 8chan "has grown from this central place for tech libertarians, trolls, just people looking to get a rise out of other people online, and it's really radicalized into this place of overt neo-Nazi, white supremacist, racist, sexist, anti-everything discourse... "We haven't really reckoned with how to deal with the negative parts of easy and free and anonymous connectivity around the world, and there's no real good mechanism for solving a problem like that."

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