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Google: Poor Kids Might Grasp Macbeth If They Code Like Kids At $43K/Yr School

/. - 3 hours 8 min ago
theodp writes: While the CollegeBoard warned against drawing a causal link between learning computer science and improved learning in other subjects, Google has no such qualms. "CS is much more than computer programming and coding," writes the Google for Education blog in a post announcing a new gateway for Google's CS education opportunities. "It's a gateway to creativity and innovation not just in technology but in fields as diverse as music, sports, the arts, and health." Among the technology showcased at the gateway is Pencil Code, a programming tool for beginning coders that Google boasts is already helping kids attending the $43K-a-year Beaver Country Day School to brush up their Shakespeare by having students create interactive chatbots that play the part of characters like Lady Macbeth. "After completing this code I knew more and understood more of the play," begins one student's featured testimonial. "It allowed me to interpret Macbeth in a new way that I had never thought of before. I really enjoyed using Pencil Code because it made coding simpler for me and helped me try something new." Elsewhere on its CS gateway, Google laments that a new Google-Gallup Research Study shows that 'Blacks and low-income are less likely to have access' to such computer science opportunities.

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Super Typhoon Soudelor Strongest 2015 Typhoon Yet

Soylent New - 3 hours 30 min ago

Multiple sources report that Super Typhoon Souledor, which is currently projected to develop into a class 5 typhoon, is set to make landfall over the eastern coast of China on Friday night, August 7th. A super typhoon is defined as a typhoon with winds in excess of 150 mph/241 km/h. On August 4th, around 06:00 UTC (2:00 AM EDT/2:00 PM CST¹) Souledor was 1162 miles/1870 km east-southeast of Taipei and moving at a speed of 12 mph/20 km/h in a west-northwestly direction.

Late Saturday night, Souledor, which was a class 1 typhoon at the time, devastated Saipan. (Google Maps link for those of us who are a bit fuzzy on our Pacific island geography.) The Huffington Post writes:

After conditions subsided Monday morning, Ralph Torres, acting governor for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, declared "a state of disaster and significant emergency" for Saipan, the largest island of the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Most of Saipan is currently without water and power, according to local news stations. Officials do not know when it will be restored.

An estimated 350 people had been placed in emergency shelters, and at least 60 people are being treated for lacerations as of Monday, August 3rd local time.

Weather Underground provides more in-depth data and information about previous typhoons in 2015. More information about tropical cyclone scales is available on Wikipedia.

¹ China Standard Time

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The Expert-Approved Guide to Pull an All-Nighter (If You Really Need To)

Soylent New - 5 hours 9 min ago

Nobody likes skimping on sleep, but chances are you've done it. Whether to study for an exam, finish a tough project, or simply because you got stuck in an airport, pulling an all-nighter happens.
But with all that in mind, there are steps you can take to minimize the damage and treat your body (and brain) as well as possible under bad circumstances. Here's how to survive the night—and recover ASAP.
1. Bank sleep ahead of time.
2. Get any amount of shut-eye.
3. Bring on the lights.
4. Keep your room temperature moderate.
5. Skip the sugar and snack on protein and carbs.
6. Drink a little coffee—and a lot of water.
7. Get up and walk around.

The article also has tips for surviving the next day after an all-nighter. Do Soylentils have any techniques not listed to help them through all-nighters?

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OS X Bug Exploited To Infect Macs Without Need For Password

/. - 6 hours 1 min ago
An anonymous reader writes: A new flaw has been discovered in the latest version of OS X which allows hackers to install malware and adware onto a Mac without the need for any system passwords, researchers say. The serious zero-day vulnerability was first identified last week and results from a modified error-logging feature in OS X Yosemite which hackers are able to exploit to create files with root privileges. The flaw is currently found in the 'fully patched' OS X 10.10.4, but is not in the newest 10.11 El Capitan beta – suggesting that Apple developers were aware of the issue and are testing a fix.

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Federal Judge Strikes Down Idaho's "Ag-Gag" Law

Soylent New - 6 hours 32 min ago

A federal judge in Idaho has ruled that an "ag-gag" law is unconstitutional. For those unfamilar, an ag-gag law, as defined by the article is "[a law that] outlawed undercover investigations of farming operations, is no more. A judge in the federal District Court for Idaho decided Monday that it was unconstitutional, citing First Amendment protections for free speech". As reported:

Laws in Montana, Utah, North Dakota, Missouri, Kansas and Iowa have also made it illegal for activists to smuggle cameras into industrial animal operations. But now those laws' days could be numbered, according to the lead attorney for the coalition of animal welfare groups that sued the state of Idaho.

"This is a total victory on our two central constitutional claims," says University of Denver law professor Justin Marceau, who represented the plaintiff, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, in the case. "Ag-gag laws violate the First Amendment and Equal Protection Clause. This means that these laws all over the country are in real danger."

"Ag-gag" refers to a variety of laws meant to curb undercover investigations of agricultural operations, often large dairy, poultry and pork farms. The Idaho law criminalized video or audio recording of a farm without the owner's consent, and lying to a farm owner to gain employment there to do an undercover investigation.

Previously: Dairy Lobbyist Crafted Idaho's "Ag-Gag" Legislation.

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Tilting 4WD 'Spider Car' Makes Light Work of Bizarre Terrain

/. - 8 hours 10 min ago
Zothecula writes: The Swincar Spider is a remarkable tilting 4-wheeler concept that boasts absolutely ridiculous rough terrain capabilities. Each wheel has its own electric hub motor and is independently suspended on a spider-like limb. The result is a vehicle that leans into fast turns like a motorcycle, but can also happily go up or down a 70-percent gradient, ride across a 50-percent gradient that puts the left wheels a couple of feet higher than the right ones, or ride diagonally through ditches that send the wheels going up and down all over the place like a spider doing leg stretches.

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0-Day Privilege Escalation Exploit in Current OS X

Soylent New - 8 hours 21 min ago

Hackers are exploiting a serious zero-day vulnerability in the latest version of Apple's OS X so they can install adware applications without requiring victims to enter system passwords, researchers said. As Ars reported last week, the privilege-escalation bug stems from new error-logging features that Apple added to OS X 10.10. Developers didn't use standard safeguards involving additions to the OS X dynamic linker dyld, a failure that lets attackers open or create files with root privileges that can reside anywhere in the OS X file system. It was disclosed last week by security researcher Stefan Esser. On Monday, researchers from anti-malware firm Malwarebytes said a new malicious installer is exploiting the vulnerability to surreptitiously infect Macs with several types of adware including VSearch, a variant of the Genieo package, and the MacKeeper junkware. Malwarebytes researcher Adam Thomas stumbled on the exploit after finding the installer modified the sudoers configuration file. In a blog post, Malwarebytes researchers wrote:

[...] The real meat of the script, though, involves modifying the sudoers file. The change made by the script allows shell commands to be executed as root using sudo, without the usual requirement for entering a password.

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What Would the World Look Like to Someone With a Bionic Eye?

Soylent New - 4 August 2015 - 11:15pm

Various sight recovery therapies are being developed by companies around the world, offering new hope for people who are blind. But little is known about what the world will look like to patients who undergo those procedures.

A new University of Washington study seeks to answer that question and offers visual simulations of what someone with restored vision might see. The study concludes that while important advancements have been made in the field, the vision provided by sight recovery technologies may be very different from what scientists and patients had previously assumed.
"Electrically stimulating the retina excites all of these cells at the same time, which is very different from how these cells respond to real visual input."

There are similar issues with optogenetics, Boynton said. "The optogenetic proteins that are currently available produce sluggish responses over time, and they are limited in the number of different cell types that they can separately target," he said.

These limitations in both technologies mean that patients may see fuzzy, comet-like shapes or blurred outlines, or they may experience temporary visual disappearances if an object moves too fast.

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Yahoo! Serves up Malware Flash Ads

Soylent New - 4 August 2015 - 10:30pm

On July 28, popular website Yahoo! became the one of the latest websites targeted by malicious ads that redirect to the Angler Exploit Kit, which attempts to take advantages of security holes in Adobe Flash. Yahoo! has an estimated 6.9 billion visitors per month.

From The New York Times:

The attack, which started on July 28, was the latest in a string that have exploited Internet advertising networks, which are designed to reach millions of people online. It also highlighted growing anxiety over a much-used graphics program called Adobe Flash, which has a history of security issues that have irked developers at Silicon Valley companies.

Malwarebytes and Business Insider provide more information about this specific incident.

Yahoo! became aware of the attack on August 3 and has released a statement indicating their team has "taken action" (shortened):

"Yahoo is committed to ensuring that both our advertisers and users have a safe and reliable experience. As soon as we learned of this issue, our team took action and will continue to investigate this issue.... We'll continue to ensure the quality and safety of our ads through our automated testing and through the SafeFrame working group...."

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How Boing Boing Handled an FBI Subpoena Over Its Tor Exit Node

/. - 4 August 2015 - 10:09pm
An anonymous reader writes: Cory Doctorow has posted an account of what happened when tech culture blog Boing Boing got a federal subpoena over the Tor exit node the site had been running for years. They received the subpoena in June, and the FBI demanded all logs relating to the exit node: specifically, "subscriber records" and "user information" for everybody associated with the exit node's IP address. They were also asked to testify before a federal grand jury. While they were nervous at first, the story has a happy ending. Their lawyer sent a note back to the FBI agent in charge, explaining that the IP address in question was an exit node. The agent actually looked into Tor, realized no logs were available, and cancelled the request. Doctorow considers this encouraging for anyone who's thinking about opening a new exit node: "I'm not saying that everyone who gets a federal subpoena for running a Tor exit node will have this outcome, but the only Tor legal stories that rise to the public's attention are the horrific ones. Here's a counterexample: Fed asks us for our records, we say we don't have any, fed goes away."

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Intel Doubles Bounty for Referring Female, Minority, and Veteran Employees

Soylent New - 4 August 2015 - 9:40pm

According to the Wall Street Journal, Intel is doubling referral bonuses for women, minorities and veterans. Employees can receive $4,000 bonuses for suggesting candidates that meet the company's diversity goals. Intel had previously pledged $300 million over the next five years to address "Silicon Valley's disappointing diversity numbers," and has set a goal of "full representation" of women and under-represented minorities by 2020:

The new programs at Intel and across the tech sector come as companies report little-changed diversity numbers. Intel's diversity statistics for 2014 showed 24 percent of Intel employees are female. The company is also predominantly white and Asian, with only 3.5% black and 8% Latino employees. The company did not include statistics about veterans in its report.

Christine Dotts, a spokeswoman for Intel, said in an email that higher recruiting bonuses have been used by the company in the last decade, but she declined to comment on when or how much the bonuses were for.

Also at The Register.

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From Hiroshima and Nagasaki to Fukushima: Long-Term Psychological Impact of Nuclear Disasters

Soylent New - 4 August 2015 - 8:55pm

On the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a three-part Series published in The Lancet looks at the enduring radiological and psychological impact of nuclear disasters, including the most recent accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan in 2011. The Series provides vital information for the public health planning of future disasters to protect the millions of people who live in areas surrounding the 437 nuclear power plants that are in operation worldwide.

[...] In one of the Series papers [Paper 2], radiological protection experts led by Dr Koichi Tanigawa of Fukushima Medical University, Japan, discuss an often overlooked aspect of nuclear disasters—the psychological burden of those living in the regions affected by the accident. In 2006, the UN Chernobyl Forum report concluded that the accident's most serious public health issue was the adverse effects on mental health, an effect made worse by poor communication about the health risks associated with reported radiation levels. Rates of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder remain elevated 20 years after the accident. Similar problems were seen after Fukushima, with the Fukushima Health Management Survey reporting that the proportion of adults with psychological distress (14.6%) was almost five times higher among disaster evacuees compared to the general population (3%). The authors also highlight how repeated evacuation and long-term displacement resulted in severe health-care problems for the most vulnerable, with deaths among elderly people increasing threefold in the first three months following evacuation.

According to Dr Tanigawa, "Although the radiation dose to the public from Fukushima was relatively low, and no discernible physical health effects are expected, psychological and social problems, largely stemming from the differences in risk perceptions, have had a devastating impact on people's lives."

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We Can Rebuild Him: Philadelphia Hackers Offer Brotherly Love to Fallen Robot

Soylent New - 4 August 2015 - 8:00pm

Armed only with conversation software, the machine lasted just two weeks relying on the kindness of strangers to forward its journey. The US proved too much despite HitchBOT successfully traversing Canada and parts of Europe in 2014.

However, there may be a happy ending yet. Not willing to let robot violence scar its city, hackers and makers in Philadelphia are reaching out to the HitchBOT team to offer new life to the fallen Canadian after hearing about the robot violence.

"We'll say that at this moment, if we get the OK from the creators to repair or replace the needed parts for HitchBOT, we'll be happy to do so," wrote Georgia Guthrie, executive director for a local makerspace called The Hacktory. "If not, we understand... and we may just build ourselves a HitchBot2 to send along on its journey. We feel it's the least we can do to let everyone, especially the Robot community, know that Philly isn't so bad."

Perhaps one day they may become known to all robotkind as "Good Philadelphians."

Previously: The Hitchhiking Robot Experiment Did Not Do So Well

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Why Bill Gates Is Dumping Another $1 Billion Into Clean Energy

/. - 4 August 2015 - 8:00pm
An anonymous reader writes: A little over a month ago, Bill Gates made headlines when he decided to double down on his investments in renewable energy. Now, he's written an article for Quartz explaining why: "I think this issue is especially important because, of all the people who will be affected by climate change, those in poor countries will suffer the most. Higher temperatures and less-predictable weather would hurt poor farmers, most of whom live on the edge and can be devastated by a single bad crop. Food supplies could decline. Hunger and malnutrition could rise. It would be a terrible injustice to let climate change undo any of the past half-century's progress against poverty and disease — and doubly unfair because the people who will be hurt the most are the ones doing the least to cause the problem." He also says government is not doing enough to fund such research, and that energy markets aren't doing a good enough job of factoring the negative effects of carbon emissions.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Toshiba and SanDisk Announce 48-Layer 256 Gb 3D NAND

Soylent New - 4 August 2015 - 7:20pm

Toshiba and SanDisk have announced the development of a new 3D NAND product (called V-NAND by Samsung). It uses 48 layers of triple-level cell (TLC) NAND to store 256 Gb (32 GB) in a single die. It is expected to sample in September, and appear in solid-state drives and other products in the second half of 2016. However, the two companies will face plenty of competition. From Anandtech:

The new 3D NAND will face experienced competition from Samsung who are currently shipping 32-layer 3D NAND in capacities up to 128Gb for both MLC and TLC configurations. Samsung has also announced its third generation V-NAND which should be starting mass production in the latter half of this year. Meanwhile, Intel and Micron have stated that their 32-layer 3D NAND will be in mass production by the fourth quarter of this year in the form of a 256Gb MLC die and a 384Gb TLC die. SK Hynix is to begin mass production of a 36-layer 128Gb MLC die during the third quarter and is working toward a 48-layer TLC that will be available in 2016.

All of the major flash manufacturers have now publicized their plans for introducing 3D NAND. Planar NAND won't be disappearing overnight or even in a year, as it takes a lot of time and money to convert a fab to a new process. But from here on out, we can expect all the most interesting news about NAND flash memory to be about 3D.

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IBM Locking Up Lots of Cloud Computing Patents

/. - 4 August 2015 - 7:18pm
dkatana writes: In an article for InformationWeek Charles Babcock notes that IBM has been hoarding patents on every aspect of cloud computing. They've secured about 1,200 in the past 18 months, including ~400 so far this year. "For those who conceive of the cloud as an environment based on public standards with many shared elements, the grant of these patents isn't entirely reassuring." Babcock says, and he adds: "Whatever the intent, these patents illustrate how the cloud, even though it's conceived of as a shared environment following public standards, may be subject to some of the same intellectual property disputes and patent trolling as earlier, more directly proprietary environments."

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Op-Ed: How I Gave Up Alternating Current

Soylent New - 4 August 2015 - 6:36pm

Soylent [food replacement] founder Rob Rhinehart shares his thoughts on extreme sustainability.

I am electrically self-reliant. My home life runs comfortably on a single 100W solar panel, which cost $150 and was available on Amazon Prime. I tracked down a few manufacturers in China who all said it costs around $40 to make. The US for some reason leverages massive tariffs on Chinese solar panels, so they ship them through Malaysian customs. Why do the politicians even bother?

For storage a $65 lead acid automobile battery does the trick. It's 12V so can be charged directly from the solar panel, and holds 420Wh, way more than I use in a day. That's $0.15 / Wh so I don't see why everyone is so excited about Tesla charging $0.43 / Wh for the Powerwall, sans inverter and installation.

He got rid of his fridge and other kitchen implements to make it work. What are the biggest energy users in your place? Could you pare things down as much as Rob?

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Using Math To Tune a Video Game's Economy

/. - 4 August 2015 - 6:36pm
An anonymous reader writes: When the shipping deadline was approaching for The Witcher 3, designer Matthew Steinke knew there was a big part of the game still missing: its economy. A game's economy is one of the things that can make or break immersion — you want collection and rewards to feel progressive and meaningful. Making items to expensive gives the game a grindy feel, while making them too cheap makes progression trivial. At the Game Developers Conference underway in Germany, Steinke explained his solution. "Steinke created a formula that calculated attributes like how much damage, defense, or healing that each item provided, and he placed them into an overall combat rating could be used to rank other items in the system. ... Steinke set about blending the sub-categories into nine generalized categories, allowing him to determine the final weighting for damage and the range of prices for each item. To test if it all worked, he used polynomial least squares (a form of mathematical statistics) to chart each category's price progression. The resultant curve (pictured below) showed the rate at which spending was increasing as the quality of each item approached the category's ceiling value."

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Amazon Cuts Down On Prime Sharing

/. - 4 August 2015 - 5:54pm
An anonymous reader writes: Tech Crunch reports that Amazon quietly rolled out changes to how their Prime subscriptions can be shared. The good news is that existing members aren't immediately losing their current sharing setups. It used to be that Amazon would let Prime subscribers share free shipping and a few other benefits with up to four other "household" members, with little restriction on what counted as a "household." The bad news: as of last weekend, Amazon now limits sharing to one other adult and four "child" profiles. The adults will need to authorize each other to use credit/debit cards associated with the account. Amazon didn't make any announcement about this, so it's unknown how long existing Prime shares will stay in effect. They could disappear when the subscription is up for renewal, or earlier if Amazon decides to crack down on it.

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Sex With Robots to Be 'the Norm' in 50 Years, Expert Claims

Soylent New - 4 August 2015 - 5:42pm

Humans could soon be having sexual relationships with robots, a top academic has claimed.

Dr Helen Driscoll said advances in technology mean the way in which humans interact with robots is set to change drastically in the coming years.

Dr Driscoll, a leading authority on the psychology of sex and relationships, said 'sex tech' was already advancing at a fast pace and by 2070, physical relationships will seem primitive.
She said: "Most people successfully integrate other forms of virtual reality into their lives, but virtual sex - not to mention love - will be seen by some as infidelity, and this will present real challenges to some relationships.

"In the world of the future, we could well see human relationships increasingly conducted entirely online.

Would you feel cheated on if your partner had sex with a robot?

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