KentuckyFC writes "Epidemiologists have long known how to model the way disease spreads through a population using a computer simulation. This generally involves three populations of individuals: those who are susceptible to disease, those who are infected and those who recover, return to the population and are no longer susceptible. Researchers then feed data about the number of infections and so on into the model which can then work out the disease characteristics such as infection rates. And with this information, they can predict the future evolution of the disease. Now researchers have used a similar model to simulate the spread of infection during a zombie epidemic. They've gathered infection data from real zombie movies, put this into the model and used it to predict the disease characteristics. The results show two clear types of zombie infection which differ in what happens to people after they die. In the first, epitomized by Night of the Living Dead, everybody who dies becomes a zombie. In the second, as in Shaun of the Dead, not everyone who dies becomes a zombie--contact with a zombie beforehand is required. This allows the interesting dynamic of escaping zombification by committing suicide. It also shows how close these zombies have come to winning. The research isn't entirely frivolous. The researchers say exactly the same process of model-building, data gathering and simulation works equally well on real diseases such as influenza. So their approach is a useful teaching tool for budding epidemiologists of the future."
Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!
hessian writes "Despite being extensively pirated worldwide, Iron Maiden have managed to put themselves in the £10-20m for 2012. This means that despite the growing popularity of the band on social media, and the extensive and pervasive torrent downloading of the band's music, books and movies, the band is turning a profit. This is in defiance of the past business model, and the idea that piracy is killing music. In fact, piracy seems to be saving music in Iron Maiden's case. One reason for this may be metal itself. It has a fiercely loyal fanbase and a clear brand and identity. The audience identifies with the genre, which stands in contrast to genericized genres. It doggedly maintains its own identity and shuns outsiders. As a result, fans tend to identify more with their music, and place a higher value on purchasing it."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Kurt Anderson has an interesting read at Vanity Fair about Dutch painter Jan Vermeer, best known for 'Girl with a Pearl Earring,' and the search for how he was able to achieve his photo-realistic effects in the 1600s. Considered almost as mysterious and unfathomable as Shakespeare in literature, Vermeer at age 21, with no recorded training as an apprentice, began painting masterful, singular, uncannily realistic pictures of light-filled rooms and ethereal young women. 'Despite occasional speculation over the years that an optical device somehow enabled Vermeer to paint his pictures, the art-history establishment has remained adamant in its romantic conviction: maybe he was inspired somehow by lens-projected images, but his only exceptional tool for making art was his astounding eye, his otherworldly genius,' says Anderson. To try to learn how Vermeer was able to achieve such highly realistic painting, American inventor and millionaire Tim Jenison spent five years learning how to make lenses himself using 17th-century techniques, mixed and painted only with pigments available in the late 1600s and even constructed a life-size reproduction of Vermeer's room with wooden beams, checkerboard floor, and plastered walls. The result has been a documentary movie, Tim's Vermeer, by magicians Penn & Teller that may have resolved the riddle and explains why it has remained a secret for so long. 'The photorealistic painters of our time, none of them share their techniques,' says Teller. 'The Spiderman people aren't talking to the Avatar people. When [David] Copperfield and I have lunch, we aren't giving away absolutely everything.'"
assertation writes "According to The Guardian, 62% of readers between the age of 16 and 24 prefer physical copies of books over ebooks. Reasons given were the feel of 'real books,' a perceived unfairly high cost for eBooks, and the ease of sharing printed books. 'On questions of ebook pricing, 28% think that ebooks should be half their current price, while just 8% say that ebook pricing is right.' The preference for physical copies was in contrast to other forms of media, such as games, movies, and music, where a majority preferred the digital version."
On Friday, Marvel released its latest superhero blockbuster, Thor: The Dark World. Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, and Tom Hiddleston reprise their roles as Thor, Dr. Jane Foster, and Loki. Christopher Eccleston, best known for his role as the Ninth Doctor on BBC's Doctor Who, portrays Thor's nemesis in The Dark World: Malekith, ruler of the Dark Elves of Svartalfheim. Despite a strong opening weekend at the box office, critical reception has been lackluster. The movie averaged 66/100 on Rotten Tomatoes and 54/100 on Metacritic, but user reviews rated it higher, at 86/100 and 8/10 respectively. io9's review calls the plot "completely forgettable," but also said, "at a time when superhero films are gravitating towards Christopher Nolan-style darkness, it's really nice to see a movie go swinging into adventure with a song in its heart." Comic Book Resources also commented that the movie was a lot of fun, but added, "the film doesn't quite reach its true potential due to a villain who never truly feels like much more than an amorphous bad guy." Those of you who went to see it over the weekend: what did you think?
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Calum Marsh writes in The Atlantic that when Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers hit theaters 16 years ago today, American critics slammed it as a 'crazed, lurid spectacle' featuring 'raunchiness tailor-made for teen-age boys' and 'a nonstop splatterfest so devoid of taste and logic that it makes even the most brainless summer blockbuster look intelligent.' But now the reputation of the movie based on Robert Heinlein's Hugo award winning novel is beginning to improve as critics begin to recognize the film as a critique of the military-industrial complex, the jingoism of American foreign policy, and a culture that privileges reactionary violence over sensitivity and reason. 'Starship Troopers is satire, a ruthlessly funny and keenly self-aware sendup of right-wing militarism,' writes Marsh. 'The fact that it was and continues to be taken at face value speaks to the very vapidity the movie skewers.' The movie has rightfully come to be appreciated by some as an unsung masterpiece. Coming in at number 20 on Slant Magazine's list of the 100 best films of the 1990s last year, the site's Phil Coldiron described it as 'one of the greatest of all anti-imperialist films,' a parody of Hollywood form whose superficial 'badness' is central to its critique. 'That concept is stiob, which I'll crudely define as a form of parody requiring such a degree of over-identification with the subject being parodied that it becomes impossible to tell where the love for that subject ends and the parody begins,' writes Coldiron. 'If you're prepared for the rigor and intensity of Verhoeven's approach—you'll get the joke Starship Troopers is telling,' says Marsh. 'And you'll laugh.'"
Lucas123 writes "Most drivers would consider buying an autonomous vehicle if it meant their insurance rates would be reduced by 80%, a new survey of 2,000 licensed drivers found. Oddly enough, the survey by the online consumer insurance site Car insurance.com also showed that 75% of respondents think they could drive a car better than a computer. Another 64% said computers were not capable of the same quality of decision-making as human drivers. And 75% would not trust a driverless car to take their children to school. The survey also asked what commuters would be doing if a computer handled the driving: More than one-in-four would text/talk with friends; 21% would read; 10% would sleep; 8% would watch movies; 7% would play games; and 7% would work. The rest of those surveyed said they'd just watch the scenery blow by."
UnknowingFool writes "Blockbuster announced that it will close its remaining 300 U.S. locations by January and discontinue the DVD by mail service. Before being bought out by Dish, the chain was slowly closing locations. Dish's CEO said, 'This is not an easy decision, yet consumer demand is clearly moving to digital distribution of video entertainment.' From an all-time high of 9,000 locations in 2004, the chain has fallen on hard times and had emerged from bankruptcy in 2011."
Ender's Game is the quintessential classic military sci-fi book. It ranks near the top of virtually every list of good sci-fi novels. When Hollywood decided to finally go forward with a movie adaptation, the initial reaction from most fans was one of skepticism. (After all, we saw what they did to I, Robot.) But there was reason to hope, as well, because Ender's Game is more action-friendly than many sci-fi stories, and the filmmakers had a big budget with which to make it. The movie was finally released last week; read on for our review. In short: the film tries too hard to straddle the line between assuming viewers are familiar with the details and bringing new viewers up to speed. The cuts to the story were both too much and not enough. It left us with only brief glimpses at too many characters, and introduced themes without fleshing them out enough to be interesting.
New submitter chrisjz writes "What happens when you combine a virtual reality headset and a brainwave reading device? Here's a simulation showing off what's possible with current technology, using the Emotiv EPOC to read a person's brainwaves for movement in a virtual environment. Along with the Oculus Rift, a VR headset, and the Razer Hydra for hand tracking, this demonstrates another alternative to using omni-directional treadmills or full body tracking for movement and interaction in virtual reality. Consumer level brain computer interfaces are still primitive these days, but it doesn't seem too far off that we'll have virtual reality similar to what William Gibson envisioned in his novels or movies such as The Matrix has shown us."
theodp writes "Over at Scripting News, Dave Winer laments the lack of serious software reviews in the NY Times. That wasn't always the case, recalls Dave. 'When they started doing software reviews in the early '80s it was with the usual Times flair,' says Winer. 'But somewhere along the line they stopped taking tech seriously. It's as if they would only review Saturday morning television shows. How could television like The Sopranos or Breaking Bad take root in the culture if there was no criticism that discussed it? Yet that's where we are today with software.' So, does software need a Siskel and Ebert (or A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis for you highfalutin NYT readers!)?"
MojoKid writes "NVIDIA announced a major update to its SHIELD Android gaming device today, with the over-the-air update delivering the latest build of Android (v4.3 Jelly Bean) to the handheld console. NVIDIA also launched GameStream in order to bring more PC titles to streaming devices. Wait, need more? How about SHIELD Gamepad Mapper, which turns touch-based Android games into ones that can be enjoyed with SHIELD's console-quality controls. Alongside that Android update comes Console Mode, which turns SHIELD into a portable living room game console. Users will be able to pair up a Bluetooth controller, kick back on the couch, indulge in Android games, browse the Web, and watch your favorite movies all at 1080p."
drxenos writes "A LaserDisc purchased on eBay was found to contain raw footage from Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi. From the article: 'The origin of the LaserDisc isn't entirely clear, but it was purchased for $699 off eBay, apparently once used to demonstrate Lucasfilm's EditDroid station — one of the first digital film editing systems sold nearly 30 years ago. Ironically, George Lucas himself never used EditDroid to make a movie; the Star Wars clips were loaded simply to show off its capabilities to prospective buyers.'"
Nick Kolakowski writes "Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos regarded Apple co-founder Steve Jobs as a rival, but the men had more in common than they might have believed. Like Jobs, Bezos had a vision of a tech company, started it on a small budget with a tight cluster of coworkers, and fought to grow it into an industry giant. And as detailed in The Everything Store, a new book about the rise of Amazon.com, Bezos also boasts a Jobs-like temper, riddling his subordinates with withering insults when he feels a project is imperfect or falling behind schedule." Read on for the rest of his review.
An anonymous reader writes "Sky gazers at CU-Boulder's Fiske Planetarium are getting better, clearer and deeper views. And not just of astronomy anymore. The planetarium has been upgraded, transforming it into a digital IMAX-like theater that's open to the public every Saturday and Sunday with a variety of programs including shows for children. 'Fiske's refurbished video system projects ultra high-definition pictures at 8,000 by 8,000 pixels in size, giving audience members a crystal-clear 360-degree view on the dome’s 65-foot screen. "The size and quality is the equivalent of 40 Blu-ray players projecting 40 sections of one video image at once," said [Doug Duncan, director of Fiske]. This gallery of images shows a behind-the-scenes look at the Planetarium's brand new 8k Fulldome projection system. ' In addition to space odysseys and laser shows — longtime favorites of audiences — movies are now part of the Fiske lineup. 'Just like at an IMAX theater, we can take you near a black hole, through the Grand Canyon, under the ocean, or up to a super volcano,' said Duncan. "The sky is no longer the limit.'"
barlevg writes "Since the birth of film, shooting subjects of darker complexion has been a technical challenge: light meters, film emulsions, tone and color models, and the dynamic range of the film itself were all calibrated for light skin, resulting in dark skin appearing ashy and washed-out. Historically, filmmakers have used workarounds involving "a variety of gels, scrims and filters." But now we live in the age of digital filmmaking, and as film critic Ann Hornaday describes in the Washington Post, and as is showcased in recent films such as "12 Years a Slave," "Mother of George" and "Black Nativity," a collection of innovators have set to work developing techniques in lighting, shooting and post-processing designed to counteract century-old technological biases as old as the medium itself."
dryriver writes in with a story lamenting the lack of accurate science in movies. "The relationship between science and science fiction has always been tempestuous. Gravity focuses on two astronauts stranded in space after the destruction of their space shuttle. Since Gravity's US release (it comes to the UK in November) many critics have praised the film for its scientific accuracy. But noted astrophysicist Dr Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, had several issues with the accuracy of Gravity's portrayal of space. Through a series of posts on Twitter, Tyson — who later emphasized that he 'enjoyed the film very much' — highlighted various errors. He noted the Hubble space telescope (orbiting at 350 miles above sea level), the International Space Station (at 250 miles), and a Chinese space station could never be in line of sight of one another. On top of that, most satellites orbit west to east, yet in the film the satellite debris was seen drifting east to west. Tyson also noted how Sandra Bullock's hair did not float freely as it would in zero-gravity. This is arguably not so much an error in physics, but a reflection of the limitations of cinematic technology to accurately portray actors in zero-gravity. That is, of course, without sending them into space for the duration of the film. The Michael Bay film Armageddon is known for its woeful number of inaccuracies, from the space shuttles separating their rocket boosters and fuel tanks in close proximity to each other (risking a collision) and to objects falling on to the asteroid under a gravitational pull seemingly as strong as the Earth's. More than one interested observer tried to work out how big the bomb would have to be to blow up an asteroid in the way demanded in the movie. Answer: Very big indeed. Nasa is reported to have even used Armageddon as part of a test within their training program, asking candidates to identify all the scientific impossibilities within the film."
Michael Ross writes "An online store is one of the most common use cases for a website nowadays. For those web developers and business owners who choose the current version of Drupal as a basis for such an e-commerce project, the canonical solution is Drupal Commerce. There are numerous online resources for learning Commerce, and yet for the longest time no printed book. Now we have Getting Started with Drupal Commerce, written by Richard Jones." Read below for the rest of Michael's review.
Nerval's Lobster writes "It's no secret that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has a low opinion of the new film, "The Fifth Estate," in which he's portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch. He's railed against it several times, culminating in a lengthy statement (posted Oct. 9) in which he called it 'a geriatric snoozefest that only the US government could love.' That's in addition to a letter in which he refused to meet with Cumberbatch, saying that the script would force the actor to give a 'talented, but debauched, performance.' WikiLeaks and Assange are clearly attempting a bit of damage control ahead of the film's Oct. 11 release in the U.K. (followed by its U.S. debut on Oct. 18). But what if that pushback is the wrong reaction? That's not to say that Assange should gleefully embrace the film —the script portrays him as something of a hustler who freely lies about his past. Whatever its qualities, however, the film could get people talking about WikiLeaks' role in the broader geopolitical context, and that's ultimately a good thing for the organization: It's been quite some time since Assange and company have provided the world with an explosive, game-changing revelation. If nothing else, Assange can take some cold comfort from the case of Mark Zuckerberg, who faced similar issues when the David Fincher-directed 'The Social Network' made its debut in 2010; Facebook's PR team was probably preparing for the worst as the release date approached, but the film — despite its impressive box office, and the awards it won — ultimately did little to harm either the real-life Zuckerberg's reputation or Facebook's continuing growth."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Nest (based in Palo Alto, and headed by former Apple executive Tony Fadell) is out to reinvent the ugly, blocky devices—starting with the thermostat—that we bolt to our walls and ceilings out of necessity. Its new Nest Protect, looks more like something for streaming music or movies than a smoke detector; inside its chic shell, the device packs an embedded system-on-a-chip and a handful of sensors, capable of connecting to other devices via wireless. 'Would this be a cherished product? Can it be more than a rational purchase — can it be an emotional one?' is the thought process that Fadell uses when evaluating new products for Nest-ification, according to Wired. That sounds like something Apple designer Jony Ive would say about the latest iDevice; your own mileage may vary on whether you consider that a good thing. Whether or not Nest actually succeeds, its emphasis on friendly design and function could serve as a template for helping popularize the so-called 'Internet of Things,' or the giant networks of interconnected devices that everybody seems to think is coming in a few short years: by giving stodgy hardware an iPhone-like sheen, complete with all sorts of bells and whistles, you could potentially change consumer mindsets from 'Do I really need to buy this thing?' to 'I want to buy this thing.' Some privacy advocates are already crying foul ('My dear privacy enthusiast: activity sensors?' The Kernel's Greg Stevens wrote, tongue somewhat in cheek, about Nest Protect in a recent blog posting. 'Ladies and gentlemen, how can you possibly stay silent about the possible abuses of such a device?'), but since when have concerns over privacy prevented people from buying the next 'cool' device?"