Lasrick writes "The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announces whether their Doomsday Clock has been moved with this open letter to President Obama, outlining progress on a number of fronts, but also detailing what still needs to be done to avoid various threats to humanity." From the article: "2012 was a year in which the problems of the world pressed forward, but too many of its citizens stood back. In the U.S. elections the focus was "the economy, stupid," with barely a word about the severe long-term trends that threaten the population's well-being to a far greater extent: climate change, the continuing menace of nuclear oblivion, and the vulnerabilities of the world's energy sources."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
SchrodingerZ writes "The Viktor Rydberg school in Stockholm, Sweden, has announced that they have included Minecraft into the curriculum for their 13-year-old students. The program is not meant to teach children about math or language, but rather as a tool to inspire creativity in the classroom. 'They learn about city planning, environmental issues, getting things done, and even how to plan for the future,' Viktor Rydberg teacher Monica Ekman told English-language newspaper The Local. 'It's not any different from arts or woodcraft,' she added."
MassDosage writes "I first heard about the Scratch programming language a few years ago and the idea of a simple language designed to teach kids to program in a fun, new way has always appealed to me. For those of you who don't know, Scratch was developed by the wonderfully named "Lifelong Kindergarten Group" at the MIT Media Lab. It's a programming language that allows programs to be built by dragging, dropping, configuring and combining various blocks that represent common coding concepts such as if/else statements and while loops. Scratch also provides tools for doing simple animation, playing audio and controlling sprites. The idea behind it is to make programming simple, fun and accessible to first time programmers so they can understand the key concepts without first needing to learn complex syntax which can come later when they move on from Scratch to other languages. It has been very successful and there are literally millions of Scratch programs freely available from the Scratch website and many others." Read below for the rest of Mass Dosage's review.
Hugh Pickens writes "A burglar gets stuck in a chimney, a truck driver in a head on collision is thrown out the front window and lands on his feet, walks away; a wild antelope knocks a man off his bike; a candle at a wedding sets the bride's hair on fire; someone fishing off a backyard dock catches a huge man-size shark. Now Kevin Kelly writes that in former times these unlikely events would be private, known only as rumors, stories a friend of a friend told, easily doubted and not really believed but today they are on YouTube, seen by millions. 'Every minute a new impossible thing is uploaded to the internet and that improbable event becomes just one of hundreds of extraordinary events that we'll see or hear about today,' writes Kelly. 'As long as we are online — which is almost all day many days — we are illuminated by this compressed extraordinariness. It is the new normal.' But when the improbable dominates the archive to the point that it seems as if the library contains only the impossible, then the 'black swans' don't feel as improbable. 'To the uninformed, the increased prevalence of improbable events will make it easier to believe in impossible things,' concludes Kelly. 'A steady diet of coincidences makes it easy to believe they are more than just coincidences.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Three former Nortel executives accused of orchestrating a widespread multimillion-dollar fraud will learn their fate in Toronto on Monday, nearly a year after one of the largest criminal trials in Canada's corporate history began. Ontario Superior Court Justice Frank Marrocco is set to rule on whether ex-CEO Frank Dunn, ex-CFO Douglas Beatty and ex-controller Michael Gollogly manipulated financial statements at Nortel Networks Corp., between 2002-2003. The men, who each face two counts of fraud, are accused of participating in a book-cooking scheme designed to trigger $12.8 million in bonuses and stocks for themselves at the once powerful Canadian technology giant."
Google's super fast internet has turned Kansas City into an unlikely incubator for startups and tech entrepreneurs. One small neighborhood where a group is working on their ideas has been dubbed, the "Silicon Prairie." From the article: "The advantage here for startups is simple: A fast Internet pipe makes it easier to handle large files and eliminates buffering problems that plague online video, live conferencing or other network-intensive tasks. Though the Kansas City location presents challenges for startups, including the ability to raise money outside the traditional Silicon Valley venture capital scene, entrepreneurs like Synthia Payne believe it's the place to be right now for up-and-coming tech companies. Payne is one of those entrepreneurs hoping to launch her startup dream — an Internet subscription service for musicians who want to collaborate online — on the cheap. She shares the State Line Road house, known as the 'Home for Hackers,' with other startups under a deal that allows them to live rent-free while they develop their business plans."
Hugh Pickens writes "Gregg Laskoski reports in U.S. News and World Report that virtually all of the retail gasoline price volatility that Americans experienced this past year was connected to significant problems at refineries. It was those refineries' vulnerability that subjected U.S. consumers to the year's highest average price ever, $3.63 per gallon. February delivered the BP refinery fire in Cherry Point, Washington that led to gasoline price spikes all along the Pacific coast, refinery problems in the Great Lakes region pushed Chicago gas prices to an all-time high of $4.56 per gallon, and over the summer, west coast refineries incurred outages, and California saw record highs in most markets, with Los Angeles gasoline's average price peaking at $4.72/gallon in October. Finally after Reuters reported that some 7,700 gallons of fuel spilled from Phillips 66's Bayway refinery in Linden, NJ, after Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey environmental protection officials said they were not made aware of a major spill at the Bayway plant, and the refinery failed to respond to inquiries from Reuters reporters. 'Too many times, history has shown us, the Phillips 66 response or lack thereof characterizes the standard practice of the oil industry. Refineries often fail or are slow to communicate problems that create significant disruptions to fuel supplies and spikes in retail gasoline prices. More often than not, scant information is provided reluctantly, if at all,' writes Laskoski. 'When such things occur is silence from refineries acceptable? Or does our government and the electorate who put them there have a right to know what's really going on?'"
theodp writes "The e-mail that Defendant Swartz's supplemental memorandum (pdf) cites as paramount to his fifth motion to suppress [evidence against him] is relevant, but not nearly as important as he tries to make it out to be,' quipped United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz (pdf) in a court filing made on the same day Aaron Swartz committed suicide. In the 1-7-2011 e-mail Ortiz refers to, which was not produced for Swartz until Dec. 14th — almost two years after his 1-6-2011 arrest — a Secret Service agent reported to the Assistant U.S. Attorney that he was 'prepared to take custody anytime' of Swartz's laptop, although no one had yet sought a warrant to search the computer. In Prosecutor as Bully, Larry Lessig laments, 'They [JSTOR] declined to pursue their own action against Aaron, and they asked the government to drop its. MIT, to its great shame, was not as clear, and so the prosecutor had the excuse he needed to continue his war against the "criminal" who we who loved him knew as Aaron.' Swartz's family also had harsh words for MIT and prosecutors: 'Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney's office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorney's office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron.' With MIT President Emeritus Charles M. Vest currently serving as a Trustee of JSTOR parent Ithaka as well as a Trustee of The MIT Corporation, one might have expected MIT to issue a statement similar to the let's-put-this-behind-us one JSTOR made on the Swartz case back in 2011."
An anonymous reader writes "A group of geothermal power engineers have created three reservoirs from a single well in a place where none existed previously. This is a breakthrough for Enhanced Geothermal System technology — people who need power often can't choose a spot where there happens to be a geothermal reservoir, and EGS could allow us to create them where needed. 'Last fall, engineers pumped cold water into the ground, cracking open fissures in the deep rock, a process known as hydroshearing. They then sealed one reservoir from the other using a new technology. They injected ground-up recycled plastic bottles, which plugged up the cracks in one reservoir while millions of gallons of cold water were being pumped in to create another. Then the plastic diffused, leaving behind three reservoirs. ... The U.S. Department of Energy, which is covering half the $43.8 million cost of the Newberry project, says if the initial indications hold up, the Newberry project would mark the first time in the world that multiple geothermal reservoirs have been created on purpose from a single well in a new area.'"
Qedward writes "The Norwegian Ministry of Finance seems to be taking a bit of stick at the moment. It wants all the existing cash registers in the country thrown out and replaced with new ones. Not surprisingly, this massive upgrade is not popular. But it is apparently being pushed through in an attempt to prevent cash registers' figures being massaged downwards in use so as to reduce tax. The Norwegian association of tax auditors said: 'The source code must be opened.' 'Without source code it is not possible to determine whether or "hidden" functionality exists or not. Just knowing that the tax authorities have access to the source code of the application, will reduce the effort to implement hidden functionality in the software.'"
jfruh writes "When Android was first introduced, it got much of its buzz in the open source community, and despite it being a mobile juggernaut backed by huge companies, it remains an open source project that anyone can submit code to. Thus, when a community patch that claimed to reduce the lag that still plagues the platform was created, it rocketed around various community code sites and was widely praised. The only problem: it didn't actually speed Android up."
New submitter fractalVisionz writes "The White House has officially responded to the petition to secure resources and funding to begin Death Star construction by 2016, as previously discussed on Slashdot. With costs estimated over $850,000,000,000,000,000 (that's $850 quadrillion), and a firm policy stating 'The Administration does not support blowing up planets,' the U.S. government will obviously decline. However, that is not to say we don't already have a Death Star of our own, floating approximately 120 miles above the earth's surface. The response ends with a call to those interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields of study: 'If you do pursue a career in a science, technology, engineering or math-related field, the Force will be with us! Remember, the Death Star's power to destroy a planet, or even a whole star system, is insignificant next to the power of the Force.'"
maijc writes "Computer activist Aaron Swartz committed suicide yesterday in New York City. He was 26 years old. Swartz was 'indicted in July 2011 by a federal grand jury for allegedly mass downloading documents from the JSTOR online journal archive with the intent to distribute them.' He is best known for co-authoring the widely-used RSS 1.0 specification when he was 14, and as one of the early co-owners of Reddit."
Coldeagle writes "It looks as if CNET's parent company, CBS, has laid down the law: 'Just one day after CNet named the Dish "Hopper," a new TV recording system that's drawing rave reviews in the tech press, to an awards shortlist, the site's parent company stepped in and nixed the accolade. Because of a legal battle between CBS and Dish over the Hopper's ad-skipping technology, CBS laid down a ban: CNet won't be allowed to even review Dish products, much less give them awards.' Got to love modern day freedom of the press!"