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NASA

NASA Scientist Revive 10,000-Year-Old Microorganisms (bbc.com) 25

"Scientists have extracted long-dormant microbes from inside the famous giant crystals of the Naica mountain caves in Mexico -- and revived them," reports the BBC. An anonymous reader writes: "The organisms were likely to have been encased in the striking shafts of gypsum at least 10,000 years ago, and possibly up to 50,000 years ago," according to the BBC, which calls the strange lifeforms "another demonstration of the ability of life to adapt and cope in the most hostile of environments." With no light, extremophile species must "chemosynthesise," deriving all their energy by extracting minerals from rocks. These ancient microbes "are not very closely related to anything in the known genetic databases," according to the new director of NASA's Astrobiology Institute, who helped conduct the research, and believes that the microbes could help suggest what life might look like on other planets. The BBC adds that many other scientists "suspect that if life does exist elsewhere in the Solar System, it is most likely to be underground, chemosynthesising like the microbes of Naica."
Displays

Some Recyclers Give Up On Recycling Old Monitors And TVs (vice.com) 216

An anonymous reader writes: "In many cases, your old TV isn't recycled at all and is instead abandoned in a warehouse somewhere, left for society to deal with sometime in the future," reports Motherboard, describing the problem of old cathode-ray televisions and computer monitors with "a net negative recycling value" (since their component parts don't cover the cost of dismantling them). An estimated 705 million CRT TVs were sold in the U.S. since 1980, and many now sit in television graveyards, "an environmental and economic disaster with no clear solution." As much as 100,000 tons of potentially hazardous waste are stockpiled in two Ohio warehouses of the now-insolvent recycler Closed Loop, plus "at least 25,000 tons of glass and unprocessed CRTs in Arizona...much of it is sitting in a mountainous pile outside one of the warehouses."
One EPA report found 23,000 tons of lead-containing CRT glass abandoned in four different states just in 2013.
Open Source

New Free O'Reilly Ebook: 'Open Source In Brazil' (oreilly.com) 40

An anonymous reader writes: Andy Oram, who's been an editor at O'Reilly since 1992, has written a new free report about how open source software is everywhere in Brazil. The country's IT industry is booming in Brazil -- still Latin America's most vibrant economy -- with open source software popular in both startups and in cloud infrastructure. Oram attributes this partly to the government's support of open source software, which over the last 15 years has built public awareness about its power and potential. And says the Brazil now has a thriving open source community, and several free software movements. Even small towns have hacker spaces for collaboration and training, and the country has several free software movements.
The Almighty Buck

A Source Code Typo Allowed An Attacker To Steal $592,000 In Cryptocurrency (bleepingcomputer.com) 66

An anonymous reader writes: "A typo in the Zerocoin source code allowed an attacker to steal 370,000 Zerocoin, which is about $592,000 at today's price," reports BleepingComputer. According to the Zcoin team, one extra character left inside Zerocoin's source code was the cause of the bug. The hacker exploited the bugs for weeks, by initiating a transaction and receiving the money many times over.

"According to the Zcoin team, the attacker (or attackers) was very sophisticated and took great care to hide his tracks," reports the site. "They say the attacker created numerous accounts at Zerocoin exchanges and spread transactions across several weeks so that traders wouldn't notice the uneven transactions volume... The Zcoin team says they worked with various exchanges to attempt and identify the attacker but to no avail. Out of the 370,000 Zerocoin he stole, the attacker has already sold 350,000. The Zcoin team estimates the attacker made a net profit of 410 Bitcoin ($437,000)."

Communications

Alaska Gets 'Artificial Aurora' As HAARP Antenna Array Listens Again (hackaday.com) 58

Freshly Exhumed quotes Hackaday: The famous HAARP antenna array is to be brought back into service for experiments by the University of Alaska. Built in the 1990s for the US Air Force's High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program, the array is a 40-acre site containing a phased array of 180 high-frequency antennas and their associated high-power transmitters. Its purpose is to conduct research on charged particles in the upper atmosphere, but that hasn't stopped an array of bizarre conspiracy theories.
A university space physics researcher will actually create an artificial aurora starting Sunday (and continuing through Wednesday) to study how yjr atmosphere affects satellite-to-ground communications, and "observers throughout Alaska will have an opportunity to photograph the phenomenon," according to the University. "Under the right conditions, people can also listen to HAARP radio transmissions from virtually anywhere in the world using an inexpensive shortwave radio."
The Courts

Techdirt Asks Judge To Dismiss Another Lawsuit By That Guy Who Didn't Invent Email (arstechnica.com) 72

Three months ago Shiva Ayyadurai won a $750,000 settlement from Gawker (after they'd already gone bankrupt). He'd argued Gawker defamed him by mocking Ayyadurai's claim he'd invented email, and now he's also suing Techdirt founder Michael Masnick -- who is not bankrupt, and is fighting back. Long-time Slashdot reader walterbyrd quotes Ars Technica: In his motion, Masnick claims that Ayyadurai "is seeking to use the muzzle of a defamation action to silence those who question his claim to historical fame." He continues, "The 14 articles and 84 allegedly defamatory statements catalogued in the complaint all say essentially the same thing: that Defendants believe that because the critical elements of electronic mail were developed long before Ayyadurai's 1978 computer program, his claim to be the 'inventor of e-mail' is false"...

The motion skims the history of e-mail and points out that the well-known fields of e-mail messages, like "to," "from," "cc," "subject," "message," and "bcc," were used in ARPANET e-mail messages for years before Ayyadurai made his "EMAIL" program. Ayyadurai focuses on statements calling him a "fake," a "liar," or a "fraud" putting forth "bogus" claims. Masnick counters that such phrases are "rhetorical hyperbole" meant to express opinions and reminds the court that "[t]he law provides no redress for harsh name-calling."

The motion calls the lawsuit "a misbegotten effort to stifle historical debate, silence criticism, and chill others from continuing to question Ayyadurai's grandiose claims." Ray Tomlinson has been dead for less than a year, but in this fascinating 1998 article recalled testing the early email protocols in 1971, remembering that "Most likely the first message was QWERTYIOP."
Education

Software Goes Through Beta Testing. Should Online College Courses? (edsurge.com) 69

"Testing online courses is not standard practice at traditional colleges," points out a new article at EdSurge -- though beta-testing is part of the process for other online learning sites. jyosim summarizes their report: Coursera has recruited a volunteer corp of more than 2,500 beta testers to try out MOOCs before they launch. Other free online course providers have set up systems that catch things like mistakes in tests, or just whether videos are confusing. Traditional colleges have shied away from checking online course content before going live, citing academic freedom. But some colleges are developing checklists to judge course design and accessibility.

"It would be lovely if universities would consider ways of adopting the practice of beta testing," says Phillip Long, chief innovation officer and associate vice provost for learning sciences at the University of Texas at Austin. One factor, though, is cost. "How do you scale that at a university that has thousands of courses being taught," he asks... How much beta testing makes sense for courses, and what's the best way to do it?

A senior instructional designer at the State University of New York says "On most campuses, instructional designers have their hands full and don't have time to review the courses before they go live... We're still trying to find the magic bullet that motivates people to review other people's courses when they're not being paid."
Robotics

New Kit Turns A Raspberry Pi Into A Robot Arm (raspberrypi.org) 35

An anonymous reader writes: A new kit turns your Raspberry Pi into a robotic arm. It's controlled by an on-board joystick, or even a web browser, and "because it's connected to the Pi you can program it through any of the various programming languages that already run on the Pi," according to its creators. "There's also free software available which lets you program it through a web interface using drag and drop programming environments like Scratch and Blockly or with Python and Javascript for the more experienced."

They explain in a video on Kickstarter that "Our mission is to get children excited about technology through building and programming their own robots," and they've already raised three times their original $12,411 fundraising goal. The Raspberry Pi blog describes it as "a great kit for anyone wanting to step into the world of digital making."

Long-time Slashdot reader bjpirt adds that "It's completely open source and hackable."
Classic Games (Games)

MAME Celebrates Its 20th Anniversary (mame.net) 46

After years of work, a fan has finally completed a MAME version of Atari's unreleased game Primal Rage II this week, one more example of the emulator preserving digital history. Long-time Slashdot reader AmiMoJo quotes MAME.net: Way back in 1997, Nicola Salmoria merged a few stand-alone arcade machine emulators into the first Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator. Could he have possibly imagined the significance of what he'd built? Over the past two decades, MAME has brought together over a thousand contributors to build a system that emulates more machines than any other program.

But MAME is more than that: MAME represents the idea that our digital heritage is important and should be preserved for future generations. MAME strives to accurately represent original systems, allowing unmodified software to run as intended. Today, MAME documents over thirty thousand systems, and usably emulates over ten thousand. MAME meets the definitions of Open Source and Free Software, and works with Windows, macOS, Linux and BSD running on any CPU from x86-64 to ARM to IBM zSeries.

A 20th-anniversary blog post thanked MAME's 1,600 contributors -- more than triple the number after its 10th anniversary -- and also thanks MAME's uncredited contributors. "if you've filed a bug report, distributed binaries, run a community site, or just put in a good word for MAME, we appreciate it." I've seen MAME resurrect everything from a rare East German arcade game to a Sonic the Hedgehog popcorn machine. Anybody else have a favorite MAME experience to share?
Earth

Genetically-Modified 'Surrogate Hens' Could Lay Eggs of Rare Chicken Breeds, Scientists Say (theguardian.com) 33

In an effort to preserve rare varieties of chicken breeds and diversify the chicken gene pool, scientists at the University of Edinburgh's Roslin Institute have come up with a plan to breed genetically-modified chickens designed to act as surrogates that would be capable of laying eggs from any rare breed. Such rare breeds include the Nankin, Scots Dumpy and Sicilian Buttercup. The Guardian reports: The surrogacy technique, which places a new, mind-bending twist on the classic chicken or egg question, involves first genetically engineering hens to be sterile. This is done by deleting a gene, called DDX4, that is required for the development of primordial follicles (the precursors to eggs) meaning that the surrogate hens will never lay eggs that are biologically their own. The next step will be to transplant follicles from rare birds into the surrogate (this is done before the surrogate chick is hatched from its own egg), meaning it would go on to lay eggs belonging to entirely different breeds of chicken. Given that the hens would also need to be artificially inseminated with sperm from the same rare variety, the approach may appear unnecessarily convoluted. Why not just breed the rare birds the normal way? The scientists' ultimate goal is to create a gene bank of chicken breeds preserved for posterity, and since primordial follicles can be frozen efficiently, while eggs cannot, the surrogacy technique serves an essential work-around. Mike McGrew, who is leading the project and is the first author on a paper on the work published this week in the journal Development, predicts that the surrogates will be able to lay eggs from any breed, including chicken's wild predecessor, the red junglefowl, but he is doubtful about whether it will work efficiently across species -- it is not likely that the surrogate hens will be giving birth to eagle chicks, for instance. Richard Broad, a field officer for the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, agreed that rare chickens could be a source of valuable genetic variation, potentially carrying variants that would provide resistance against new forms of avian flu. At present, the team is focused on chicken breeds, but expects the technique to work to preserve rare varieties of ducks, geese and quail.
NASA

Juno Jupiter Probe Won't Move Into Shorter Orbit After All (space.com) 55

NASA announced today that their Juno spacecraft will not move into a closer orbit around Jupiter as originally planned. "Juno slipped into a highly elliptical, 53-Earth-day-long orbit around Jupiter when it arrived at the giant planet on July 4, 2016," reports Space.com. From their report: The probe was supposed to perform an engine burn in October to reduce its orbital period to 14 days, but an issue with two helium valves postponed that maneuver. The engine burn has now been canceled, meaning Juno will stay where it is through the end of its mission. "During a thorough review, we looked at multiple scenarios that would place Juno in a shorter-period orbit, but there was concern that another main engine burn could result in a less-than-desirable orbit," Rick Nybakken, Juno project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, said in a statement. "The bottom line is, a burn represented a risk to completion of Juno's science objectives." But Juno should still be able to accomplish its mission goals in the longer orbit, NASA officials said. In fact, the 53-day path will allow the probe to perform some "bonus science" in the outer regions of Jupiter's magnetosphere, they added.
Microsoft

Bill Gates: The Robot That Takes Your Job Should Pay Taxes (qz.com) 370

In a recent interview with Quartz, Bill Gates said he believes that governments should tax companies that use robots who are taking human jobs, as a way to at least temporarily slow the spread of automation and to fund other types of employment. The money gained from taxing robots could then be used to finance jobs taking care of elderly people or working with kids in schools -- jobs which humans are particularly well suited for. Quartz reports: [Gates] argues that governments must oversee such programs rather than relying on businesses, in order to redirect the jobs to help people with lower incomes. The idea is not totally theoretical: EU lawmakers considered a proposal to tax robot owners to pay for training for workers who lose their jobs, though on Feb. 16 the legislators ultimately rejected it. "You ought to be willing to raise the tax level and even slow down the speed" of automation, Gates argues. That's because the technology and business cases for replacing humans in a wide range of jobs are arriving simultaneously, and it's important to be able to manage that displacement. "You cross the threshold of job replacement of certain activities all sort of at once," Gates says, citing warehouse work and driving as some of the job categories that in the next 20 years will have robots doing them. You can watch Gates' remarks in a video here, or read the transcript embedded in Quartz' report.
Debian

Mozilla Thunderbird Finally Makes Its Way Back Into Debian's Repos (softpedia.com) 45

prisoninmate quotes a report from Softpedia: A year ago, we told you that, after ten long years, the Debian Project finally found a way to switch their rebranded Iceweasel web browser back to Mozilla Firefox, both the ESR (Extended Support Release) and normal versions, but one question remained: what about the Mozilla Thunderbird email, news, and calendar client? Well, that question has an official answer today, as the Mozilla Thunderbird packages appear to have landed in the Debian repositories as a replacement for Icedove, the rebranded version that Debian Project was forced to use for more than ten years due to trademark issues. "Thunderbird is back in Debian! We also renamed other related packages to use official names, e.g. iceowl-extension -> lightning. For now, we need testers to catch existing issues and things we haven't seen until now," said Christoph Goehre in the mailing list announcement. You can find out how to migrate your Icedove profiles to Thunderbird via Softpedia's report.
Businesses

SoftBank Is Willing To Cede Control of Sprint To Get T-Mobile Merger Done, Says Report (phonedog.com) 27

According to Reuters, SoftBank is willing to cede control of Sprint to make a T-Mobile-Sprint merger happen. The company controls 83 percent of Sprint, but it'd reportedly be willing to surrender control of Sprint and retain a minority stake in a merger with T-Mobile. PhoneDog reports: It's said that SoftBank is growing frustrated with Sprint's lack of major growth in the U.S. market, and so it wants to merge with T-Mobile in order to better compete with Verizon and ATT. No talks between SoftBank and Deutsche Telekom are currently happening because of the FCC's 600MHz spectrum auction that prevents collusion between competing companies. Once the auction ends in April, though, it's expected that SoftBank will approached Deutsche Telekom about a deal.
AI

EU Moves To Bring In AI Laws, But Rejects Robot Tax Proposal (newatlas.com) 72

An anonymous reader quotes a report from New Atlas: The European Parliament has voted on a resolution to regulate the development of artificial intelligence and robotics across the European Union. Based on a raft of recommendations drafted in a report submitted in January to the legal affairs committee, the proposed rules include establishing ethical standards for the development of artificial intelligence, and introducing an insurance scheme to cover liability for accidents involving driverless cars. Not every element in the broad-ranging report was accepted by the Parliament though, with a recommendation to institute a "robot tax" roundly rejected. The robot tax proposal was designed to create a fund that manages the repercussions and retraining of workers made redundant through the increased deployment of industrial and service robots. But those in the robotics industry were supportive of the Parliamentary rejection, with the International Federation of Robotics suggesting to Reuters a robot tax would have been harmful to the burgeoning industry, stifling innovation and competitiveness. The European Parliament passed the resolution comfortably with 396 votes to 123, with 85 abstentions.

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