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Space

SETI Has Observed a 'Strong' Signal That May Originate From a Sun-like Star (arstechnica.com) 33

An anonymous reader writes: The RATAN-600 radio telescope in Zelenchukskaya, Russia has detected a strong signal around 11 GHz (which is very unlikely to be naturally-caused) coming from HD164595, a star nearly identical in mass to the Sun and located about 95 light years from Earth. The system is known to have at least one planet. If the signal were isotropic, it would seem to indicate a Kardashev Type II civilization. While it is too early to draw any conclusions, the discovery will be discussed at an upcoming SETI committee meeting on September 27th. According to Paul Gilster, author of the Centauri Dreams website, "No one is claiming that this is the work of an extraterrestrial civilization, but it is certainly worth further study. Working out the strength of the signal, the researchers say that if it came from an isotropic beacon, it would be of a power possible only for a Kardashev Type II civilization. If it were a narrow beam signal focused on our Solar System, it would be of a power available to a Kardashev Type I civilization. The possibility of noise of one form or another cannot be ruled out, and researchers in Paris led by Jean Schneider are considering the possible microlensing of a background source by HD164595. But the signal is provocative enough that the RATAN-600 researchers are calling for permanent monitoring of this target."
Earth

Early Human Ancestor Lucy 'Died Falling Out of a Tree' (bbc.com) 50

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: New evidence suggests that the famous fossilized human ancestor dubbed "Lucy" by scientists died falling from a great height -- probably out of a tree. CT scans have shown injuries to her bones similar to those suffered by modern humans in similar falls. The 3.2 million-year-old hominin was found on a treed flood plain, making a branch her most likely final perch. It bolsters the view that her species -- Australopithecus afarensis -- spent at least some of its life in the trees. Writing in the journal Nature, researchers from the U.S. and Ethiopia describe a "vertical deceleration event" which they argue caused Lucy's death. In particular they point to a crushed shoulder joint, of the sort seen when we humans reach out our arms to break a fall, as well as fractures of the ankle, leg bones, pelvis, ribs, vertebrae, arm, jaw and skull. Discovered in Ethiopia's Afar region in 1974, Lucy's 40%-complete skeleton is one of the world's best known fossils. She was around 1.1m (3ft 7in) tall and is thought to have been a young adult when she died. Her species, Australopithecus afarensis, shows signs of having walked upright on the ground and had lost her ancestors' ape-like, grasping feet -- but also had an upper body well-suited to climbing. The bones of this well-studied skeleton are in fact laced with fractures, like most fossils. By peering inside the bones in minute detail, the scanner showed that several of the fractures were "greenstick" breaks. The bone had bent and snapped like a twig: something that only happens to healthy, living bones. "The Ethiopian ministry has agreed to release 3D files of Lucy's right shoulder and her left knee. So anyone with an interest in this can print Lucy out and evaluate these fractures, and our hypothesis, for themsleves." You can find the files here.
Programming

C Programming Language Hits a 15-Year Low On The TIOBE Index (businessinsider.com) 102

Gamoid writes: The venerable C programming language hit a 15-year low on the TIOBE Index, perhaps because more mobile- and web-friendly languages like Swift and Go are starting to eat its lunch. "The C programming language has a score of 11.303%, which is its lowest score ever since we started the TIOBE index back in 2001," writes Paul Jansen, manager of TIOBE Index. With that said, C is still the second most popular programming language in the world, behind only Java. Also worth noting as mentioned by Matt Weinberger via Business Insider, "C doesn't currently have a major corporate sponsor; Oracle makes a lot of money from Java; Apple pushes both Swift and Objective-C for building iPhone apps. But no big tech company is getting on stage and pushing C as the future of development. So C's problems could be marketing as much as anything."
EU

European Commission To Issue Apple An Irish Tax Bill of $1.1 Billion, Says Report (reuters.com) 111

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: The European Commission will rule against Ireland's tax dealings with Apple on Tuesday, two source familiar with the decision told Reuters, one of whom said Dublin would be told to recoup over 1 billion euros in back taxes. The European Commission accused Ireland in 2014 of dodging international tax rules by letting Apple shelter profits worth tens of billions of dollars from tax collectors in return for maintaining jobs. Apple and Ireland rejected the accusation; both have said they will appeal any adverse ruling. The source said the Commission will recommend a figure in back taxes that it expects to be collected, but it will be up to Irish authorities to calculate exactly what is owed. A bill in excess of 1 billion euros ($1.12 billion) would be far more than the 30 million euros each the European Commission previously ordered Dutch authorities to recover from U.S. coffee chain Starbucks and Luxembourg from Fiat Chrysler for their tax deals. When it opened the Apple investigation in 2014, the Commission told the Irish government that tax rulings it agreed in 1991 and 2007 with the iPhone maker amounted to state aid and might have broken EU laws. The Commission said the rulings were "reverse engineered" to ensure that Apple had a minimal Irish bill and that minutes of meetings between Apple representatives and Irish tax officials showed the company's tax treatment had been "motivated by employment considerations."
Piracy

Judge Allows Kim Dotcom To Livestream Court Hearing (mashable.com) 46

Kim Dotcom has been granted the right to livestream his extradition appeal on YouTube. The appeal hearing began Monday, but will be livestreamed tomorrow because "the cameraman needs to set this up professionally and implement the judge's live streaming rules." tweets Kim Dotcom. Mashable reports: "The United States, which wants Dotcom extradited from New Zealand, is against the request. Dotcom says a livestream is the only way to ensure a fair hearing. The U.S. is seeking the extradition of Dotcom and other Megaupload co-founders in hopes of taking them to court in America on charges of money-laundering, racketeering and copyright infringement. The charges stem from the operation of file-sharing website Megaupload, founded by Dotcom in 2005 and once the 13th most popular website on the internet. Users could upload movies, music and other content to the site and share with others, a practice the U.S. considers copyright infringement. The website reportedly made around $175 million before the FBI took it down in 2012. The U.S. says Megaupload cost copyright holders around $500 million, though Dotcom says it's not his fault users chose to upload the shared copyrighted material. Dotcom was arrested in 2012 after police raided his home, but was released on bail. A judge ruled in favor of his extradition to the U.S. in 2015, though Dotcom said at the time the judge was not interested in a fair hearing." Dotcom plans to revive Megaupload on January 20, 2017, urging people to "buy bitcoin while cheap," since he claims the launch will send the bitcoin price soaring way above its current $575 value. Every file transfer taking place over Megaupload "will be linked to a tiny Bitcoin micro transaction," Dotcom posted on Twitter.
Government

FAA Expects 600,000 Commercial Drones In The Air Within A Year (npr.org) 26

The drone industry is expected to expand dramatically in the coming months and years with the passing of a new rule (PDF) that makes it easier to become a commercial drone operator. The Federal Aviation Administration predicts there to be roughly 600,000 drones to be used commercially within the next year. NPR reports: "For context, the FAA says that 20,000 drones are currently registered for commercial use. What's expected to produce a 30-fold increase in a matter of months is a new rule that went into effect today and makes it easier to become a commercial drone operator. Broadly, the new rules change the process of becoming a commercial drone pilot: Instead of having to acquire a traditional pilot's license and getting a special case-by-case permission from the regulators, drone operators now need to pass a new certification test and abide by various flying restrictions (and, well, be older than 16). The rest of the drone safety rules still apply: No flights beyond line-of-sight, over people, at night, above 400 feet in the air or faster than 100 miles an hour. Drones also can't be heavier than 55 pounds, and all unmanned aircraft have to be registered. Businesses, however, may get special wavers to skip some of the restrictions if they can prove they can do so safely. The drone association expects the industry will create more than 100,000 jobs and generate more than $82 billion for the economy in the first 10 years of being integrated into the national airspace. The FAA is also working on new rules that eventually will allow drone flights over people and beyond line of sight."
AT&T

US Appeals Court Dismisses AT&T Data Throttling Lawsuit (reuters.com) 20

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: A federal appeals court in California on Monday dismissed a U.S. government lawsuit that accused ATT Inc of deception for reducing internet speeds for customers with unlimited mobile data plans once their use exceeded certain levels. The company, however, could still face a fine from the Federal Communications Commission regarding the slowdowns, also called "data throttling." The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said it ordered a lower court to dismiss the data-throttling lawsuit, which was filed in 2014 by the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC sued ATT on the grounds that the No. 2 U.S. wireless carrier failed to inform consumers it would slow the speeds of heavy data users on unlimited plans. In some cases, data speeds were slowed by nearly 90 percent, the lawsuit said. The FTC said the practice was deceptive and, as a result, barred under the Federal Trade Commission Act. ATT argued that there was an exception for common carriers, and the appeals court agreed.
Facebook

Facebook Is Telling the World It's Not a Media Company, But It Might Be Too Late (businessinsider.com) 41

Let's get some facts straight. The vast majority of people now get their news from social media. Facebook has become one of the largest platforms for media companies. Not only does it send people to publications, it also offers outlets Instant Articles platform, essentially acting as a publisher. But when CEO Mark Zuckerberg was asked on Monday if Facebook is a media company, he took some time thinking about it, and said "no." From a Business Insider article: Zuckerberg went on to explain how Facebook is a technology company that gives media companies tools and a platform, not a media company itself. This isn't the first time we've heard him spout a similar rhetoric recently, because it has been a particularly thorny year for Facebook and the news business. Zuckerberg maintains that it isn't a media company because it doesn't create content. Sure, Facebook isn't making journalism (what many people think of when they hear "media company") but it is hosting, distributing, and monetizing content just like a media company. And even what Zuckerberg said -- "When you think about a media company, you know, people are producing content, people are editing content, and that's not us" -- has been more or less true this year depending on how you define producing and editing.
Transportation

65-Year-Old Woman Shoots Down Drone Over Her Virginia Property With One Shot (arstechnica.com) 403

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Ars Technica: Jennifer Youngman, a 65-year-old woman living in rural northern Virginia shot down a drone flying over her property with a single shotgun blast. Ars Technica reports: "Youngman told Ars that she had just returned from church one Sunday morning and was cleaning her two shotguns -- .410 and a .20 gauge -- on her porch. She had a clear view of the Blue Ridge Mountains and neighbor Robert Duvall's property (yes, the same Robert Duvall from The Godfather). Youngman had seen two men set up a card table on what she described as a 'turnaround place' on a country road adjacent to her house. 'I go on minding my business, working on my .410 shotgun and the next thing I know I hear bzzzzz,' she said. 'This thing is going down through the field, and they're buzzing like you would scaring the cows.' Youngman explained that she grew up hunting and fishing in Virginia, and she was well-practiced at skeet and deer shooting. 'This drone disappeared over the trees and I was cleaning away, there must have been a five- or six-minute lapse, and I heard the bzzzzz,' she said, noting that she specifically used 7.5 birdshot. 'I loaded my shotgun and took the safety off, and this thing came flying over my trees. I don't know if they lost command or if they didn't have good command, but the wind had picked up. It came over my airspace, 25 or 30 feet above my trees, and hovered for a second. I blasted it to smithereens.'" Ars goes on to explain that aerial trespassing isn't currently recognized under American law. "The Supreme Court ruled in a case known as United States v. Causby that a farmer in North Carolina could assert property rights up to 83 feet in the air. There is a case still pending on whether or not Kentucky drone pilot, David Boggs, was trespassing when he flew his drone over somebody else's property. "Broggs asked the court to rule that there was no trespassing and that he is therefor entitled to damages of $1,500 for the destroyed drone."
Communications

Verizon Switches On LTE Advanced In 461 Cities -- Is Your Phone Compatible? (betanews.com) 30

An anonymous reader writes: Today, the carrier announces that its LTE is getting much faster. In 461 cities across the USA, it switches on the speedier 'LTE Advanced' (LTE-A). Best of all, many existing devices are compatible.
The company said in a blog post:"Verizon LTE Advanced uses software that combines multiple channels to speed mobile data over the network more quickly than ever before. The result is 50 percent faster peak speeds in cities nationwide for Verizon customers using one of the 39 LTE Advanced-capable phones and tablets already on Verizon's network -- including top-selling Samsung Galaxy S6 and S7 smartphones, Moto Droids and Apple iPhones. As new devices from Apple, Samsung, LG and other manufacturers are introduced, they will be LTE Advanced-capable right out of the box."
Communications

T-Mobile is Making Its 'Unlimited' Data Plan Even More Confusing (theverge.com) 56

When T-Mobile announced "One" plan, little did the company know that people wouldn't like seeing their "unlimited" data plan offer video streaming max out at 480p resolution. The company is making some tweaks to that plan, only to make things more confusing to people. It will now begin selling "HD day passes" for $3 per day, allowing customers to stream in 1080p for 24 hours. The Verge reports: That's simple enough, but here's where it gets really weird: T-Mobile is also offering a plan called T-Mobile One Plus, which, among other benefits, offers unlimited HD day passes. So by subscribing to the plan, you can stream 1080p video all you want every single day -- but only if you go and activate the HD day pass again every single day. Presumably, T-Mobile is hoping you'll forget to activate those passes, or else it would have just lifted the 480p quality limit without this bizarre constraint. Making this even more confusing, T-Mobile originally announced plans to offer an "HD add-on" for the One plan that offered unlimited HD streaming without constraints. That's no longer going to be an option, however, so if you want HD video streaming, you're stuck re-enabling it every day. A T-Mobile rep framed the change as "giving customers more" for the same price, which is true (both cost $25 extra per month), but the new plan also involves the strange new reactivation hurdle.
Education

Now Arriving On the New York Subway: Free E-Books, Timed For Your Commute (betanews.com) 39

Brian Fagioli, writing for BetaNews:Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of New York has announced a new promotion called "Subway Reads," which leverages the free Wi-Fi connectivity provided at the NYC subway. This initiative will help straphangers get some relief from the other nonsense by enabling them to bury themselves in a free Penguin Random House e-book short or excerpt. "As part of 'Subway Reads', Penguin Random House created a special platform to offer subway customers free access to five full-length e-shorts, including High Heat, a Jack Reacher novella by Lee Child; F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic short story, The Diamond As Big As The Ritz; 3 Truths and A Lie, a short story by Lisa Gardner; The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe; and At the Reunion Buffet by Alexander McCall Smith," says the New York State Government.Sounds like a good thing. What's your thought?
Government

FBI Says Foreign Hackers Breached State Election Systems (theguardian.com) 148

The FBI has uncovered evidence that foreign hackers breached two state election databases in recent weeks, and it has warned election officials across the country to some measures to step up the security of their computer systems. The Guardian reports: The FBI warning did not identify the two states targeted by cyber intruders, but Yahoo News said sources familiar with the document said it referred to Arizona and Illinois, whose voter registration systems were penetrated. Citing a state election board official, Yahoo News said the Illinois voter registration system was shut down for 10 days in late July after hackers downloaded personal data on up to 200,000 voters. The Arizona attack was more limited and involved introducing malicious software into the voter registration system, Yahoo News quoted a state official as saying. No data was removed in that attack, the official said. US intelligence officials have become increasingly worried that hackers sponsored by Russia or other countries may attempt to disrupt the November presidential election.
NASA

Isolated NASA Team Ends Year-Long Mars Simulation In Hawaii (bbc.com) 171

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes the BBC: A team of six people have completed a Mars simulation in Hawaii, where they lived in near isolation for a year. Since August 29th, 2015, the group lived in close quarters in a dome, without fresh air, fresh food or privacy... Having survived their year in isolation, the crew members said they were confident a mission to Mars could succeed. "I can give you my personal impression which is that a mission to Mars in the close future is realistic," Cyprien Verseux, a crew member from France, told journalists. "I think the technological and psychological obstacles can be overcome."

The team consisted of a French astro-biologist, a German physicist and four Americans -- a pilot, an architect, a journalist and a soil scientist... the six had to live with limited resources, wear a space-suit when outside the dome, and work to avoid personal conflicts. They each had a small sleeping cot and a desk inside their rooms. Provisions included powdered cheese and canned tuna.

Music

What Jonathan Coulton Learned From The Technology Industry (geekwire.com) 88

In a new article on GeekWire, Jonathan Coulton explains why he left a comfortable software development job in 2005 to launch a career as an online singer-songwriter. But he also describes the things he learned from the tech industry. "These guys were doing this thing they wanted to do, this thing they felt competent doing. They didn't chase after things, and they worked hard, but it was a business they created because they enjoyed it. They tried to minimize the things they didn't want to do. It wasn't about getting rich; it was about getting satisfied...

"I wanted to a set a good example to my children. I wanted to be the person I wanted to be, someone willing to take chances -- a person who didn't live with enormous regrets..." Within the first year, he had not replaced his software salary, but had enough success to cover his babysitter and to keep food on the table.

When he was younger -- in the pre-internet days -- "It was very unclear how to become a musician," Coulton explains. But somehow rolling his own career path eventually led to a life which includes everything from guest appearances on radio shows to an annual cruise with his fans (this year featuring Aimee Mann, Wil Wheaton, and Redshirts author John Scalzi).

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