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  • How the World's Agricultural Boom Has Changed CO2 Cycles

    An anonymous reader writes Every year levels of carbon dioxide drop in the summer as plants "inhale," and climb again as they exhale after the growing season in the Northern Hemisphere. However, the last 50 years has seen the size of this swing has increase by as 50%, for reasons that aren't fully understood. A team of researchers may have the answer. They have shown that agricultural production, corn in particular, may generate up to 25% of the increase in this seasonal carbon cycle. "This study shows the power of modeling and data mining in addressing potential sources contributing to seasonal changes in carbon dioxide" program director for the National Science Foundation's Macro Systems Biology Program, who supported the research, Liz Blood says. "It points to the role of basic research in finding answers to complex problems."

    55 comments | 3 hours ago

  • 2014 Hour of Code: Do Ends Justify Disney Product Placement Means?

    theodp writes "The purpose of product placement/product integration/branded entertainment," explains Disney in a job posting, "is to give a brand exposure outside of their traditional media buy." So, one imagines the folks in Disney Marketing must be thrilled that Disney Frozen princesses Anna and Elsa will be featured in the 'signature tutorial' for CSEdWeek's 2014 Hour of Code, which aims to introduce CS to 100 million schoolkids — including a sizable captive audience — in the weeks before Christmas. "Thanks to Disney Interactive," announced Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi, "Code.org's signature tutorial for the 2014 Hour of Code features Disney Infinity versions of Disney's 'Frozen' heroines Anna and Elsa!." Partovi adds, "The girl-power theme of the tutorial is a continuation of our efforts to expand diversity in computer science and broaden female participation in the field, starting with younger students." In the tutorial, reports the LA Times, "students will learn to write code to help Anna and Elsa draw snowflakes and snowmen, and perform magical 'ice craft.' Disney is also donating $100,000 to support Code.org's efforts to bring computer science education to after-school programs nationwide."

    79 comments | 9 hours ago

  • Blame America For Everything You Hate About "Internet Culture"

    An anonymous reader writes If you hate cat videos, personality quizzes, and endless list stories about a specific school or region, then you should blame the USA according to this story. From the article: "'In France, articles about cats do not work,' Buzzfeed's Scott Lamb told Le Figaro, a leading Parisian paper. Instead, he explained, Buzzfeed's first year in the country has shown it that 'the French love sharing news and politics on social networks – in short, pretty serious stuff.' This is interesting for two reasons: first, as conclusive proof that the French are irredeemable snobs; second, as a crack in the glossy, understudied facade of what we commonly call 'Internet culture.'....American audiences love animals and 'light content,' Lamb said, but readers in other countries have reacted differently. Germans were skeptical of the site's feel-good frivolity, he said, and some Australians were outright 'hostile.' Meanwhile, in France — land of la mode and le Michelin — critics immediately complained, right at Buzzfeed's French launch, that the articles were too fluffy and poorly translated. Instead, Buzzfeed quickly found that readers were more likely to share articles about news, politics and regional identity, particularly in relation to the loved/hated Paris, than they were to share the site's other fare."

    263 comments | 12 hours ago

  • Prospects Rise For a 2015 UN Climate Deal, But Likely To Be Weak

    An anonymous reader writes with news that a global climate deal seems to be on the horizon. "A global deal to combat climate change in 2015 looks more likely after promises for action by China, the United States and the European Union, but any agreement will probably be too weak to halt rising temperatures. Delegates from almost 200 nations will meet in Lima, Peru, from Dec. 1-12 to work on the accord due in Paris in a year's time, also spurred by new scientific warnings about risks of floods, heatwaves, ocean acidification and rising seas. After failure to agree a sweeping U.N. treaty at a summit in Copenhagen in 2009, the easier but less ambitious aim now is a deal made up of 'nationally determined' plans to help reverse a 45 percent rise in greenhouse gas emissions since 1990."

    91 comments | yesterday

  • Spaceport America Loses $1.7 Million Due To Virgin Galactic Delays

    An anonymous reader writes "Officials of New Mexico's Spaceport Authority were grilled by lawmakers about the now vacant Spaceport America following the deadly crash of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo. The spaceport was built as a hub for commercial space flights. Its immediate future is uncertain since Virgin Galactic has indefinitely pushed back the launch date of its space tourism flights. From the article: "Christine Anderson, the authority's executive director, learned last week that she might have to do so one legislator at a time. Anderson was called out by Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, D-Gallup, for handing members of an interim legislative finance committee a presentation filled mostly with photographs. Lundstrom and other lawmakers wanted hard numbers and more details about what plan the authority has to get past the Virgin Galactic mishap and get the taxpayer-financed spaceport off the ground. 'It just made all of us look like idiots, like we don't do our homework,' Anderson said. 'That's not the case whatsoever.'"

    45 comments | yesterday

  • How "Big Ideas" Are Actually Hurting International Development

    schnell writes: The New Republic is running a fascinating article that analyzes the changing state of foreign development. Tech entrepreneurs and celebrities are increasingly realizing the inefficiencies of the old charitable NGO-based model of foreign aid, and shifting their support to "disruptive" new ideas that have been demonstrated in small experiments to deliver disproportionately beneficial results. But multiple studies now show that "game changing" ideas that prove revolutionary in limited studies fail to prove effective at scale, and are limited by a simple and disappointing fact: no matter how revolutionary your idea is, whether it works or not is wholly dependent on 1.) the local culture and circumstances, and 2.) who is implementing the program.

    84 comments | yesterday

  • Samsung Seeking To Block Nvidia Chips From US Market

    An anonymous reader writes: Bloomberg reports that Samsung has filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission asking them to block the import of Nvidia's graphics chips . This is part of Samsung's retaliation for a similar claim filed by Nvidia against Samsung and Qualcomm back in September. Both companies are wielding patents pertaining to the improved operation of graphics chips in cell phones and other mobile devices.

    85 comments | yesterday

  • Profanity-Laced Academic Paper Exposes Scam Journal

    Frosty P writes: A scientific paper titled "Get Me Off Your F****** Mailing List" was actually accepted by the International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology. As reported at Vox and other web sites, the journal, despite its distinguished name, is a predatory open-access journal. These sorts of low-quality journals spam thousands of scientists, offering to publish their work for a fee. In 2005, computer scientists David Mazières and Eddie Kohler created this highly profane ten-page paper as a joke, to send in replying to unwanted conference invitations. It literally just contains that seven-word phrase over and over, along with a nice flow chart and scatter-plot graph. More recently, computer scientist Peter Vamplew sent it to the IJACT in response to spam from the journal, and the paper was automatically accepted with an anonymous reviewer rating it as "excellent," and requested a fee of $150. Over the years, the number of these predatory journals has exploded. Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado, keeps an up-to-date list of them to help researchers avoid being taken in; it currently has 550 publishers and journals on it."

    131 comments | yesterday

  • Judge Approves $450M Settlement For Apple's Ebook Price Fixing

    An anonymous reader writes: On Friday a U.S. federal judge approved a settlement in the Apple ebook price-fixing case that could see the technology giant paying $450 million. $400 million of that would go to the roughly 23 million consumers thought to be affected by the price fixing, and the rest would go to lawyers. Though the case is now settled, the dollar amount is not necessarily final — an appeals court still has to rule on a previous verdict. If the appeals court finds in Apple's favor, then the total settlement drops to only $70 million. If they find against Apple, then it's the full amount. "The settlement appeared to reflect fatigue by Apple, the Justice Department, state attorneys general and class-action lawyers eager to conclude a case that has dragged on, largely because of delays by Apple."

    50 comments | 2 days ago

  • Indian Brick-and-Mortar Retailers Snub Android One Phones

    oyenamit writes Online shopping in India is still in its infancy but is growing tremendously to reach the mostly untapped market of 1.2 billion people. Invariably, the conflict between pure online retailers like Amazon and Flipkart and brick and mortar stores was bound to emerge. Unfortunately for Google's Android One, it has been on the receiving end of this friction. Leading brick and mortar retailers in India have refused to sell Android One handsets ever since the US company chose to launch its products exclusively online. The three Android One makers in India — Micromax, Karbonn and Spice — launched their handsets exclusively online in mid-September. When sales did not meet their expectations, they decided to release their products via the brick and mortar store channel. However, smaller retailer and mom-n-pop shops have decided to show their displeasure at having being left out of the launch by deciding not to stock Android One. The Android One phones, announced at the most recent Google I/O, are Google's attempt to bring stock Android (as on Google's Nexus devices) to emerging markets, with competent but not high-end phones.

    50 comments | 2 days ago

  • Critical XSS Flaws Patched In WordPress and Popular Plug-In

    itwbennett writes The WordPress development team on Thursday released critical security updates that address an XSS vulnerability in the comment boxes of WordPress posts and pages. An attacker could exploit this flaw to create comments with malicious JavaScript code embedded in them that would get executed by the browsers of users seeing those comments. 'In the most obvious scenario the attacker leaves a comment containing the JavaScript and some links in order to put the comment in the moderation queue,' said Jouko Pynnonen, the security researcher who found the flaw.

    38 comments | 2 days ago

  • Startup Assembly Banks On Paid, Open-Source Style Development

    enbody writes A year-old startup, Assembly, is built on the premise of creating products using open-source style development, but structured in a way that you get paid for your contributions. Open-source development is well-known in the Slashdot community, as are a variety of ways to earn a living around open-source, such as support. What is new here is being paid as part of the development, and not just for coding — your contribution might be as project manager or sales. A nice description with video showed up today on the Verge. Of course, the devil is in the details, but they have products so someone in Slashdot land may be interested. (Bias warning: I know one of these guys.)

    33 comments | 2 days ago

  • Mozilla's 2013 Report: Revenue Up 1% To $314M; 90% From Google

    An anonymous reader writes Mozilla has released its annual financial report for 2013, and the numbers hint as to why the organization signed a five-year deal with Yahoo, announced by the duo on November 19. Revenue increased just 1 percent, and the organization's reliance on Google stayed flat at 90 percent. The total revenue for the Mozilla Foundation and its subsidiaries in 2011 was $163 million, and it increased 90.2 percent to $311 million for 2012. Yet that growth all but disappeared last year, as the total revenue moved up less than 1 percent (0.995 percent to be more precise) to $311 million in 2013. 85 percent of Mozilla's revenue came from Google in 2011, and that figure increased to 90 percent in 2012. While the 90 percent number remained for 2013, it's still a massive proportion and shows Mozilla last year could not figure out a way to differentiate where its money comes from.

    150 comments | 2 days ago

  • Top NSA Official Raised Alarm About Metadata Program In 2009

    An anonymous reader sends this report from the Associated Press: "Dissenters within the National Security Agency, led by a senior agency executive, warned in 2009 that the program to secretly collect American phone records wasn't providing enough intelligence to justify the backlash it would cause if revealed, current and former intelligence officials say.

    The NSA took the concerns seriously, and many senior officials shared them. But after an internal debate that has not been previously reported, NSA leaders, White House officials and key lawmakers opted to continue the collection and storage of American calling records, a domestic surveillance program without parallel in the agency's recent history.

    108 comments | 2 days ago

  • Harvard Scientists Say It's Time To Start Thinking About Engineering the Climate

    merbs writes: Harvard has long been home to one of the fiercest advocates for climate engineering. This week, Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences published a research announcement headlined "Adjusting Earth's Thermostat, With Caution." That might read as oxymoronic — intentionally altering the planet's climate has rarely been considered a cautious enterprise — but it fairly accurately reflects the thrust of several new studies published by the Royal Society, all focused on exploring the controversial field of geoengineering.

    328 comments | 2 days ago

  • Culberson As Chair of NASA Fundng Subcommittee Makes Europa Mission More Likely

    MarkWhittington writes: As many have expected, Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) has been elevated to chair the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Commerce, Justice, and Science. The subcommittee has charge of NASA funding, something of keen interest for the congressman, whose Houston district is close to the Johnson Spaceflight Center. Moreover, Culberson's enthusiasm for space exploration goes far beyond what would be expected from a Texas representative.

    Culberson is a champion of a mission to Europa, a moon of Jupiter. Europa is an ice-covered moon that is thought to conceal an ocean of water, warmed by tidal forces, which might contain life. Using the heavy-lift Space Launch System, NASA could launch a large-scale probe to study Europa and ascertain whether it harbors alien life or not. Culberson's elevation makes such a mission far more likely to occur.

    56 comments | 2 days ago

  • Google Launches Service To Replace Web Ads With Subscriptions

    An anonymous reader writes: Everyone understands by now that ads fund most of the sites on the web. Other sites have put up paywalls or started subscription bonuses, with varying success. Google, one of the web's biggest ad providers, saw a problem with that: it's a huge pain for readers to manage subscriptions for all the sites they visit — often more trouble than it's worth. And, since so few people sign up, the subscription fees have to be pretty high. Now, Google has launched a service called Contributor to try to fix this situation.

    The way Contributor works is this: websites and readers can opt in to the service (and sites like Imgur, The Onion, and ScienceDaily already have). Readers then pay a fee of $1-3 per month (they get to choose how much) to gain ad-free access to all participating sites. When the user visits one of the sites, instead of showing a Google ad, Google will just send a small chunk of that subscription money to the website instead.

    284 comments | 2 days ago

  • Coal Plants Get New Lease On Life With Natural Gas

    HughPickens.com writes Christina Nunez reports in National Geographic that in the past four years, at least 29 coal-fired plants in 10 states have switched to natural gas or biomass while another 54 units, mostly in the US Northeast and Midwest, are slated to be converted over the next nine years. By switching to natural gas, plant operators can take advantage of a relatively cheap and plentiful US supply. The change can also help them meet proposed federal rules to limit heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, given that electricity generation from natural gas emits about half as much carbon as electricity from coal does.

    But not everyone is happy with the conversions. The Dunkirk plant in western New York, slated for conversion to natural gas, is the focus of a lawsuit by environmental groups that say the $150 million repowering will force the state's energy consumers to pay for an unnecessary facility. "What we're concerned about is that the Dunkirk proceeding is setting a really, really bad precedent where we're going to keep these old, outdated, polluting plants on life support for political reasons," says Christopher Amato. Dunkirk's operator, NRG, wanted to mothball the plant in 2012, saying it was not economical to run. The utility, National Grid, said shutting it down could make local power supplies less reliable, a problem that could be fixed by boosting transmission capacity—at a lower cost than repowering Dunkirk. Meanwhile the citizens of Dunkirk are happy the plant is staying open. "We couldn't let it happen. We would lose our tax base, we would lose our jobs, we would lose our future," said State Sen. Catharine M. Young. "This agreement saves us. It gives us a foundation on which to build our economy. It gives us hope. This is our community's Christmas miracle!"

    142 comments | 2 days ago

  • Greenwald Advises Market-Based Solution To Mass Surveillance

    Nicola Hahn writes In his latest Intercept piece Glenn Greenwald considers the recent defeat of the Senate's USA Freedom Act. He remarks that governments "don't walk around trying to figure out how to limit their own power." Instead of appealing to an allegedly irrelevant Congress Greenwald advocates utilizing the power of consumer demand to address the failings of cyber security. Specifically he argues that companies care about their bottom line and that the trend of customers refusing to tolerate insecure products will force companies to protect user privacy, implement encryption, etc. All told Greenwald's argument is very telling: that society can rely on corporate interests for protection. Is it true that representative government is a lost cause and that lawmakers would never knowingly yield authority? There are people who think that advising citizens to devolve into consumers is a dubious proposition.

    145 comments | 3 days ago

  • Harvard Students Move Fossil Fuel Stock Fight To Court

    mdsolar writes A group of Harvard students, frustrated by the university's refusal to shed fossil fuel stocks from its investment portfolios, is looking beyond protests and resolutions to a new form of pressure: the courts. The seven law students and undergraduates filed a lawsuit on Wednesday in Suffolk County Superior Court in Massachusetts against the president and fellows of Harvard College, among others, for what they call "mismanagement of charitable funds." The 11-page complaint, with 167 pages of supporting exhibits, asks the court to compel divestment on behalf of the students and "future generations."

    200 comments | 3 days ago

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