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Noisy Coworkers And Other Sounds Are Top Distraction in Workplace, Study Says ( 141

Sounds, especially those made by other humans, have ranked as the top distraction in the workplace, according to design expert Alan Hedge of Cornell. A staggering 74 percent of workers say they face "many" instances of disturbances and distractions from noise. Hedge says the noise is generally coming from another person, though it's much more disturbing when it's a machine that is making it. NPR reports: The popularity of open offices has exacerbated the problem. The University of California's Center for the Built Environment has a study showing workers are happier when they are in enclosed offices and less likely to take sick days. This does not bode well for some workers facing cold and flu season, when hacking coughs make the rounds. [...] Rue Dooley, an adviser at the Society for Human Resource Management, says HR professionals often call in, asking how to manage co-worker complaints about various bodily noises.

Those Facebook Live Videos From Space That Are Going Viral Are Fake, NASA Confirms ( 35

Earlier this morning, a Facebook Live video allegedly showed a live feed of the International Space Station (ISS). The video has gone viral on the internet, with more than 17 million views, two million likes, and 400,000 shares. The only problem: that video feed is fake, a NASA spokesperson told Mashable. It said, "there is no spacewalk being conducted outside the International Space Station today." The video was shared by UNILAD, Viral USA, and Interstinate Facebook pages. From the report: NASA announces it whenever a spacewalk is expected to occur on the station, and they don't have anything about a spacewalk on their schedule for today. If the livestreams are showing spacewalks, that's a big hint they're fake.Good thing Facebook insists it isn't a media company.

Nuclear Plants Leak Critical Alerts In Unencrypted Pager Messages ( 70

mdsolar quotes a report from Ars Technica: A surprisingly large number of critical infrastructure participants -- including chemical manufacturers, nuclear and electric plants, defense contractors, building operators and chip makers -- rely on unsecured wireless pagers to automate their industrial control systems. According to a new report, this practice opens them to malicious hacks and espionage. Earlier this year, researchers from security firm Trend Micro collected more than 54 million pages over a four-month span using low-cost hardware. In some cases, the messages alerted recipients to unsafe conditions affecting mission-critical infrastructure as they were detected. A heating, venting, and air-conditioning system, for instance, used an e-mail-to-pager gateway to alert a hospital to a potentially dangerous level of sewage water. Meanwhile, a supervisory and control data acquisition system belonging to one of the world's biggest chemical companies sent a page containing a complete "stack dump" of one of its devices. Other unencrypted alerts sent by or to "several nuclear plants scattered among different states" included:

-Reduced pumping flow rate
-Water leak, steam leak, radiant coolant service leak, electrohydraulic control oil leak
-Fire accidents in an unrestricted area and in an administration building
-Loss of redundancy
-People requiring off-site medical attention
-A control rod losing its position indication due to a data fault
-Nuclear contamination without personal damage
Trend Micro researchers wrote in their report titled "Leaking Beeps: Unencrypted Pager Messages in Industrial Environments": "We were surprised to see unencrypted pages coming from industrial sectors like nuclear power plants, substations, power generation plants, chemical plants, defense contractors, semiconductor and commercial manufacturers, and HVAC. These unencrypted pager messages are a valuable source of passive intelligence, the gathering of information that is unintentionally leaked by networked or connected organizations. Taken together, threat actors can do heavy reconnaissance on targets by making sense of the acquired information through paging messages. Though we are not well-versed with the terms and information used in some of the sectors in our research, we were able to determine what the pages mean, including how attackers would make use of them in an elaborate targeted attack or how industry competitors would take advantage of such information. The power generation sector is overseen by regulating bodies like the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC). The NERC can impose significant fines on companies that violate critical infrastructure protection requirements, such as ensuring that communications are encrypted. Other similar regulations also exist for the chemical manufacturing sector."

Renewables Overtake Coal As World's Largest Source of Power Capacity ( 263

The world's largest source of power capacity is now renewables, as roughly half a million solar panels were installed every single day last year. In addition, two wind turbines were erected every hour in countries such as China, according to the International Energy Agency. Financial Times reports (Editor's note: may be paywalled; alternate source): Although coal and other fossil fuels remain the largest source of electricity generation, many conventional power utilities and energy groups have been confounded by the speed at which renewables have grown and the rapid drop in costs for the technologies. Average global generation costs for new onshore wind farms fell by an estimated 30 percent between 2010 and 2015 while those for big solar panel plants fell by an even steeper two-thirds, an IEA report published on Tuesday showed. The Paris-based agency thinks costs are likely to fall even further over the next five years, by 15 percent on average for wind and by a quarter for solar power. It said an unprecedented 153 gigawatts of green electricity was installed last year, mostly wind and solar projects, which has more than the total power capacity in Canada. It was also more than the amount of conventional fossil fuel or nuclear power added in 2015, leading renewables to surpass coal's cumulative share of global power capacity -- though not electricity generation. A power plant's capacity is the maximum amount of electricity it can potentially produce. The amount of energy a plant actually generates varies according to how long it produces power over a period of time. Coal power plants supplied close to 39 percent of the world's power in 2015, while renewables, including old hydropower dams, accounted for 23 percent, IEA data show. But the agency expects renewables' share of power generation to rise to 28 percent by 2021, when it predicts they will supply the equivalent of all the electricity generated today in the U.S. and E.U. combined.

Scientists Create AI Program That Can Predict Human Rights Trials With 79 Percent Accuracy ( 80

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Computer scientists have created an AI program capable of predicting the outcome of human rights trials. The program was trained on data from nearly 600 cases brought before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), and was able to predict the court's final judgement with 79 percent accuracy. Its creators say it could be useful in identifying common patterns in court cases, but stress that they do not believe AI will be able to replace human judgement. As described in a study published in the journal PeerJ Computer Science, the AI program worked by analyzing descriptions of court cases submitted to the ECHR. These descriptions included summaries of legal arguments, a brief case history, and an outline of the relevant legislation. The cases were grouped into three main violations of human rights law, including the prohibition on torture and degrading treatment; the right to a fair trial; and the right to "respect for private and family life." (Used in a wide range of cases including illegal searches and surveillance.) The AI program then looked for patterns in this data, correlating the courts' final judgements with, for example, the type of evidence submitted, and the exact part of the European Convention on Human Rights the case was alleged to violate. Aletras says a number of patterns emerged. For example, cases concerning detention conditions (eg access to food, legal support, etc.) were more likely to end in a positive judgement that an individual's human rights had been violated; while cases involving sentencing issues (i.e., how long someone had been imprisoned) were more likely to end in acquittal. The researchers also found that the judgements of the court were more dependent on the facts of the case itself (that is to say, its history and its particulars) than the legal arguments (i.e., how exactly the Convention on Human Rights had or had not been violated).

Largest Auto-Scandal Settlement In US History: Judge Approves $15 Billion Volkswagen Settlement ( 110

A federal just has approved the largest auto-scandal settlement in U.S. history, a $14.7 billion settlement concerning Volkswagen Group's diesel car emissions scandal. USA Today reports: U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco approved the sweeping agreement between consumers, the government, California regulators and the German automaker in a written ruling a week after signaling he was likely to sign off. He said the agreement is "fair, reasonable and adequate." The settlement comes about a year after Volkswagen admitted that it rigged 11 million vehicles worldwide with software designed to dodge emissions standards. The company is still facing criminal investigations by the U.S. Justice Department and German prosecutors. The U.S. probe could lead to additional financial penalties and criminal indictments. About 475,000 Volkswagen owners in the U.S. can choose between a buyback or a free fix and compensation, if a repair becomes available. VW will begin administering the settlement immediately, having already devoted several hundred employees to handling the process. Buybacks range in value from $12,475 to $44,176, including restitution payments, and varying based on milage. People who opt for a fix approved by the Environmental Protection Agency will receive payouts ranging from $5,100 to $9,852, depending on the book value of their car. Volkswagen will also pay $2.7 billion for environmental mitigation and another $2 billion for clean-emissions infrastructure.

Curious Tilt of the Sun Traced To Undiscovered Planet ( 204

An anonymous reader writes: Planet Nine - the undiscovered planet at the edge of the solar system that was predicted by the work of Caltech's Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown in January 2016 -- appears to be responsible for the unusual tilt of the Sun, according to a new study. The large and distant planet may be adding a wobble to the solar system, giving the appearance that the Sun is tilted slightly. "Because Planet Nine is so massive and has an orbit tilted compared to the other planets, the solar system has no choice but to slowly twist out of alignment," says Elizabeth Bailey, a graduate student at Caltech and lead author of a study announcing the discovery. All of the planets orbit in a flat plane with respect to the Sun, roughly within a couple degrees of each other. That plane, however, rotates at a six-degree tilt with respect to the Sun -- giving the appearance that the Sun itself is cocked off at an angle. Until now, no one had found a compelling explanation to produce such an effect. "It's such a deep-rooted mystery and so difficult to explain that people just don't talk about it," says Brown, the Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor of Planetary Astronomy.

Global CO2 Concentration Passes Threshold of 400 ppm -- and That's Bad for the Climate ( 357

The average concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere hit the symbolic level of 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in 2015 and has continued to surge in 2016, according to the World Meteorological Organization. From a report on Time:Scientists say humans may need to take some carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere to stop global warming. The carbon dioxide concentration is unlikely to dip below the 400 ppm mark for at least several decades, even with aggressive efforts to reduce global carbon emissions, according to the WMO report, which confirms similar findings reported last month. Carbon dioxide can last in the atmosphere for thousands of years without efforts to remove it. "The year 2015 ushered in a new era of optimism and climate action," said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas, referring to the landmark Paris Agreement to address climate change. "The real elephant in the room is carbon dioxide, which remains in the atmosphere for thousands of years and in the oceans for even longer."

Harvard Researchers Print World's First Heart-On-A-Chip ( 19

Harvard University researchers have successfully 3D printed the first heart-on-a-chip with integrated sensors that are capable of measuring the beating of the heart. Gizmodo reports: The printed organ is made of synthetic material designed to mimic the structure and function of native tissue. It is not designed to replace failing human organs, but it can be used for scientific studies, something that is expected to rapidly increase research on new medicine. The medical breakthrough may also allow scientists to rapidly design organs-on-chips to match specific disease properties or even a patient's cells. Organs-on-chips, also known by the more technical name microphysiological systems, replicate the structure and function of living human organs. Each is made of a translucent, flexible polymer that lets scientists replicate biological environments of living organs. The chips are also clear so that the scientists can see an inner-working into how the organs work. A large part of the breakthrough was actually developing six different printable inks capable of integrating sensors within the tissue being printed. In one continuous printing process, the team 3D printed materials into a heart-on-a-chip with integrated sensors. The sensors were capable of measuring the beating of the heart. The new study has been published today in Nature Materials.

Study Finds Little Lies Lead To Bigger Ones ( 182

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ABC News: Telling little fibs leads down a slippery slope to bigger lies -- and our brains adapt to escalating dishonesty, which makes deceit easier, a new study shows. Neuroscientists at the University College London's Affective Brain Lab put 80 people in scenarios where they could repeatedly lie and get paid more based on the magnitude of their lies. They said they were the first to demonstrate empirically that people's lies grow bolder the more they fib. The researchers then used brain scans to show that our mind's emotional hot spot -- the amygdala -- becomes desensitized or used to the growing dishonesty, according to a study published online Monday in the journal Nature Neuroscience. And during this lying, brain scans that show blood supply and activity at the amygdala decrease with increasing lies, said study co-author and lab director Tali Sharot. "The more we lie, the less likely we are to have an emotional response" -- say, shame or guilt -- "that accompanies it," Sharot said. Garrett said he suspects similar escalation factors happen in the "real world," which would include politics, infidelity and cheating, but he cautioned that this study was done in a controlled lab setting so more research would be needed to apply it to other situations. The study found that there is a segment of people who don't lie and don't escalate lies, but Sharot and Garrett weren't able to determine how rare those honest people are. It also found that people lie more when it benefits both them and someone else than when they just profit alone.

Climate Change Could Cross Key Threshold in a Decade, Scientists Say ( 351

The planet could pass a key target on world temperature rise in about a decade, prompting accelerating loss of glaciers, steep declines in water availability, worsening land conflicts and deepening poverty, scientists said this week. But the planet is already two-thirds of the way to that lower and safer goal, and could begin to pass it in about a decade, according to Richard Betts, head of climate impacts research at the UK Met Office's Hadley Centre. Reuters reports: With world emissions unlikely to slow quickly enough to hit that target, it will probably be necessary to remove some carbon pollution from the atmosphere to stabilize the planet, scientists said. That could happen by planting forests or by capturing and then pumping underground emissions from power plants. But other changes -- such as reducing food waste and creating more sustainable diets, with less beef and fewer imported greenhouse vegetables -- could also play a big role in meeting the goal, without so many risks, he said.

Internet is Becoming Unreadable Because of a Trend Towards Lighter, Thinner Fonts ( 323

An anonymous reader writes: The internet is becoming unreadable because of a trend towards lighter and thinner fonts, making it difficult for the elderly or visually-impaired to see words clearly, a web expert has found. Where text used to be bold and dark, which contrasted well with predominantly white backgrounds, now many websites are switching to light greys or blues for their type. Award winning blogger Kevin Marks, founder of Microformats and former vice president of web services at BT, decided to look into the trend after becoming concerned that his eyesight was failing because he was increasingly struggling to read on screen text. He found a 'widespread movement' to reduce the contrast between the words and the background, with tech giants Apple, Google and Twitter all altering their typography. True black on white text has a contrast ratio of 21:1 -- the maximum which can be achieved. Most technology companies agree that it is good practice for type to be a minimum of 7:1 so that the visually-impaired can still see text. But Mr Marks, found that even Apple's own typography guidelines, which recommended 7:1 are written in a contrast ratio of 5.5:1.

Elon Musk's Mars Colony Would Have a Horde of Mining Robots ( 217

An anonymous reader shares an Engadget report: If it wasn't already clear that Elon Musk has considered virtually every aspect of what it would take to colonize Mars, it is now. As part of his Reddit AMA session, the SpaceX founder has revealed that his vision of a permanent colony would entail a huge number of "miner/tunneling droids." The robots would build large volumes of underground pressurized space for industrial activity, leaving geodesic domes (made of carbon fiber and glass) for everyday living. As a resident, you might never see the 'ugly' side of settling the Red Planet. Musk also explained how his colony would get to the point where it can reliably refuel spacecraft all by itself. Dragon capsules would serve as scouts, helping find the "best way" to extract water for fuel reactions. An unmanned Heart of Gold spaceship would then deliver the basics for a propellant plant, while the first crewed mission would finish that plant. After that, SpaceX would double the number of flights between each ideal Earth-Mars rendezvous (every 26 months) until the colony can reliably produce fuel by itself. Oh, and don't worry about today's Falcon 9 rockets being consigned to the history books. Although the main booster for interplanetary travel will "have an easier time of things," Musk believes that the final iteration of Falcon 9 (Block 5) could be used "almost indefinitely" if properly maintained. Production on Block 5 should fly in the next 6 to 8 months.

Researchers Predict Next-Gen Batteries Will Last 10 Times Longer ( 169

Lithium-metal electrodes could increase the storage capacity of batteries 10-fold, predict researchers at the University of Michigan, allowing electric cars to drive from New York to Denver without recharging. Using a $100 piece of technology, the team is now peeking inside charging batteries to study the formation of "dendrites," which consume liquid electrolytes and reduce capacity. Slashdot reader Eloking quotes New Atlas: Battery cells are normally tested through cycles of charge and discharge, testing the capacity and flow potential of the cells before being dissected. Dasgupta and his team...added a window to a lithium cell so that they could film the dendrites forming and deforming during charge and discharge cycles.
In a video interview they're reporting that dendrites can actually help a battery if they form a small, even "carpet" inside of the battery which "can keep more lithium in play." According to the article, "The future of lithium-ion batteries is limited, says University of Michigan researcher Neil Dasgupta, because the chemistry cannot be pushed much further than it already has. Next-generation lithium cells will likely use lithium air and lithium sulfur chemistries."

"Splat" of Schiaparelli Mars Lander Likely Found ( 104

Long-time Slashdot reader Tablizer quotes Space Flight Now: Views from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter released Friday show the crash site where Europe's experimental Schiaparelli lander fell to the red planet's surface from a height of several miles, leaving a distinct dark patch on the Martian landscape...The image from MRO's context camera shows two new features attributed to the Schiaparelli spacecraft, including a large dark scar spanning an estimated 50 feet (15 meters) by 130 feet (40 meters). Schiaparelli's ground team believes it is from the high-speed impact of the lander's main body... A little more than a half-mile (1 kilometer) to the south, a bright spot appears in the image, likely the 39-foot-diameter (12-meter) supersonic parachute and part of Schiaparelli's heat shield, which released from the lander just before ESA lost contact."

A British Supercomputer Can Predict Winter Weather a Year In Advance ( 175

The national weather service of the U.K. claims it can now predict the weather up to a year in advance. An anonymous reader quotes The Stack: The development has been made possible thanks to supercomputer technology granted by the UK Government in 2014. The £97 million high-performance computing facility has allowed researchers to increase the resolution of climate models and to test the retrospective skill of forecasts over a 35-year period starting from 1980... The forecasters claim that new supercomputer-powered techniques have helped them develop a system to accurately predict North Atlantic Oscillation -- the climatic phenomenon which heavily impacts winters in the U.K.
The researchers apparently tested their supercomputer on 36 years worth of data, and reported proudly that they could predict winter weather a year in advance -- with 62% accuracy.

Quantum Researchers Achieve 10-Fold Boost In Superposition Stability ( 86

An anonymous reader quotes The Stack: A team of Australian researchers has developed a qubit offering ten times the stability of existing technologies. The computer scientists claim that the new innovation could significantly increase the reliability of quantum computing calculations... The new technology, developed at the University of New South Wales, has been named a 'dressed' quantum bit as it combines a single atom with an electromagnetic field. This process allows the qubit to remain in a superposition state for ten times longer than has previously been achieved. The researchers argue that this extra time in superposition could boost the performance stability of quantum computing calculations... Previously fragile and short-lived, retaining a state of superposition has been one of the major barriers to the development of quantum computing. The ability to remain in two states simultaneously is the key to scaling and strengthening the technology further.
Do you ever wonder what the world will look like when everyone has their own personal quantum computer?

'Anonymous' Hacker Indicted As His Hunger Strike Continues ( 67

Eight months after being rescued at sea near Cuba and then arrested, Anonymous hacker Martin Gottesfeld now faces prosecution as well as death by hunger. Newsweek reports: A member of Anonymous has been indicted on hacking charges while on the third week of a prison hunger strike protesting perceived institutionalized torture and political prosecutions. Martin Gottesfeld, 32, was charged this week in relation to the hacking of Boston Children's Hospital in 2014 following the alleged mistreatment of one of its patients. Gottesfeld has previously admitted to targeting the hospital, though says he did it in defense of "an innocent, learning-disabled, 15-year-old girl"...

Since beginning his hunger strike on October 3, Gottesfeld tells Newsweek from prison he has lost 16.5 pounds. He says he will continue his hunger strike until two demands are met: a promise from the presidential candidates that children are not mistreated in the way he claims Pelletier was; and an end to the "political" style of prosecution waged by Carmen Ortiz, the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts.

The indictment claims that the hospital spent more than $300,000 to "mitigate" the damage from the 2014 attack.

Russians Seek Answers To Central Moscow GPS Anomaly ( 175

stevegee58 writes: Russians have been noticing that their GPS doesn't work in Moscow near the Kremlin. Everyone from taxi drivers to Pokemon Go players suddenly notice that they're transported 18 miles away at the airport when they near the Kremlin. While this may be an annoyance to the public it seems like a reasonable countermeasure to potential terrorist threats. Is it only a matter of time before other vulnerable sites such as the White House or the Capitol in Washington start doing the same? "A programmer for Russian internet firm Yandex, Grigory Bakunov, said Thursday his research showed a system for blocking GPS was located inside the Kremlin, the heavily guarded official residence of Russian President Vladimir Putin," reports Yahoo. "The first anomaly was recorded in June, according to Russian media reports, which have also suggested that the GPS interference comes and goes in a pattern. Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday he did not know why the malfunction was occurring and admitted experiencing the problem himself when driving recently. Peskov redirected questions to Russia's Federal Guards Service, which is responsible for protecting the Kremlin and senior Russian officials."

Chemical-Releasing Bike Lock Causes Vomiting To Deter Thieves ( 281

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: The "Skunklock" is a U-shaped steel bicycle lock with a pressurized, stinking gas inside. The gas escapes in a cloud if someone attempts to cut the lock. The company claims its "noxious chemical" is so disgusting it "induces vomit in the majority of cases." Even better, it claims, the gas causes "shortness of breathing" and impaired eyesight. The idea, which tries to make stealing a bike as unpleasant as possible, is raising money for production on crowdfunding site Indiegogo. "Our formula irreversibly ruins the clothes worn by the thief or any of the protection they may be wearing," the company claims on its crowdfunding page. Since stolen bikes sell for a fraction of their true cost, replacing clothing or equipment could make the theft more trouble than it's worth. Skunklock says it has tested its foul gas, and it even penetrates high-end gas masks -- though most thieves are unlikely to go to such lengths. But the company said that the compressed gas is perfectly safe -- and can only be released "by trying to cut through it with an angle grinder." If the chemical countermeasure is released, it is a one-time only use, and the lock, which costs over $100, will have to be replaced. But the hope is that the unpleasant experience will cause them to abandon the attempted theft, leaving the bicycle behind.

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