Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Dick Ahlstrom reports that Irish researchers have discovered a previously unknown model of the universe written in 1931 by physicist Albert Einstein that had been misfiled and effectively "lost" until its discovery last August while researchers been searching through a collection of Einstein's papers put online by the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. "I was looking through drafts, but then slowly realised it was a draft of something very different," says Dr O'Raifeartaigh. "I nearly fell off my chair. It was hidden in perfect plain sight. This particular manuscript was misfiled as a draft of something else." Read more, below.
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A while ago you had a chance to ask composer George Sanger about making music and sound effects for games, television, and film. Below you'll find "The Fat Man's" answers to those questions.
just_another_sean writes "An Australian record label that threatened to sue one of the world's most famous copyright attorneys for infringement has reached a settlement with him. The settlement includes an admission that Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law School professor, had the right to use a song by the band Phoenix. From the article: 'In a statement, Liberation Music admitted Lessig's use of the song was protected by fair use — a legal doctrine that allows copyrighted material to be used for education, satire and a few other exceptions. Liberation Music says it will also pay Lessig for the harm it caused. The amount is confidential under the terms of the agreement, but it will be dedicated to supporting work by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital civil rights group, to work on causes that were important to Lessig's friend Aaron Swartz, a technologist and activist who committed suicide last year.'"
Richard Stallman (RMS) founded the GNU Project in 1984, the Free Software Foundation in 1985, and remains one of the most important and outspoken advocates for software freedom. He now spends much of his time fighting excessive extension of copyright laws, digital restrictions management, and software patents. RMS has agreed to answer your questions about GNU/Linux, how GNU relates to Linux the kernel, free software, why he disagrees with the idea of open source, and other issues of public concern. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Our lives online come with perils, whether from the NSA checking up on our digital communications, or the possibility of the wrong e-message going viral. Twitter, Facebook, Google, Instagram, and other social networks have collected all sorts of personal data about us, where we've been, what we're saying, what we like, and our friends. No wonder the idea of ephemeral messages — such as those sent via Snapchat and other services — is beginning to resonate, attracting lots of startups who want to service that very need. These creators of self-destructing message apps claim they don't care about monetization, and that their products are secure — but as so many apps from other startups have demonstrated, security is often a very porous thing, and government agencies are more than happy to fire off a warrant to see unread messages stored on a server. Lots of developers want to become the Snapchat (if it means they can take a multi-billion-dollar buyout), but in the case of vaporizing messages, they're tiptoeing into tricky territory."
An anonymous reader writes "Enter decentralized, open source mining with the first scientific proof of work. Riecoin is a decentralized (p2p), open source digital currency. Proof of work is about finding Hardy-Littlewood k-tuples. Ultimately miners are verifying the Riemann hypothesis. Unlike for Primecoin the probability of accepting a false positive goes to zero as the network grows. Primecoin uses Fermat Test which runs the risk of accepting so called Carmichael numbers. Riecoin uses a stronger test to ensure correctness."
theodp writes "As Google Fiber forges ahead into new metro areas, Michael Brick reports on worries the fiber project will create a permanent underclass. Building the next generation of information economy infrastructure around current demand, experts say, will deny poor people the physical wiring needed to gain access while the privileged digerati advance at hyperspeed. 'The fiber service deployment means multiplicity of the digital divide, multidimensionality of the digital divide,' says Eun-A Park of the Univ. of New Haven. 'You can see it in Google's trial in Kansas City.' Speed matters, explains Google, 'because a world with universal access and 100 times faster internet could mean 100 times the learning.' Without universal access, as is the case in KC due to pricing that's out of the reach of many of the city's poor, one presumes the outcome could be 100x the learning divide. Another case of the unintended consequences of good intentions?"
Nerval's Lobster writes "Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg decided to drop a cool $16 billion on WhatsApp, a messaging service with 450 million users. It was a mind-boggling sum, even if you buy into Facebook's argument that WhatsApp (which will continue to operate as an independent subsidiary, at least for the moment) will soon connect a billion people around the world. But it wasn't the biggest tech acquisition of all time: that honor belongs to Hewlett-Packard, which bought Compaq for (an inflation-adjusted) $33.4 billion in 2001. Facebook's purchase of WhatsApp comes in second on the list, followed by Hewlett-Packard's purchase of Electronic Data Systems for $15.4 billion; Google's acquisition of Motorola Mobility for $13 billion, and Oracle snatching up Peoplesoft for $12.7 billion. In sixth comes Hewlett-Packard again, with its Autonomy buy in 2011 (for $11.7 billion), followed by Oracle's BEA Systems acquisition ($9.4 billion) and Microsoft seizing Skype ($9.0 billion). What do many of these highest-cost purchases have in common? Many of them didn't pan out. Hewlett-Packard's Compaq, Autonomy, and EDS acquisitions, for example, made all the sense in the world on paper, the tech giant eventually took significant write-downs on all three (Autonomy in particular was an outright disaster, resulting in a $8.8 billion write-off and widespread allegations of financial and management impropriety)." Update: 02/20 19:32 GMT by T : Of interest: Mother Jones has an interesting take on the seeming mismatch between Facebook's business model and the way the WhatsApp founders think about advertising. Hint: they hate it.
cartechboy writes "It's amazing how far we've come with technology. Now many of us have the ability to work remotely, and we can even lock/unlock our vehicles via the Internet. And yet, the way we receive our packages from FedEx, UPS, and USPS hasn't really changed. But Volvo thinks it has a way to revolutionize package delivery with Roam Delivery: instead of having packages delivered to your house or office, you could have packages dropped off in the trunk of your car. Volvo says this would work via its new digital keys technology which would allow customers to choose their car as a delivery option when ordering goods online. Via a smartphone or tablet, the owner would be informed when a delivery requires dropping off or picking up from the car. Accepting the delivery will enable a digital key which tracks when the car is opened, and then when it's locked again. The digital key expires once the delivery is complete. Not only does this sound pretty slick, but the technology to make it happen is pretty simple. Now the only question is whether you really want your Amazon box being delivered to your vehicle."
nbauman writes "In his column, 'Barons of Broadband' New York Times columnist Paul Krugman says: 'Comcast perfectly fits the old notion of monopolists as robber barons, so-called by analogy with medieval warlords who perched in their castles overlooking the Rhine, extracting tolls from all who passed. The Time Warner deal would in effect let Comcast strengthen its fortifications, which has to be a bad idea. Comcast's chief executive says not to worry: "It will not reduce competition in any relevant market because our companies do not overlap or compete with each other. In fact, we do not operate in any of the same ZIP codes." This is, however, transparently disingenuous. The big concern about making Comcast even bigger isn't reduced competition for customers in local markets — for one thing, there's hardly any effective competition at that level anyway. It is that Comcast would have even more power than it already does to dictate terms to the providers of content for its digital pipes — and that its ability to drive tough deals upstream would make it even harder for potential downstream rivals to challenge its local monopolies.'"
First time accepted submitter TBNZee writes "Mainstream TV has has for a long time under-served the sci-fi loving viewers, but with declining production costs there seem to be two potential sources of alternative production/distribution: digital content (e.g. Netflix, Hulu) and crowd funded projects. There's still not a lot of sci-fi shows that are being produced by the major streaming services, but we'll probably see more with the success of Hulu's exclusive U.S. distribution of Misfits or Netflix's success with Buffy and Doctor Who. On the other hand, you have many enthusiastic upstarts on Kickstarter that look novel and engaging, while having a surprisingly professional look to them. Which do you think will ultimately be more successful? Will either be able to replace network content?"
Nerval's Lobster writes "Nearly 30 years after Super Mario Bros., video game graphics have advanced to heights that once seemed impossible. Modern sports games are fueled by motion capture of actual athletes, and narrative-driven adventures can seem more like interactive movies than games. But gaming's increasing realism brings a side effect — a game can now fall into the 'uncanny valley,' a term coined by robotics professor Masahiro Mori of the Tokyo Institute of Technology in 1970. Jon Brodkin talked to game developers, engineers, motion scientists and a variety of other folks about the 'uncanny valley problem,' in which (some) people feel revolted when confronted by a robot or digital character that doesn't quite look real. In games where human-like characters are necessary, the uncanny valley can be an even bigger problem than in animated movies; gamers control characters rather than just watching them, creating more opportunities for the illusion of realism to falter. New and better tools can help developers and animators deal with some of these issues, but crossing the 'valley' successfully still remains a challenge. Or is crossing it even possible at all?"
blastboy writes "Here's a great essay on Snowden, technology and the problem with how we think of surveillance. From the article: 'Why do we give them our data? For the same reason that prompted the protesters to pull out their phones amid a swirl of tear gas: digital channels are one of the easiest ways we have to talk to one another, and sometimes the only way. There are few things more powerful and rewarding than communicating with another person. It’s not a coincidence that the harshest legal punishment short of the death penalty in modern states is solitary confinement. Humans are social animals; social interaction is at our core. Yet the more we connect to each other online, the more our actions become visible to governments and corporations. It feels like a loss of independence. But as I stood in Gezi Park, I saw how digital communication had become a form of organization. I saw it enable dissent, discord, and protest.'"
theodp writes "With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the tech billionaire-backed NewSchools Venture Fund, the Silicon Valley Education Foundation used a competition based on the reality show Shark Tank to determine which educational technology entrepreneurs would win the right to have teachers test their technology on students for the rest of the year. 'Ten companies, selected from 80 original applicants,' reports Mercury News columnist Mike Cassidy, 'had three minutes to convince a panel of educators and then a panel of business brains that their ideas would be a difference maker in middle school math classes.' The winners? Blendspace, which helps teachers create digital lessons using Web-based content; Front Row Education, which generates individual quizzes for students and tracks their progress as they work through problems; LearnBop, which offers an automated tutoring system with content written by math teachers; and Zaption, which lets teachers use existing online videos as lessons by adding quizzes, discussion sections, images and text."
Rambo Tribble writes "The BBC provides some insights into the next generation satellites being built for Google by contractor DigitalGlobe in Colorado. The resolution of these satellites' cameras is sufficient to resolve objects that are only 25cm wide. Unfortunately, the public will be allowed only half that image quality, the best being reserved for the U.S. military. 'The light comes in through a barrel structure, pointed at the Earth, and is bounced around by a series of mirrors, before being focused onto a CCD sensor. The big difference – apart from the size – between this and a typical handheld digital camera, is that the spacecraft will not just take snapshots but continuous images along thin strips of land or sea.'"
alphadogg writes "The exclusive relationship of ICANN with the U.S. must end, said the European Union's digital agenda chief on Wednesday. California-based ICANN is responsible for the assignment of top-level domains and has a long-standing operating agreement with the U.S. However, following the revelations by Edward Snowden of widespread surveillance of the Internet by the National Security Agency, many countries have questioned the arrangement. The historical relationship, noted in ICANN's Affirmation of Commitments, is outdated and the governance of the Internet must become more global, said the E.U. Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes. Kroes was presenting the European Commission's new policy on Internet governance, which rejects any United Nations or governmental takeover of Internet governance and calls for a move to globalize ICANN."
Nerval's Lobster writes "The winter weather made my hands numb. I was distracted, rushed, running late to a meeting. Put those two things together, and it's a recipe for disaster,' Boonsri Dickinson writes in her account of how she lost her Google Glass unit. 'The cab had already gone two blocks before I realized my Google Glass was no longer in my hand. I asked the driver to swing back around to where he picked me up; I retraced my steps along the snowy street to my apartment, looking for my $1,500 device. No luck. Total panic.' The device featured photos, video, email, and other data that, in the wrong hands, could seriously upend her life. Fortunately, the person who found the Glass unit was a.) more interested in returning the device than wrecking her existence, and b.) engaged in quite a bit of digital detective work to track her down (with some help from Google). 'The device holds more than enough data to make me nervous about the possible voyeuristic invasion of my privacy, and the fear of the thought that the media connected to my Glass would possibly end up online, somewhere, cached forever in a Google search,' she concluded. But the saga also reset some of her faith in humanity."
Zothecula writes "A team of astronomers at The Australian National University working on a five-year project to produce the first comprehensive digital survey of the southern sky has discovered the oldest known star in the Universe. The star dates back 13.7 billion years, only shortly after the Big Bang itself. It's also nearby (at least, from a cosmological perspective) — about 6,000 light-years away. The star is notable for the very small amount of iron it contains (abstract). The lead researcher, Stefan Keller, said, 'To make a star like our Sun, you take the basic ingredients of hydrogen and helium from the Big Bang and add an enormous amount of iron – the equivalent of about 1,000 times the Earth's mass. To make this ancient star, you need no more than an Australia-sized asteroid of iron and lots of carbon. It's a very different recipe that tells us a lot about the nature of the first stars and how they died.'"
Nerval's Lobster writes "President Obama's 2012 re-election campaign relied on a sophisticated data-analytics platform that allowed organizers and volunteers to precisely target potential donors and voters. The centerpiece of that effort was Project Narwhal, which brought voter information—steadily accumulated since Obama's 2008 campaign—onto a single platform accessible to a growing number of campaign-related apps. The GOP has only a few short years to prepare for the next Presidential election cycle, and the party is scrambling to build an analytics system capable of competing against whatever the Democrats deploy onto the field of battle. To that end, the Republican National Committee (RNC) has launched Para Bellum Labs, modeled after a startup, to produce digital platforms for election analytics and voter engagement. Is this a genuine attempt to infuse the GOP's infrastructure with data science, or merely an attempt to show that the organization hasn't fallen behind the Democratic Party when it comes to analytics? Certainly the "Welcome to Para Bellum Labs" video posted by the RNC gives the impression of a huge office staffed with data scientists and programmers. However, the creation of a muscular digital ecosystem hinges on far more than building a couple of apps. Whatever the GOP rolls out, it'll face a tough opponent in the Democratic opposition, which will almost certainly emulate the robust IT infrastructure that the Obama campaign instituted in 2012 (not to mention Obama's massive voter and donor datasets). From that perspective, Para Bellum Labs might face the toughest job in politics."
This site's "Your Rights Online" section, sadly, has never suffered for material. The revelations we've seen over the last year-and-change, though, of widespread spying on U.S. citizens, government spying in the E.U. on international conferences, the UK's use of malware against citizens, and the use of modern technology to oppress government protesters in the middle east and elsewhere shows how persistent it is. It's been a banner year on that front, and the banner says "You are being spied on, online and off." A broad coalition of organizations is calling today "The Day We Fight Back" against the growing culture of heads-they-win, tails-you-lose surveillance, but all involved know this is not a one-day struggle. (Read more, below.)