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Programming

Knuth Previews New Math Section For 'The Art of Computer Programming' (stanford.edu) 140

In 1962, 24-year-old Donald Knuth began writing The Art of Computer Programming -- and 55 years later, he's still working on it. An anonymous reader quotes Knuth's web site at Stanford: Volume 4B will begin with a special section called 'Mathematical Preliminaries Redux', which extends the 'Mathematical Preliminaries' of Section 1.2 in Volume 1 to things that I didn't know about in the 1960s. Most of this new material deals with probabilities and expectations of random events; there's also an introduction to the theory of martingales.

You can have a sneak preview by looking at the current draft of pre-fascicle 5a (52 pages), last updated 18 January 2017. As usual, rewards will be given to whoever is first to find and report errors or to make valuable suggestions. I'm particularly interested in receiving feedback about the exercises (of which there are 125) and their answers (of which there are 125).

Over the years Knuth gave out over $20,000 in rewards, though most people didn't cash his highly-coveted "hexadecimal checks", and in 2008 Knuth switched to honorary "hexadecimal certificates". In 2014 Knuth complained about the "dumbing down" of computer science history, and his standards remain high. In his most-recent update, 79-year-old Knuth reminds readers that "There's stuff in here that isn't in Wikipedia yet!"
NASA

NASA Is Planning Mission To An Asteroid Worth $10 Quintillion (usatoday.com) 291

New submitter kugo2006 writes: NASA announced a plan to research 16 Psyche, an asteroid potentially as large as Mars and primarily composed of Iron and Nickel. The rock is unique in that it has an exposed core, likely a result of a series of collisions, according to Lindy Elkins-Tanton, Psyche's principal investigator. The mission's spacecraft would launch in 2023 and arrive in 2030. According to Global News, Elkins-Tanton calculates that the iron in 16 Psyche would be worth $10,000 quadrillion ($10 quintillion).
Government

Amateur Scientists Find New Clue In D.B. Cooper Case, Crowdsource Their Investigation (kare11.com) 139

Six months after the FBI closed the only unsolved air piracy in American aviation history -- after a 45-year investigation -- there's a new clue. An anonymous reader quotes Seattle news station KING: A band of amateur scientists selected by the Seattle FBI to look for clues in the world's most infamous skyjacking may have found new evidence in the 45-year-old case. They're asking for the public's help because of new, potential leads that could link DB Cooper to the Puget Sound aerospace industry in the early 1970s. The scientific team has been analyzing particles removed from the clip-on tie left behind by Cooper after he hijacked a Northwest Orient passenger jet in November 1971. A powerful electron microscope located more than 100,000 particles on old the JCPenny tie. The team has identified particles like Cerium, Strontium Sulfide, and pure titanium.

Tom Kaye, lead researcher for the group calling itself Citizen Sleuths, says the group is intrigued by the finding, because the elements identified were rarely used in 1971, during the time of Cooper's daring leap with a parachute from a passenger jet. One place they were being used was for Boeing's high-tech Super Sonic Transport plane...

Interestingly, it was even a Boeing aircraft that Cooper hijacked, and witnesses say he wasn't nervous on the flight, and seemed familiar with the terrain below.
Cellphones

Faulty Phone Battery May Have Caused Fire That Brought Down EgyptAir Flight MS80 (ibtimes.co.uk) 142

New submitter drunkdrone writes: "French authorities investigating the EgyptAir crash that killed 66 people last year believe that the plane may have been brought down by an overheating phone battery," reports International Business Times. Investigators say the fire that broke out on the Airbus A320 in May 2016 started in the spot where the co-pilot had stowed his iPad and iPhone 6S, which he placed on top of the instrument panel in the plane's cockpit. From the report: "EgyptAir flight MS804 was traveling from Paris to Cairo when it disappeared from radar on 19 May 2016. Egyptian investigators have speculated that the crash, which killed all 56 passengers, seven crew members and three security personnel on board, was caused by an act of terrorism due to traces of explosives reported to be found on some the victims. Investigators in France have disputed these claims, saying that data recorded from the aircraft around the time it disappeared points to an accidental fire on the right-hand side of the flight deck, next to the co-pilot. According to The Times, CCTV pulled from cameras at Paris' Charles de Gualle airport show that the co-pilot stored a number of personal items above the dashboard, where the first signs of trouble were detected. This included an automated alert indicating a series of malfunctions on the right-hand flight deck window, followed by smoke alerts going off in a toilet and in the avionics area below the cockpit, minutes before the plane vanished."
Businesses

Wikimedia Foundation Nabs $3 Million Grant To Improve Accessibility of Free Commons' Content (venturebeat.com) 33

As with other Wikimedia Foundation projects, Wikimedia Commons (a repository of free-to-use media assets, including photos, audio clips, and videos) is funded through donations, and the organization has now received $3 million grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a philanthropic body set up in 1934 by the former president and CEO of General Motors. From a report on VentureBeat: With $3 million in the coffers, the Wikimedia Foundation says it will embark on a three-year mission to link assets on Wikimedia Commons with Wikidata, the organization's crowdsourced knowledge base. The upshot of this endeavor will mean that photos, videos, and all the rest will be much easier to find and, crucially, it will be "machine-readable" which opens up a wealth of opportunities to automate the process of integrating content into third-party services, such as apps and services operated by museums, galleries, and libraries. On the flip-side, this will also make it easier for third-party bodies to donate content to Wikimedia Commons while automatically including existing metadata, bypassing the need to manually label media.
Movies

Kodak Is Bringing Back Ektachrome Film (petapixel.com) 213

sandbagger writes: Kodak, the film stock maker, is bringing back the Ektachrome film stock that was the popular alternative to its other product, Kodachrome. The Ektachrome is more sensitive to the cool side of the spectrum as opposed to the warmer Kodachrome. Apparently the product will be back on shelves later this year. âoeThe reintroduction of one of the most iconic films is supported by the growing popularity of analog photography and a resurgence in shooting film,â Kodak Alaris says. âoeResurgence in the popularity of analog photography has created demand for new and old film products alike. Sales of professional photographic films have been steadily rising over the last few years, with professionals and enthusiasts rediscovering the artistic control offered by manual processes and the creative satisfaction of a physical end product.â
Music

Dell Unveils XPS 27 All-In-One With 10 Speaker Dual 50W Sound System (hothardware.com) 53

MojoKid writes: Over the past couple of years, Dell has been driving a redesign effort of its consumer and commercial product lines and has systematically been updating both design signatures and the technology platforms within them. Dell's premium consumer XPS product line, perhaps more so than any other, has seen the most significant design reinvention with the likes of its XPS 13 and XPS 15 notebook line. At CES 2017, Dell announced the XPS 27 7760 all-in-one PC that has a radically new look that draws at least one design cue from its XPS notebook siblings, specifically with respect to the display bezel, or the lack thereof. Though Dell isn't officially branding the touch-enabled version of XPS 27 with an "InfinityEdge" display, the side and top bezel is cut to a minimum, accentuating a beautiful 4K IPS panel. However, the machine's display might not be the most standout feature of the 2017 Dell XPS 27. Under that display, Dell actually expanded things mechanically to make room not only for a Windows Hello capable camera but a 10 speaker sound system that was designed in conjunction with Grammy Award-winning music producer and audio engineer, JJ Puig, that takes the system's audio reproduction and output capabilities to a whole new level. Its sound system is very accurate with dual 50 watt amplifiers at less than 1% THD (Total Harmonic Distortion) and a 70Hz to 20KHz frequency response. Though the system is currently built on Intel's Skylake platform, Kaby Lake versions are imminent and with discrete AMD Radeon R9 M470X graphics, it has decent gaming and multimedia chops as well.
Biotech

A Squishy Clockwork BioBot Releases Doses of Drugs Inside the Body (ieee.org) 15

the_newsbeagle writes: Making micro-machines that work inside the body is tricky, because hard silicon and metal devices can cause problems. So bioengineers are working on soft and squishy gadgets that can be implanted and do useful work. Here's a soft biobot that's modeled on a Swiss watch mechanism called a Geneva drive. With every tick forward, the tiny gizmo releases a dose of drugs. Getting the material properties just right was a challenge. "If your material is collapsing like jello, it's hard to make robots out of it," says inventor Samuel Sia.
Television

Ask Slashdot: Why Did 3D TVs and Stereoscopic 3D Television Broadcasting Fail? 435

dryriver writes: Just a few years ago the future seemed bright for 3D TVs. The 3D film Avatar smashed all box office records. Every Hollywood studio wanted to make big 3D films. The major TV set manufacturers from LG to Phillips to Panasonic all wanted in on the 3D TV action. A 3D disc format called Blu-ray 3D was agreed on. Sony went as far as putting free 3D TVs in popular pubs in London to show Brits how cool watching football ("Soccer" in the U.S.) in Stereo 3D is. Tens of millions of dollars of 3D TV related ads ran on TV stations across the world. 3D Televisions and 3D content was, simply put, the biggest show in town for a while as far as consumer electronics goes. Then the whole circus gradually collapsed -- 3D TVs failed to sell well and create the multi-billion dollar profits anticipated. 3D at home failed to catch on with consumers. Shooting genuine stereo 3D films (not "post conversions") proved to be expensive and technically challenging. Blu-ray 3D was only modestly successful. Even Nvidia's stereo 3D solutions for PC gamers failed. What, in your opinion, went wrong? Were early 3D TV sets too highly priced? Were there too few 3D films and 3D TV stations available to watch (aka "The Content Problem")? Did people hate wearing active/passive plastic 3D glasses in the living room? Was the price of Blu-ray 3D films and Blu-ray 3D players set too high? Was there something wrong with the stereo 3D effect the industry tried to popularize? Did too many people suffer 3D viewing related "headaches," "dizzyness," "eyesight problems," and similar? Was the then -- still quite new -- 1080p HD 2D television simply "good enough" for the average TV viewer? Another related question: If things went so wrong with 3D TVs, what guarantee is there that the new 3D VR/AR trend won't collapse along similar lines as well?
Communications

Astronomers Pinpoint Location of Mysterious Cosmic Radio Bursts (bbc.com) 50

New submitter Netdoctor writes: Fast Radio Bursts (FRB) are massively powerful short-lived radio bursts from far-away sources, and so far a number of theories exist on what generates them. Recently several were detected in the same general location, which adds to the mystery, as any of these pulses would be powerful enough to destroy a source. Since this group of FRBs were detected with single radio telescope dishes, the exact location was difficult to pinpoint. BBC reports here with results from the Very Large Array in New Mexico being trained on the source. From the report: "Outlining their work at a major conference, astronomers say they have now traced the source of one of these bursts to a different galaxy. Dr Chatterjee, from Cornell University, New York, and colleagues used a multi-antenna radio telescope called the Very Large Array (VLA), which had sufficient resolution to precisely determine the location of a flash known as FRB 121102. In 83 hours of observing time over six months in 2016, the VLA detected nine bursts from FRB 121102. In addition to detecting the bright bursts from FRB 121102, the team's observations also revealed an ongoing, persistent source of weaker radio emission in the same region. The flashes and the persistent source must be within 100 light-years of each other, and scientists think they are likely to be either the same object or physically associated with one another. He said some features of the radio source resembled those associated with large black holes. But he said these were typically found only in large galaxies."
Wikipedia

Wikipedia Announces Their Most Viewed Articles Of 2016 (wikipedia.org) 65

Slashdot reader westand writes, "Wikipedia's 5000 most-visited articles of 2016 have been released, and Donald Trump leads the pack." (Though the site's second-most popular article was about a porn site.) The top 5000 pages account for 21.6 billion views, with 42% of those being mobile traffic... After artificial traffic is discounted, election and celebrity deaths feature prominently.
Wikipedia's article about the U.S. presidential election of 2016 also came in at #11, while their articles about Melania Trump and Hillary Clinton came in at #16 and #19, respectively. Other top-20 articles covered deaths in 2016, as well as "Prince (musician)" and David Bowie, with four more articles that covered 2016 superhero movies also reaching the top 20. (Along with "List of Bollywood films of 2016".) The eighth most-popular article was about web scraping, while Wikipedia's 404.php page was actually more popular than any article on the site.

The original submission also points out that 323 million views were covered by The Wikipedia Zero project, in which mobile operators in the Global South ""'zero-rate' access to Wikimedia sites in their billing system, so their subscribers will not incur data charges while accessing Wikipedia and the sister projects on the mobile web or apps." And Wikipedia adds that their list is generated by Andrew G. West, a senior research scientist at Verisign Labs who "is particularly interested in academic collaboration regarding this English Wikipedia dataset."
Books

'Watership Down' Author Richard Adams Died On Christmas Eve At Age 96 (theguardian.com) 46

Initially rejected by several publishers, "Watership Down" (1972) went on to become one of the best-selling fantasy books of all time. Last Saturday the book's author died peacefully at the age of 96. Long-time Slashdot reader haruchai remembers some of the author's other books: In addition to his much-beloved story about anthropomorphic rabbits, Adams penned two fantasy books set in the fictional Beklan Empire, first Shardik (1974) about a hunter pursuing a giant bear he believes to be imbued with divine power, and Maia (1984), a peasant girl sold into slavery who becomes entangled in a war between neighboring countries.
Adams also wrote a collection of short stories called "Tales From Watership Down" in 1996, and the original "Watership Down" was also made into a movie and an animated TV series. In announcing his death, Richard's family also included a quote from the original "Watership Down".

"It seemed to Hazel that he would not be needing his body any more, so he left it lying on the edge of the ditch, but stopped for a moment to watch his rabbits and to try to get used to the extraordinary feeling that strength and speed were flowing inexhaustibly out of him into their sleek young bodies and healthy senses.

"'You needn't worry about them,' said his companion. 'They'll be alright -- and thousands like them.'"

Software

Ask Slashdot: Why Are Some Great Games Panned and Some Inferior Games Praised? (soldnersecretwars.de) 145

dryriver writes: A few years ago I bought a multiplayer war game called Soldner: Secret Wars that I had never heard of before. (The game is entirely community maintained now and free to download and play at www.soldnersecretwars.de.) The professional reviews completely and utterly destroyed Soldner -- buggy, bad gameplay, no single-player mode, disappointing graphics, server problems and so on. For me and many other players who did give it a chance beyond the first 30 minutes, Soldner turned out to be the most fun, addictive, varied, satisfying and multi-featured multiplayer war game ever. It had innovative features that AAA titles like Battlefield and COD did not have at all at the time -- fully destructible terrain, walls and buildings, cool physics on everything from jeeps flying off mountaintops to Apache helicopters crashing into Hercules transport aircraft, to dozens of trees being blown down by explosions and then blocking an incoming tank's way. Soldner took a patch or three to become fully stable, but then was just fun, fun, fun to play. So much freedom, so much cool stuff you can do in-game, so many options and gadgets you can play with. By contrast, the far, far simpler -- but better looking -- Battlefield, COD, Medal Of Honor, CounterStrike war games got all the critical praise, made the tens of millions in profit per release, became longstanding franchises and are, to this day, not half the fun to play that Soldner is. How does this happen? How does a title like Soldner, that tried to do more new stuff than the other war games combined, get trashed by every reviewer, and then far less innovative and fun to play war games like BF, COD, CS sell tens of millions of copies per release and get rave reviews all around?
Earth

Satellite Spots Massive Object Hidden Under the Frozen Wastes of Antarctica (thesun.co.uk) 296

schwit1 quotes a report from The Sun: Scientists believe a massive object which could change our understanding of history is hidden beneath the Antarctic ice. The huge and mysterious "anomaly" is thought to be lurking beneath the frozen wastes of an area called Wilkes Land. It stretches for a distance of 151 miles across and has a maximum depth of about 848 meters. Some researchers believe it is the remains of a truly massive asteroid which was more than twice the size of the Chicxulub space rock which wiped out the dinosaurs. If this explanation is true, it could mean this killer asteroid caused the Permian-Triassic extinction event which killed 96 percent of Earth's sea creatures and up to 70 percent of the vertebrate organisms living on land.This "Wilkes Land gravity anomaly" was first uncovered in 2006, when NASA satellites spotted gravitational changes which indicated the presence of a huge object sitting in the middle of a 300 mile wide impact crater.
Space

Vera Rubin, Pioneering Astronomer Who Confirmed Existence of Dark Matter, Dies At 88 (www.cbc.ca) 162

Mikkeles quotes a report from CBC.ca: Vera Rubin, a pioneering astronomer who helped find powerful evidence of dark matter, has died, her son said Monday. She was 88. Vera Rubin found that galaxies don't quite rotate the way they were predicted, and that lent support to the theory that some other force was at work, namely dark matter. Rubin's scientific achievements earned her numerous awards and honors, including a National Medal of Science presented by then-president Bill Clinton in 1993 "for her pioneering research programs in observational cosmology." She also became the second female astronomer to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences.
Wikipedia

The Project To Revive Abandoned Wikipedia Pages Has Been Abandoned (theoutline.com) 85

For years, an "entrepreneurial spirit" kept alive several of abandoned articles on Wikipedia. The WikiProject called Abandoned Articles, which sought to bring abandoned articles back to life, or "if appropriate, merging information or recommending deletion" is no more...for a long time. From an article on the Outline: A few editors are still listed as active, but most don't actively edit articles anymore. The few I tried to contact didn't get back to me. One email address I found bounced back. Many seem to have moved on with their lives. The concept of "abandoned" Wikipedia articles, one finds, when one peruses the Abandoned project for a few minutes, is sort of outmoded. Back in 2007, when the project was really last active, Wikipedia was a much different place. One user who occasionally edited "stub" articles -- those with little to no content, often the first on the chopping block for deletion because of their lack of "relevance" -- told me that "back then Wikipedia was a lot emptier. It was occasionally possible to find, like, sort of significant people or whatever -- a photographer -- whose entire Wikipedia entry amounted to the work of two people." Now that Wikipedia averages, according to its own statistics, 10 edits per second and 800 new articles a day, a group dedicated to articles that are dormant -- not deleted, simply left to grow over with weeds -- seems almost quaint. In fact, of the many articles still listed as needing to be adopted, almost none are currently abandoned: Straight Face was deleted in December 2007; Pavane got further disambiguated; "From a View to a Kill" was inhaled into the greater entry for For Your Eyes Only, a short story collection by Ian Fleming; likewise, Forward Link was added to the larger entry for "Telecommunications link."
Encryption

U2F Security Keys May Be the World's Best Hope Against Account Takeovers (arstechnica.com) 162

earlytime writes: Large scale account hacks such as the billion user Yahoo breach and targeted phishing hacks of gmail accounts during the U.S. election have made 2016 an infamous year for web security. Along comes U2F/web-security keys to address these issues at a critical time. Ars Technica reports that U2F keys "may be the world's best hope against account takeovers": "The Security Keys are based on Universal Second Factor, an open standard that's easy for end users to use and straightforward for engineers to stitch into hardware and websites. When plugged into a standard USB port, the keys provide a 'cryptographic assertion' that's just about impossible for attackers to guess or phish. Accounts can require that cryptographic key in addition to a normal user password when users log in. Google, Dropbox, GitHub, and other sites have already implemented the standard into their platforms. After more than two years of public implementation and internal study, Google security architects have declared Security Keys their preferred form of two-factor authentication. The architects based their assessment on the ease of using and deploying keys, the security it provided against phishing and other types of password attacks, and the lack of privacy trade-offs that accompany some other forms of two-factor authentication."

The researchers wrote in a recently published report: "We have shipped support for Security Keys in the Chrome browser, have deployed it within Google's internal sign-in system, and have enabled Security Keys as an available second factor in Google's Web services. In this work, we demonstrate that Security Keys lead to both an increased level of security and user satisfaction as well as cheaper support cost."
Games

Steam Is Down (steamstat.us) 183

An anonymous reader writes: The entire Steam domain seems to be down for everyone. The websites and Steam clients won't connect. No word from Steam on Twitter or Reddit about the outage. The status page of Steam as well as third-party monitoring sites have confirmed the outage. A tweet from an unofficial Steam Status page says, "100% of #Steam connection manager servers are still down."
Wikipedia

Wikipedia Announces the Most Edited Articles of 2016 (npr.org) 78

Wikipedia has revealed its most edited articles of 2016. Believe it or not, the two most edited articles of the year were for Deaths in 2016, which was edited 18,230 times, and Donald Trump, with 8,933 edits as of December 21. NPR reports: Some are completely unsurprising -- like the articles about Brexit, the Panama Papers, the Orlando nightclub shooting, and other recent and controversial news topics. The popularity of editing others is somewhat more mysterious: like the article for RuPaul's Drag Race, and one for a fictional character named Beverley Gray -- the subject of a series of 26 mystery stories written between 1934 and 1955. The article on Vincent Van Gogh was also edited thousands of times in 2016, as editors reportedly sought to clarify misunderstandings about the artist in hopes of achieving "featured" status for the page. The most edited article by far was for Deaths in 2016, which was edited 18,230 times. David Bowie, Janet Reno, Gwen Ifill, Leonard Cohen, Fidel Castro, Muhammad Ali, John Glenn and Prince are among the notable people who died this year. Donald Trump's entry was second, with 8,933 edits as of Dec. 21. If history is any indication, there's a good chance the president-elect's Wikipedia page will come under even more scrutiny: The Wikimedia Foundation revealed earlier this year that George W Bush's article has the most edits of any article in English in the history of the site, with 45,862 revisions at last count.
Crime

Hotbed of Cybercrime Activity Tracked Down To ISP In Region Where Russia Is Invading Ukraine (bleepingcomputer.com) 70

An anonymous reader writes: Last week, WordPress security firm WordFence revealed it detected over 1.65 million brute-force attacks originating from an ISP in Ukraine that generated more malicious traffic than GoDaddy, OVH, and Rostelecom, put together. A week later, after news of WordFence's findings came to light, Ukrainian users have tracked down the ISP to a company called SKS-Lugan in the city of Alchevs'k, in an area controlled by pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine. All clues point to the fact that the ISP's owners are using the chaos created by the Russian military intervention in Ukraine to host cyber-crime operations on their servers. Some of the criminal activities the ISP hosts, besides servers for launching brute-force attacks, include command-and-control servers for the Locky ransomware, [email, comment, and forum] spam botnets, illegal streaming sites, DDoS stressers, carding sites, several banking trojans (Vawtrack, Tinba), and infostealers (Pony, Neurevt). UPDATE 12/22/16: The headline and summary have been updated to reflect the fact that Ukraine is fighting a Russian invasion, and is not in a "civil war," as mentioned in the source.

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