Thursday, April 17, 2008

Some 12% of Consumers 'Borrow' Unsecured Wi-Fi

Posted by Zonk on Thursday April 17, @10:27AM
from the other-88-percent-are-lying dept.
alphadogg writes "Despite the fact that it's often considered an illegal act, a sizeable percentage of the UK/US internet-using population 'borrows' unsecured Wi-Fi access. This is according to a study conducted by the group Accenture. 'The Accenture study found that computer users are still engaging in some unsafe computing practices. Nearly half of all respondents said that they used the same password for all of their online accounts, and only a quarter of them have ever encrypted files on their computers.'" My guess is the actual figure is higher than that.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Sen. McCain: In need of econ 101

Presidential candidate John McCain is calling for a Memorial Day-to-Labor Day moratorium on collecting the 18.4 cent-a-gallon federal gasoline tax and 24.4 cent-a-gallon federal diesel tax.

Yes, gasoline is very expensive. The price for one barrel of light, sweet crude hit $114.08 on April 15. The national average for a gallon of gasoline is $3.386; diesel is $4.119 per gallon. And yes, prices will increase as more refineries move to summer-blend gasoline, a lower evaporation formula that causes less air pollution (for more on blended gasoline, check out this Slate article.)

But reducing the cost of gasoline by reducing or eliminating the federal tax is a phenomenally bad idea.

First, the gasoline and diesel tax supports the Highway Trust Fund (HTF). The HFT, which is supposed to provide monies for maintenance of federal highways and bridges -- like the one that collapsed in Minnesota -- is already so anemic that the National Transportation Policy and Revenue Commission called for a 40 cent increase in the gas tax over five years.

Second, McCain seems to be of the "tra-la-la, I can't hear you" school of thought when it comes to the budget. To make up for the estimated $8.5 billion in losses from eliminating the gas tax, he's suggested raiding general treasury funds.

What general treasury funds? I'd suggested Sen. McCain trot on down to his colleagues on the Senate Appropriations Committee as they debate yet another unfunded war supplemental this week -- this one to the tune of $108,000,000,000.

Third, basic economics tells us that when the cost of something goes down, demand goes up. Summer is traditionally a busy driving season and making gasoline cheaper will encourage consumers to use more.

Do we really want to be encouraging more driving during the summer? Summer generally means higher ozone levels. Higher tropospheric ozone, the kind that forms nearer to the ground on hot and sunny days, is bad for human health, causing respiratory ailments and aggravating asthma. Many cities try to cope with high ozone by issuing "Code Red" or "Code Orange" days during which the advise residents to limit outdoor activity and/or reduce the cost of public transit.

Is your roof growing?

When you look at a rooftop, do you see shingles and tar? Or a potential urban prairie? Cities throughout North America are starting to rethink the rooftop and its traditionally dull appearance, searching for ways to trade it in for a newer, greener model. The new Nationals' stadium in DC has one. Vancouver and Minneapolis are in the process of updating their sports arenas with the latest in rooftop gardens as well.

Green roofs, as they're called, are quickly becoming fertile ground for architects and urban planners to cultivate beautiful scenery and energy-saving insulation on boring concrete rooftops. Unlike conventional roofing materials like concrete, tar, and sheet metal, green roofs help cities control urban runoff while reducing the urban heat island effect -- which concrete and asphalt are infamous for.

The 'green roof' concept first became popular in Germany back in the 70's, but it's enjoying a fresh new wave of enthusiasm here in the US and Canada, as populations clamor for a more earth-friendly form of development. Most of these systems utilize low-maintenance plants like grasses or succulents that can survive both extreme hot and cold temperatures. It's the more intensive roof gardens that carry the most benefits in terms of conservation and real estate values, however.

Intensive systems, like the one in place on Chicago's City Hall, require more maintenance and deeper growth areas, but they provide more energy savings benefits. Chicago officials estimate that the green roof saves the city about $3,600 annually in heating and cooling costs. If green roofs were adopted throughout the city, they estimate that the city could slash peak energy demand by 720MW.
Related Link

Researchers take aim at terahertz computing

It's not everyday that researchers make some progress towards terahertz computing, but a team from the University of Utah led by Ajay Nahata appear to have done just that, with them announcing that they've "taken a first step to making circuits that can harness or guide terahertz radiation." That, they say, could allow for the development of "superfast circuits, computers and communications," and "in a minimum of 10 years," no less. The key to this latest development, it seems, is the use of some sheets of stainless steel foil perforated with tiny holes, which can be arranged in different patterns to effectively form "wires" to carry the terahertz raditation. In their tests, the researchers were able to do so at a level of 300Ghz (or 0.3 terahertz), although they admit that they still have a long way to go, saying that "all we've done is made the wires" for terahertz circuits, and adding that there still needs to be devices like switches, transistors and modulators developed at terahertz frequencies in order for anything practical to become possible.

[Via TG Daily]

Microsoft burns our eyes with Vista promo video

It's official, Microsoft knows no shame. We used to think that the Zune tattoo guy was bad for publicity, but now it's clear that the video promo team needs zero outside help in dragging whatever shred of dignity this company has through the mud. Whoever thought up this Bruce Springsteen-defiling "Rockin' Our Sales" piece of garbage to promote the launch of Vista SP1 should be fired instantly and sued for defamation. It's just that good. Video is naturally after the break.

[Thanks, Jacob S.]

Ward Hunt Ice Shelf, Largest In Northern Hemisphere, Has Fractured Into Three Main Pieces

ScienceDaily (Apr. 16, 2008) — A team of scientists including polar expert Dr. Derek Mueller from Trent University and Canadian Rangers have discovered that the largest ice shelf in the Northern Hemisphere has fractured into three main pieces.

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FBI Lied To Support Need For PATRIOT Act Expansion

Posted by kdawson on Wednesday April 16, @08:05AM
from the control-freaks-in-the-ascendent dept.
I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "It probably won't surprise you, but in 2005, the FBI manufactured evidence to get the power to issue National Security Letters under the PATRIOT Act. Unlike normal subpoenas, NSLs do not require probable cause and you're never allowed to talk about having received one, leading to a lack of accountability that caused them to be widely abused. The EFF has discovered via FOIA requests that an FBI field agent was forced by superiors to return papers he got via a lawful subpoena, then demand them again via an NSL (which was rejected for being unlawful at the time), and re-file the original subpoena to get them back. This delay in a supposedly critical anti-terror investigation then became a talking point used by FBI Director Robert Mueller when the FBI wanted to justify their need for the power to issue National Security Letters."

Sea levels rising much faster than expected

You may not have to buy that oceanfront property after all; the coastline could be coming to you. New research says that rises in sea levels caused by global warming are going to much higher than earlier anticipated.

A British and Finnish scientists have created a computer model indicating that sea levels will rise between 80 centimetres and 150 centimetres by 2100, much higher than the 28-43 centimetres predicted last year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The difference in estimates reflects a greater understanding of the impact of the massive melting of ice being seen in the Arctic and Antarctic.

A 100 centimetre rise in sea level would be devastating for low-lying areas around the world, especially ones that don't have the money or the technology to build defences against rising waters. In countries like Bangladesh, tens of millions of people live in areas that are likely to be flooded.

via [BBC News]

The dirty dozen of fruits and veggies

In a perfect world, we could buy all of our food from organic sources. However, sometimes that is just not realistic.

If you would like to start moving into buying organic food slowly, the Environmental Working Group has come up with a list of fruits and vegetables that are best to buy from organic sources if possible. They call them The Dirty Dozen, because the group found that their counterparts tended to have the highest pesticide residues:

  • Apples
  • Cherries
  • Grapes, imported (Chili)
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Raspberries
  • Strawberries
  • Bell peppers
  • Celery
  • Potatoes
  • Spinach

Next up, milk, beef and poultry are also worth considering.

Here are the vegetables and fruits that are not as important to buy from organic sources:

  • Bananas
  • Kiwi
  • Mango
  • Papaya
  • Pineapples
  • Asparagus
  • Avocado
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Corn
  • Onions
  • Peas
Related Link

The potato making a comeback

The potato is making a comeback, in a world of rising food prices, including wheat and rice prices. Potatoes can grow almost anywhere, and require little water, offer quick growth and yield two to four times more food per hectare than wheat or rice. The U.N. has named 2008, "The Year of the Potato," in an effort to raise global awareness about the benefits of this veggie.

Even though potatoes may have gotten a bad rap in our recent carb-free diet crazes, they are actually a good source of complex carbs and have less fat than wheat. When boiled, they have more protein than corn and contain vitamin C, iron, potassium and zinc. If you're thinking about swapping some potatoes into your diet, go for it. Just skip the butter and frying and go for organic if possible; unfortunately, potatoes are on the Dirty Dozen list due to high pesticide residues.
Related Link

Effective Colon Cancer Prevention Treatment Discovered

ScienceDaily (Apr. 16, 2008) — Using a combination of a targeted cancer-fighting agent called DFMO and a low dose of an anti-inflammatory drug, UC Irvine researchers have reduced the risk of reoccurring colorectal polyps, an early sign of colon cancer, by as much as 95 percent with fewer toxic side effects.

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Disturbances In Brain Circuitry Linked To Chronic Exposure To Solvents, Study Shows

ScienceDaily (Apr. 16, 2008) — Chronic occupational exposure to organic solvents, found in materials such as paints, printing and dry cleaning agents, is widespread all over the world, and is thought to damage the central nervous system. The pattern of cognitive impairment, involving memory, attention and psychomotor function, frequently persists even after exposure has ceased, is usually referred to as chronic solvent-induced encephalopathy (CSE). Although CSE is an acknowledged occupational disease in an increasing number of western countries, and is classified according to the World Health Organization criteria and is included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, it is still a controversial diagnosis, with still some debating whether or not it is a bonafide condition.

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The Body-laptop interface is knitted from Thneed which nobody, Nobody, NOBODY needs

Uh, er, that's the Body-laptop Interface. The idea is to provide the user "privacy, warmth, and concentration" when using a laptop in public spaces. It's just a concept for now... at least until Thanko or SolidAlliance sees it.

Schoolboy Corrects NASA's Math On Killer Asteroid

Posted by kdawson on Wednesday April 16, @12:22AM
from the little-child-shall-lead-them dept.
spiracle writes "A German schoolboy, Nico Marquardt, has revised NASA's figures for the chances that the Apophis asteroid will hit earth. Apparently if the asteroid hits a satellite in 2029, its path could be diverted enough to cause it to collide with Earth on the next orbit, in 2036. NASA had calculated the chances as 1 in 45,000 but the 13-year-old, in his science project, made it 1 in 450. NASA agreed."

Monday, April 14, 2008

Study: Dyslexia Differs by Language (Washington Post)

WASHINGTON -- Dyslexia affects different parts of children's brains depending on whether they are raised reading English or Chinese.

Homes that float: the Dutch prepare for global warming

With much of their countryside sitting at or below sea level -- and the North Sea held back by an elaborate system of levees -- you can imagine that the Dutch are pretty sensitive to this whole global warming thing. With most scientists expecting at least a moderate rise in sea level over the course of this century, some Dutch architects are already building for the inevitably wet future.

Some housing developments in the Netherlands are being designed to float should the rivers suddenly rise. Water pipes, electrical and sewage lines are all designed to float and flex in a flood situation. Since some rise in sea level is expected by almost all accounts -- despite any efforts to curb greenhouse gases. That's why firms like Dura Vermeer say that the time is right for floating houses.

As more people become aware of the frightening reality of climate change, the more it seems like a floating house is not a bad idea. In fact, the demand for this type of precaution is so high that designers are even working on ways to float entire city blocks.

Floating homes are not necessarily a new idea for people who live in a floodplain, but the new mentality is not one of if my home will need to float, but of when will my home need to float. Most of these home are anchored to a steel beams that could allow them to rise 16ft, no problem. Adaptation is crucial in a period of drastic change, explains Dura Vermeer's Dick Van Gooswilligen:
"Housing of this type is the future for the delta regions of the world, the ones which face the greatest danger."
[via CleanTechnica]

In Australia, Bosses May Get Power To Snoop On Emails

Posted by kdawson on Monday April 14, @12:06AM
from the just-for-hunting-terrorists-we-promise dept.
Numerous readers noted the proposal by the Australian government for legislation to allow employers to snoop on employees' email and IM conversations. This is being proposed in the name of protecting the infrastructure from terrorism. The attorney-general cited the Estonian cyber-attacks as a reason why such employer monitoring is necessary in Australia — never mind that the attacks were perpetrated by a lone 20-year-old and not by a foreign government or terrorist. The law permitting intelligence agencies to snoop on citizens without permission expires this June, leading to the government's urgency to extend and expand it. The chairman of Electronic Frontiers Australia said, "These new powers will facilitate fishing expeditions into employees' emails and computer use rather than being used to protect critical infrastructure. I'm talking about corporate eavesdropping and witch-hunts... If an employer wanted to [sack] someone, they could use these powers."

Monsanto's Harvest of Fear

Posted by kdawson on Monday April 14, @08:06AM
from the good-business-to-sue-your-customers-boy-howdy dept.
Cognitive Dissident writes "Intellectual property thuggery is not restricted to the IT and entertainment industries. The May 2008 edition of Vanity Fair carries a major feature article on the mafiaa-like tactics of Monsanto in its pursuit of total domination of various facets of agribusiness. First in GM seeds with its 'Roundup Ready' crops designed to sell more of its Roundup herbicide, and more recently in milk production with rBGH designed to squeeze more milk out of individual cows, Monsanto has been resorting to increasingly over-the-top tactics to prevent what it sees as infringement or misrepresentation of its biotechnology. As with other forms of IP tyranny, the point is not really to help the public but to consolidate corporate power. Quotes: 'Some compare Monsanto's hard-line approach to Microsoft's zealous efforts to protect its software from pirates. At least with Microsoft the buyer of a program can use it over and over again. But farmers who buy Monsanto's seeds can't even do that.' and '"I don't know of a company that chooses to sue its own customer base," says Joseph Mendelson, of the Center for Food Safety. "It's a very bizarre business strategy." But it's one that Monsanto manages to get away with, because increasingly it's the dominant vendor in town.' Sound familiar?"

Wikipedia Breeds Unwitting Trust (Says IT Professor)

Posted by CmdrTaco on Monday April 14, @08:49AM
from the unlike-slashdot-which-is-100%-reliable dept.
kingston writes ""As I say to my students 'if you had to have brain surgery would you prefer someone who has been through medical school, trained and researched in the field, or the student next to you who has read Wikipedia'?" So says Deakin University associate professor of information systems, Sharman Lichtenstein, who believes Wikipedia, where anyone can edit a page entry, is fostering a climate of blind trust among people seeking information. Professor Lichtenstein says the reliance by students on Wikipedia for finding information, and acceptance of the practice by teachers and academics, was "crowding out" valuable knowledge and creating a generation unable to source "credible expert" views even if desired. "People are unwittingly trusting the information they find on Wikipedia, yet experience has shown it can be wrong, incomplete, biased, or misleading," she said. "Parents and teachers think it is [okay], but it is a light-weight model of knowledge and people don't know about the underlying model of how it operates.""
[+] internet (tagging beta
This looks like an interesting article from a Milasian newspaper that talks about rising food prices and gave me perspective I did not have before.


Bjork video highlights nature

Today, Bjork's new 3-D "Wanderlust" video is being released on DVD. Ordinarily, this wouldn't merit mention on an eco website, but her video happens to feature seven minutes worth of (most unusual) animated nature scenes, including a prominent display of water buffalo. (No, it's not your average MTV jam, is it?)

The video was created over the course of 9 months by San Francisco-based company Encyclopedia Pictura. As a New York Times video interview gaily informs viewers, some of the boys over there derived inspiration for it by heading out to the woods hopped up on psychedelic substances. Artists do it so you don't have to:

Russia To Build an Orbital Construction Plant

Posted by kdawson on Sunday April 13, @07:30PM
from the all-watched-over-by-machines-of-loving-grace dept.
jamax writes "Russia plans to build an orbital plant for the production of spacecraft (link to sketchy Google translation of the Russian original) that are too big to build planetside, or are just too bulky to fire into orbit once built. Presumably these are the ships we would fly to the Moon and Mars. Plans seem to be rather sparse at the moment, with the tentative construction date set for 2020, after the ISS is scheduled for decommissioning."

Brain Study Calls Free Will Into Question

Posted by kdawson on Sunday April 13, @09:49PM
from the choose-wisely-young-jedi dept.
siddster notes an account up at Wired of research indicating that brain scanners can see your decisions before you make them. "In a study published Sunday in Nature Neuroscience, researchers using brain scanners could predict people's decisions seven seconds before the test subjects were even aware of making them... Caveats remain, holding open the door for free will... The experiment may not reflect the mental dynamics of other, more complicated decisions... Also, the predictions were not completely accurate. Maybe free will enters at the last moment, allowing a person to override an unpalatable subconscious decision."

Keep Boys And Girls Together In The Classroom To Optimize Learning, Research Suggests

ScienceDaily (Apr. 14, 2008) — Boys and girls may learn differently, but American parents should think twice before moving their children to sex-segregated schools. A new Tel Aviv University study has found that girls improve boys’ grades markedly at school.

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