Nerval's Lobster writes "If you're going to make up a cool-sounding job title for yourself, 'Data Scientist' seems to fit the bill. When you put 'Data Scientist' on your resume, recruiters perk up, don't they? Go to the Strata conference and look on the jobs board — every company wants to hire Data Scientists. Time to jump aboard that bandwagon, right? Wrong, argues Miko Matsumura in a new column. 'Not only is Data Science not a science, it's not even a good job prospect,' he writes. 'Companies continue to burn millions of dollars to collect and gamely pick through the data under respective roofs. What's the time-to-value of the average "Big Data" project? How about "Never?"' After the 'Big Data' buzz cools a bit, he argues, it will be clear to everyone that 'Data Science' is dead and the job function of 'Data Scientist' will have jumped the shark."
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Nerval's Lobster writes "Flappy Bird might be kaput, but its hilariously awkward hero is serving another useful purpose in its afterlife: teaching people how to code. Flappy Bird, a free mobile game for Android and iOS that asks the player to guide the titular avian through an obstacle course of vertical pipes, became a sensation earlier this year, seizing the top spots on the Apple and Google Play app stores. Its creator, Dong Nguyen, said the game earned him an average of $50,000 a day through in-app advertising — but that didn't stop him from yanking the game offline in early February. Now Code.org has resurrected Flappy Bird, Phoenix-style, from the smoking wreckage, with a free tutorial that allows anyone with a bit of time to code his or her very own version of the game. There's no actual code to learn, thanks to a visual interface that allows budding developers to drag 'blocks' of commands into place. 'Flappy Bird recently met its untimely death. We might've been tempted to cry all day and give up on spreading computer science (not really, but R.I.P Flappy Bird),' read a note on Code.org's blog. 'Instead, we built a new drag-and-drop tutorial that lets you build your own Flappy game — whether it's Flappy Bird, or Flappy Easter Bunny, Flappy Santa, Flappy Shark with Lasers, Flappy Fairy or Flappy Underwater Unicorn.' Childish? Maybe. But it could help draw people into coding for fun or profit."
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."
coondoggie writes "Using lasers to communicate quickly through the long distances of space has generally been the purview of science fiction. But researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) are out to change that notion with a prototype array (pdf) that can read more information — and allow much higher data rates than conventional systems — than usual from single particles of light. Lasers can transmit only very low light levels across vast distances, so signals need to contain as much information as possible, NASA said."
At CES and other big trade shows, small companies and start-ups are often overshadowed by industry giants whose huge promotional budgets let them dominate a show's exhibit area. In this video, Tim Lord asked the spokespeople for five small companies exhibiting at CES whose products interested him to give one-minute presentations about their products. So take a quick look at the ZeroHour USB "tactical grade" battery backup flashlight; MadeSolid, a 3-D printing material company; TangoPC, "the world’s most powerful Pocketable, Officeable, Entertainmentable, Gameable, Windowsable, Linuxable PC; Google Glass competitor GlassUp; and DoorBot, "the doorbell for smartphones," which was featured on the ABC TV show Shark Tank in November, 2013. DoorBot got no investment from the "sharks," but managed to raise $1 million from "traditional technology investors." DoorBot's fundraising success aside, today's video is about companies that are unlikely to get much coverage from "mainstream" news channels that cover CES. If you don't see the video (probably because you're enjoying the thrill of Slashdot Beta), you can view it here.
Zothecula writes "In another step forward for laser weapons that brings to mind the Death Star's superlaser, Lockheed Martin has demonstrated a 30-kilowatt fiber laser produced by combining many lasers into a single beam of light. According to the company, this is the highest power laser yet that was still able to maintain beam quality and electrical efficiency, paving the way for a laser weapon system suitable, if not for a Death Star, for a wide range of air, land, and sea military platforms."
sciencehabit writes "Hidden ruins are customary in the wild jungles of South America or on the white shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Now, researchers have uncovered a long-lost culture closer to Western civilization — in New England. Using aerial surveys created by LiDAR, a laser-guided mapping technique, the team detected the barely perceptible remnants of a former 'agropolis' around three rural New England towns (abstract). Near Ashford, Connecticut, a vast network of roads offset by stone walls came to light underneath a canopy of oak and spruce trees. More than half of the town has become reforested since 1870, according to historical documents, exemplifying the extent of the rural flight that marked the late 1800s. Some structures were less than 2 feet high and buried in inaccessible portions of the forest, making them essentially invisible to on-the-ground cartography."
Zothecula writes "More shark attacks occur in Western Australia than almost anyplace else on Earth. In order to help protect swimmers and surfers, the state government relies largely on helicopter-based spotters, plus members of the public who report their own sightings. Now, however, the Department of Fisheries has introduced a new system, in which the toothy fishes announce their own presence via Twitter. Known as the Shark Monitoring Network, the system utilizes acoustic tags that are attached to the fins of individual sharks, along with buoyed monitoring devices that pick up the signals transmitted by those tags. When a tagged shark swims within range of one of the monitors, its species, size and location is automatically recorded."
The Virtuix Omni "is an omnidirectional treadmill video game peripheral for virtual reality games currently in development by Virtuix," says Wikipedia. With this device and an Oculus Rift, Razer Hydra or a similar "immersive" headset, you can play games equipped to use these devices with your whole body moving in any direction you choose. If you think you saw this product on the Shark Tank TV show or a pitch for it at Kickstarter.com, you're right. You did. The Virtuix Omni people have been pushing their product hard, everywhere they can. Tim ran into their product manager, Colton Jacobs, at the recent AppsWorld conference in London. This video is Tim's record of their conversation.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Commercial package-delivery drones such as those revealed by Amazon and DHL could face danger from more than shotgun-toting, UAV-hunting yahoos following the successful test of a drone-killing laser by the U.S. Army. Though it's more likely to take aim at enemy observation drones than Amazon's package-deliver 'copters, the U.S. Army's High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL-MD) did prove itself in tests last week by shooting down 90 incoming mortars and a series of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). The original goal during the test at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico was to burn out or blow up mortar rounds and blind the cameras or other sensors carried by drones. The laser proved capable enough to damage or slice off the tails of target drones, which brought them down, according to Terry Bauer, HEL MD program manager, as quoted in the Dec. 11 Army announcement of the test. The quarter-sized beam of super-focused light set off the explosives in the 60-millimeter mortars in mid-flight, leaving the rest to fall 'like a rock,' Bauer said. The laser could target only one mortar at a time, but could switch targets quickly enough to bring down several mortars fired in a single volley. The laser and its power source are contained in a single 500-horsepower, four-axle truck but was directed by a separate Enhanced Multi Mode Radar system. The next step is a move from New Mexico to a testing range in Florida early next year 'to test it in rain and fog and things like that,' according to Bauer."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Two investors are Tweeting that Instagram, had it stayed an independent company, could be worth between $5 billion and $15 billion today. That's led to talk of whether Snapchat was right to (reportedly) shoot down Facebook's bid of $3 billion for its business, considering its growth and sizable user base. Snapchat's founders evidently think they can score a better deal within the next few quarters. If they manage to sell their startup a year from now for twice as much, they'll be lauded as extraordinarily smart businessmen—perhaps smarter than the folks at Instagram who sold for a 'measly' $1 billion (and all this despite Snapchat making no revenue). But for other startups in the space, the Snapchat and Instragram stories won't do them much good. Propelled by dreams of ever-increasing millions (perhaps billions!) startup founders could end up turning down perfectly good acquisition offers in favor of continuing to bootstrap — and find their businesses eroding and imploding, as the market for their particular app or service either fades away or (more likely) ends up crowded out by competing software. The startup market is a shark-tank, and most of those who don't get out of the water as soon as possible are eaten, dreams of grandeur or no."
rtoz writes "Researchers at MIT have succeeded in producing and measuring a coupling of photons and electrons on the surface of an unusual type of material called a topological insulator. This type of coupling had been predicted by theorists, but never observed. The researchers suggest that this finding could lead to the creation of materials whose electronic properties could be 'tuned' in real time simply by shining precise laser beams at them. This work opens up a new avenue for optical manipulation of quantum states of matter. Their findings suggest that it's possible to alter the electronic properties of a material — for example, changing it from a conductor to a semiconductor — just by changing the laser beam's polarization. For example, a property called a bandgap — a crucial characteristic for materials used in computer chips and solar cells — can be altered by shining a polarized laser beam at the material."
sighted writes "NASA reports that it has used a pulsed laser beam to transmit data over the 384,633 kilometers (239,000 miles) between the Moon and the Earth at a transfer rate of 622 megabits per second. The transmissions took place between a ground station in New Mexico and the LADEE robotic spacecraft now orbiting the moon. 'LLCD is NASA's first system for two-way communication using a laser instead of radio waves. It also has demonstrated an error-free data upload rate of 20 Mbps transmitted from the primary ground station in New Mexico to the spacecraft currently orbiting the moon. ... LLCD is a short-duration experiment and the precursor to NASA's long-duration demonstration, the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD). LCRD is a part of the agency's Technology Demonstration Missions Program, which is working to develop crosscutting technology capable of operating in the rigors of space. It is scheduled to launch in 2017.'"
dryriver writes "We've seen real laser guns before pulling off tricks like starting small fires, or popping black balloons. That's cool, sure, but it's got nothing—on this handheld laser rifle. Developed by TWI this laser-cutter was initially designed for use by robots, but a few recent tweaks including a pistol-grip and a trigger made it into a human-sized rifle. It is designed specifically with nuclear decommission in mind, specifically chopping up huge pieces of metal infrastructure into bite-sized bits that are easily disposed of. And while it's definitely suited for that, it has some short-comings compared typical rifles. That range is pretty low, for instance, and it's not exactly mobile."
An anonymous reader writes "The Washington Post reports, 'In a case that ruffled feathers in Egypt, authorities have detained a migratory bird that a citizen suspected of being a spy. A man in Egypt's Qena governorate, some 450 kilometers (280 miles) southeast of Cairo, found the suspicious bird among four others near his home and brought them to a police station Friday, said Mohammed Kamal, the head of the security in the region. With turmoil gripping Egypt following the July 3 popularly backed military coup that overthrew the country's president, authorities and citizens remain highly suspicious of anything foreign. Conspiracy theories easily find their ways into cafe discussion — as well as some media in the country. Earlier this year, a security guard filed a police report after capturing a pigeon he said carried microfilm. A previous rumor in 2010 blamed a series of shark attacks along Egypt's Mediterranean coast on an Israeli plot. It wasn't. In the bird's case, even military officials ultimately had to deny the bird carried any spying devices. They spoke Saturday on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to journalists.'"
Lucas123 writes "Marine biologists from OCEARCH, a non-profit shark research project, have been tagging scores of great whites and other shark species with an array of wireless technologies, gathering granular data on the sharks over the past year or more. For example, Mary Lee, a great white shark that's the same weight and nearly the same length as a Buick, was tagged off of Cape Cod and has made beach visits up and down the U.S. East Coast and Bermuda. She came so close to beaches that the research team alerted local authorities. The team attaches an array of acoustic and satellite tags as well as accelerometers to the sharks, which collect more than 100 data points every second — 8.5 million data points per day. The data has provided a detailed, three-dimensional view of the shark's behavior, which the team has been sharing in real time on its website. OCEARCH plans to expand that data sharing over the next few weeks to social networks and classrooms."
Zothecula writes "Despite recent demonstrations by the US Navy, we still think of laser weapons as being things of the future. However, previously-classified British documents prove that not only were the major powers working on laser weapons in the 1970s and 80s, but that they were already being deployed with combat units in war zones. A letter from the Ministry of Defence released under the 30-year rule reveals that laser weapons were deployed on Royal Navy ships during the Falklands War in 1982, and that the British government was concerned about similar weapons being developed behind the Iron Curtain."
cylonlover writes with this news bite about a cool new ground to space laser communication system from NASA and ESA: "Space communications have relied on radio since the first Sputnik in 1957. It's a mature, reliable technology, but it's reaching its limits. The amount of data sent has increased exponentially for decades and NASA expects the trend to continue. The current communications systems are reaching their limits, so NASA and ESA are going beyond radio as a solution. As part of this effort, ESA has finished tests of part of a new communications system, in preparations for a demonstration in October in which it will receive a laser data download from a NASA lunar orbiter."
symbolset writes "Apparently Australians have come up with the brilliant idea: if you don't want to be eaten by a shark, it's best to not go swimming in shark-infested waters in a seal costume. 'Scientists from the University of Western Australia, with designers Shark Attack Mitigation Systems (SAMS), have unveiled two new wetsuits that they say could save lives in the water. Based on a breakthrough discovery that sharks are colour-blind, one wetsuit, labelled the "Elude," is designed to camouflage a swimmer or diver in the sea. At the other extreme, the "Diverter" sports bold white and dark-blue stripes, and is intended to mirror nature's warning signs to ward off any potential shark attack.'"