Crime

Stolen Car Recovered With 11,000 More Miles -- and Lyft Stickers (sfgate.com) 58

The San Francisco Bay Area has more car thefts than any region in America, according to SFGate.com. A National Insurance Crime Bureau report found that between 2012 and 2014, there were an average of 30,000 car thefts a year just in the cities of San Francisco, Oakland and Hayward. But one theft took a strange turn. An anonymous reader quotes their report: Cierra and Josh Barton purchased a new Honda HR-V at the beginning of summer. It was stolen while parked in front of their Livermore apartment complex at the end of August. Four months later, Hayward police called the Bartons to say they had recovered the vehicle... What they found, to their surprise, was a car in relatively good shape -- a few dents, a rattling hood. But in the back and front windows were Lyft stickers, Cierra Barton said.

The odometer had spiked from 2,000 miles to more than 13,000. And in the back seat, Cierra said she found a pillow, a jacket and a stuffed animal. "It wasn't burned out, it wasn't gutted, but it appeared to be have been used as a Lyft," she said. That, Cierra added, was even worse than she imagined. "Not only did someone steal our car, they made money off it!"

Lyft says that "Given the information provided, we are unable to match this vehicle to any Lyft accounts in the area," adding they "stand ready to assist law enforcement in any investigation."
Earth

Flat Earther Now Wants To Launch His Homemade Rocket From a Balloon (themaineedge.com) 206

A Maine alternative newsweekly just interviewed self-taught rocket scientist "Mad" Mike Hughes, who still believes that the earth is a flat, Frisbee-shaped disc. ("Think about this. Australia -- which is supposedly on the other side of the planet -- is upside down yet they're holding the waters in the ocean. Now how is that happening?") And Mike's got a new way to prove it after his aborted launch attempt in November. An anonymous reader writes: "One thing I want to clarify is that this rocket was never supposed to prove that the Earth is flat," Hughes tells an interviewer. "I was never going to go high enough to do that." But he will prove it's flat -- with an even riskier stunt. "I have a plan to go 62 miles up to the edge of space. It's going to cost $1.8 million and that could happen within 10 months."

"I'm going to have a balloon built at about $250,000 with $100,000 worth of hydrogen in it. It will lift me up about 20 miles... If I'm unconscious, they can use the controls to bring the balloon back." But if he's still conscious? "Then I'll fire a rocket through the balloon that will pull me up by my shoulders through a truss for 42 miles at 1.5 g's."

It's an awesome plan "if I don't burn up coming back through the atmosphere."

The interviewer asks Hughes a reasonable question. "Wouldn't it be cheaper and less deadly to just try to drill through the Earth to the other side to prove your point?"

"You can't," Hughes answers. "That's another fallacy. The deepest hole ever drilled is seven-and-a-half miles and it was done in Russia. It took 12 years. You cannot drill through this planet. It dulls every drill bit. All the stuff that you learned in school -- that the core is molten nickel -- it's all lies. No one knows what's in the center of the Earth or how deep it is. I'm no expert at anything, but I know that's a fact."
AI

Predictive Keyboard Tries To Write a New Harry Potter Chapter (cnet.com) 62

Long-time Slashdot reader Baron_Yam writes, "Some AI news items are amusing. This is one of those." ProKras reports: What do you get when a predictive keyboard app tries to write a new Harry Potter story? Apparently, you get Chapter 13 from Harry Potter and the Portrait of What Looked Like a Large Pile of Ash.

The folks at Botnik Studios trained their keyboard using all 7 Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling. They used one set of training data for narration and another for dialogue. Then a bunch of team members got together in a chat room and pitched the best (worst?) lines created using the keyboard, and Botnik editors assembled them into a cohesive(ish) chapter of a story.

The results are about as ridiculous as you might imagine. For example, at one point Ron Weasley "saw Harry and immediately began to eat Hermione's family. Ron's Ron shirt was just as bad as Ron himself." It is never explained how Hermonie knew that the password to a certain locked door was "BEEF WOMEN," nor why "the pig of Hufflepuff pulsed like a large bullfrog." Maybe that was covered in Chapter 12.

Idle

'Cards Against Humanity' Gives Out $1000 Checks (nbcchicago.com) 417

An anonymous reader writes: In November "Cards Against Humanity" announced "a complicated holiday promotion" where people paid $15 for six surprises in December. (For the first surprise in the Cards Against Humanity Saves America promotion, "we purchased a plot of vacant land on the border and retained a law firm specializing in eminent domain to make it as time-consuming and expensive as possible for Trump to build his wall.") The second surprise was the launch of a new podcast filled with positive news, and for the third surprise, they're redistributing the money people paid to join the event. "Most of our subscribers (about 140,000 people) got nothing today — they could have it worse. The next 10,000 subscribers received a full $15 refund of their Cards Against Humanity Saves America purchase. Finally, the poorest 100 people received a check for $1,000, paid for by everyone else."

A new web page shares stories from the grateful participants, and explains the site's careful methodology for determining who needed the $1,000 checks the most. ("We excluded all Canadians. They already have universal healthcare. They'll be fine.") It argues that wealth inequality is the biggest issue in the world, but "Our lawyers advised against our first choice — a campaign to eat all the rich people and live in their houses — so we settled for something more achievable."

Cellphones

'App Truthers' Question the Accuracy of the Domino's Pizza Tracker (foxnews.com) 205

Despite the fact that 60% of its pizza orders arrive digitally, "A growing number of Domino's delivery customers are casting a critical eye at the company's online pizza-tracking app," reports the lifestyle editor at Fox News. "More specifically, they think it's a bunch of crap." Fault-finding app users -- or "app truthers," as The Wall Street Journal calls them -- are subscribing to the notion that the Domino's pizza tracker is nothing but a bunch of smoke and mirrors. One user who spoke with the Journal claims his app told him that "Melinda" would be arriving shortly with his order, but when he opened the door, a delivery man he already knew handed him the pizza. "Ever since then, I knew everything they said, I felt, was made up," he said.

Another man claims the tracker told him his pizza was en route, even though he could see the Domino's restaurant from his house, and there was no sign of the pizza being out for delivery. Others claim the pizza app told them their food had been delivered when it hadn't, or that there were huge discrepancies between when their pies were supposed to be delivered and when they actually arrived. A whole thread on Reddit suggests that the app is just an automated timer disguised to look like a real-time tracker.

In a statement Domino's blamed the problem on employees not entering correct data, while also insisting that "the vast majority of the time Pizza Tracker works as designed."

According to the article, "A person who claimed to be a Domino's employee also said nearly as much in a 2015 Reddit thread. He/she added that the name of the person preparing the pizza -- as far as the app is concerned -- is usually the manager.
The Almighty Buck

Did Elon Musk Create Bitcoin? (cryptocoinsnews.com) 189

An anonymous reader quotes CryptoCoinsNews: It should be no surprise that the elusive hunt for Satoshi, often referred to as the father of Bitcoin, has led to the theory that Elon Musk has been hiding a big secret from all of us. Sahil Gupta, a computer science student at Yale University and former intern at SpaceX, believes just this... Bitcoin was written by someone with mastery of C++, a language Musk has utilized heavily at SpaceX. Musk's 2013 Hyperloop paper also provided insight into his deep understanding of cryptography and economics...

One week before Gupta's Medium post on Musk, another Medium blog was published with a theory that Musk invented Bitcoin for future use on Mars. As radical as this may sounds, the point around Paypal in this article was relevant. Musk has already revolutionized digital currency with his founding role in Paypal, which he sold to eBay in 2002. The author claims Musk is under a non-compete from this deal, leaving him to secrecy about his role in Bitcoin.

Gupta's article cites other clues that suport his theory, including Musk's interest in solving global problems, his unusual silence on the topic of cryptocurrencies, and the fact that "Elon has said publicly he doesn't own any bitcoin, which is consistent with a 'Good Satoshi' who deleted his private keys. This means Satoshi's one million coins (worth about $8 billion) are gone for good." And of course, with a net worth of $19.7 billion, Elon Musk is one of the few people who wouldn't need the money.

UPDATE (11/28/17): On Twitter, Elon Musk has responded, saying the rumors that he created Bitcoin are "not true."
Robotics

Is Sharp's Robot Vacuum Cleaner Vulnerable To Remote Take-over? (jvn.jp) 42

Slashdot reader AmiMoJo reports: Sharp's COCOROBO (heart-bot) vacuum cleaners can not just clean your house. They have cameras that can be viewed from a smart phone, and automatically take pictures of things they find under your sofa. They have microphones and voice recognition, and are able to ask how your day was when you get home from work. You can even activate their speakers and talk to your pets from the office. Unfortunately, so can anyone else if you don't install critical firmware updates.
JPCERT's warning says that the attacker must be on the same LAN to impersonate you, though "as a result, there is a possibility that an arbitrary operation may be conducted."
Space

Asgardia Becomes the First Nation Deployed in Space (cnet.com) 176

An anonymous reader quotes CNET: An Orbital ATK Antares rocket carrying a cubesat named Asgardia-1 launched from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia early Sunday. The milk carton-sized satellite makes up the entirety of territory of the self-proclaimed "Space Kingdom" of Asgardia... Over 300,000 people signed up online to become "citizens" of the nation over the last year. The main privilege of citizenship so far involves the right to upload data to Asgardia-1 for safekeeping in orbit, seemingly far away from the pesky governments and laws of Earth-bound countries...

As of now, Asgardia's statehood isn't acknowledged by any other actual countries or the United Nations, and it doesn't really even fit the definition of a nation since it's not possible for a human to physically live in Asgardia. Not yet, at least. The long-term vision for Asgardia includes human settlements in space, on the moon and perhaps even more distant colonies.

On Tuesday Orbital ATK's spacecraft will dock with the International Space Station for a one-month re-supply mission -- then blast higher into orbit to deploy the space kingdom's satellite. "Asgardia space kingdom has now established its sovereign territory in space," read an online statement.

Next the space kingdom plans to hold elections for 150 Members of Parliament.
AI

When an AI Tries Writing Slashdot Headlines (tumblr.com) 165

For Slashdot's 20th anniversary, "What could be geekier than celebrating with the help of an open-source neural network?" Neural network hobbyist Janelle Shane has already used machine learning to generate names for paint colors, guinea pigs, heavy metal bands, and even craft beers, she explains on her blog. "Slashdot sent me a list of all the headlines they've ever run, over 162,000 in all, and asked me to train a neural network to try to generate more." Could she distill 20 years of news -- all of humanity's greatest technological advancements -- down to a few quintessential words?

She trained it separately on the first decade of Slashdot headlines -- 1997 through 2007 -- as well as the second decade from 2008 to the present, and then re-ran the entire experiment using the whole collection of every headline from the last 20 years. Among the remarkable machine-generated headlines?
  • Microsoft To Develop Programming Law
  • More Pong Users for Kernel Project
  • New Company Revises Super-Things For Problems
  • Steve Jobs To Be Good

But that was just the beginning...


Idle

Data Science Meets Sports Gambling: How Researchers Beat the Bookies (newscientist.com) 78

"A trio of data scientists developed a betting strategy to beat bookmakers at football games," writes austro. [The game Americans call soccer.] New Scientist reports: The team studied 10 years' worth of data on nearly half a million football matches and the associated odds offered by 32 bookmakers between January 2005 and June 2015. When they applied their strategy in a simulation, they made a return of 3.5 per cent. Making bets randomly resulted in a loss of 3.32 per cent. Then the team decided to try betting for real. They developed an online tool that would apply their odds-averaging formula to upcoming football matches. When a favorable opportunity arose, a member of the team would email Kaunitz and his wife, one of whom then placed a bet.

They kept this up for five months, placing $50 bets around 30 times a week. And they were winning. After five months the team had made a profit of $957.50 -- a return of 8.5 per cent. But their streak was cut short. Following a series of several small wins, the trio were surprised to find that their accounts had been limited, restricting how much they could bet to as little as $1.25. The gambling industry has long restricted players who appear to show an edge over the house, says Mark Griffiths at Nottingham Trent University, UK.

The paper "illustrates how the sports gambling industry compensates market inefficiencies with discriminatory practices against successful clients," adds austro, noting that the researchers posted a paper explaining their methodology on arxiv last week. "They also made the dataset and source code available on github. And best of all, they made an online publicly available dashboard that shows a live list of bet recommendations on football matches based on their strategy here or here for anyone to try."
Social Networks

Elon Musk Teases Reddit With Bad Answers About BFR Rocket (reddit.com) 100

Long-time Slashdot reader Rei writes: On Saturday evening, Elon Musk took questions in a Reddit AMA (Ask-Me-Anything) concerning SpaceX's new design for the BFR (Big F* Rocket). But unlike the 2016 IAC conference where many audience questions seemed to be trolling Musk, this time the tables were turned. Asked why Raptor thrust was reduced from 300 tons to 170, Musk replied, "We chickened out." He responded to a statement about landing on the moon by quoting Bob the Builder, while responding to a user's suggestion about caching internet data from Mars by writing simply "Nerd." A question as to whether BFR autogenous pressurization would be heat-exchanger based, Musk replied that they planned to utilize the Incendio spell from Harry Potter -- helpfully providing a Wikipedia link for the spell.

A technical question about the lack of a tail? "Tails are lame." A question about why the number of landing legs was increased from 3 to 4? "Because 4." After one Redditor observed "This is one bizarre AMA so far," Musk replied "Just wait..." While Musk ultimately did follow up some of the trolling with some actual responses, the overall event could be best described as "surreal".

To be fair, Musk provided some serious answers. (And his final comment ended with "Great questions nk!!") But one Redditor suggested Musk's stranger answers were like a threat, along the lines of "Just wait. It will get way more bizarre than that. Let me finish my whiskey."

Musk replied, "How did you know? I am actually drinking whiskey right now. Really."
Earth

Startup Plans To Clean Up Cigarette Butts Using Crows (popularmechanics.com) 205

AmiMoJo writes: A startup in the Netherlands is developing the "Crowbar," a bird feeder that takes discarded cigarette butts as payment for dispensing food. A camera recognises cigarette filters and rejects any other objects placed in the Crowbar. The idea isn't entirely original, a gentleman in the US has already built a similar device and trained crows to deposit coins. The hope is that crows will be able to keep cities clean, sort through refuse and perform other tasks for our mutual benefit.
Popular Mechanics notes that crows "are some of the smartest animals in the world," suggesting this means "we could harness their abilities for the greater good of our planet."
It's funny.  Laugh.

Parody 'Subgenius' Religion Wants to Crowdfund An Alien-Contacting Beacon (gofundme.com) 78

In 1979 the followers of J. R. "Bob" Dobbs founded a satirical religion called the Church of the Subgenius. (Slackware Linux reportedly drew its name from the "pursuit of Slack", a comfort-seeking tenet of the 38-year-old parody religion.) Combining UFOs and conspiracy theories with some social critiques (and a few H.P. Lovecraft characters), the strange group is now re-emerging online with an official Facebook page -- and a slick new video channel.

In "Adventures in the Forbidden Sciences," former church CEO K'taden Legume announces that in January of 2016, "the Subgenius Foundation received an overdue bill for a storage locker in the Pacific Northwest registered under the name J. R. Dobbs. Behind the steel door was a freight elevator leading deep underground to what was long considered to be a myth: The church's long-abandoned forbidden science laboratories. Hidden in a forgotten cavern, packed floor-to-ceiling with thousands of crates dating back to the mid-19th century." Eighteen months of experimentation lead to clues about a flying saucer arriving on "the Black Day" -- and one last chance at eternal salvation and everlasting Slack: the construction of an alien-contacting beacon. Legume calls it "our best last hope for getting off of this planet. We have the tech. We have the moxie to do this, but to finish the beacon -- we need your help."

"The Beacon will be constructed by a team of 'Forbidden Scientists' led by former church CEO Dr. K'taden Legume," writes new Slashdot reader Ktaden Legume, touting a new $25,000 campaign to crowdfund the beacon's construction.

So far it's raised $294.
Star Wars Prequels

Saudi Arabian Textbook Shows Yoda Joining The UN (bbc.com) 87

Long-time Slashdot reader Mikkeles quotes the BBC: Saudi Arabia's education minister has apologised for the production of a school textbook in which the Star Wars character Yoda is seen superimposed on a photograph of the late King Faisal... The image, which shows the diminutive Jedi Master sitting beside King Faisal as he signs the UN Charter in 1945, was created by the Saudi artist Shaweesh. He told the BBC it was not yet clear how it had ended up in the textbook... The 2013 artwork, entitled United Nations (Yoda), is part of a series in which symbols of American pop culture -- ranging from Captain America to Darth Vader -- are superimposed onto archive photos of historical events... Shaweesh said he included Yoda because, like King Faisal, he was "wise, strong and calm".
"Someone should have checked the image before printing," he added.
The Internet

28 Years Later, Pioneering Tech Magazine 'Mondo 2000' Relaunches Online (mondo2000.com) 35

In 1989 Mondo 2000 magazine ran an editorial promising they'd cover "the leading edge in hyperculture...the latest in human/technological interactive mutational forms as they happen." 28 years later, they're now heckling that editorial as they relaunch into a web site. Slashdot reader DevNull127 quotes Motherboard's interview with R.U. Sirius, the founder of Mondo 2000 (as well as its predecessors High Frontiers and Reality Hackers): "It was my idea to merge psychedelics and emerging technologies, and the culture around technology," Sirius said, citing Timothy Leary, writer Robert Anton Wilson and counterculture magazine The Whole Earth Catalog among his inspirations... "I kind of found my way into that particular stream of bohemian culture. It was probably a minority, but there had always been that idea of letting robots replace human work." Soon High Frontiers evolved into a glossy magazine, Reality Hackers ("Some distributors at the time thought it was about hacking people up, and put it on the shelf next to murder mystery magazines"), and later Mondo 2000, which ran from 1989 till 1998...

"We really had to work to convince people that technology was defining the future. Nobody really got it. Doug Rushkoff wrote his book Cyberia, and his first book company cancelled its publication because they said the internet was a fad and that it would be over by the time the book came out"... While he uses Facebook and Twitter, Sirius is critical of their role in colonising what was once a more democratic and open space. "People are being herded into little buildings -- or huge ones -- in what was supposed to be a wide open space in which everybody created their own sites. It's a complete corporate takeover of the net, Facebook in particular... It's definitely not what we were expecting."

Mondo 2000's new online relaunch includes audio of a conversation between William Gibson and Timothy Leary about a Neuromancer game to accompany a proposed film back in 1989. (Gibson complained "That was no interview! That was a drunken business meeting!" when first informed of the magazine's plans to publish it, though he eventually "became friendly.") There's also a 1987 discussion about mind technologies with 73-year-old William S. Burroughs (who was also "an advocate of high technology, and the 'brain machine'"), plus an unpublished John Shirley essay titled "The Next Fifty Years: Why I'm Optimistic Because Everything Will Be Terrible" and new pieces by Paul Krassner ("Alternative Facts") and M.Christian ("La Petite Mort: The Death Of Sex").
Open Source

In Which Linus Torvalds Makes An 'Init' Joke (lkml.org) 359

Long-time Slashdot reader jawtheshark writes: In a recent Linux Kernel Mailing List post, Linux Torvalds finishes his mail with a little poke towards a certain init system. It is a very faint criticism, compared to his usual style. While Linus has no direct influence on the "choices" of distro maintainers, his opinion is usually valued.
In a discussion about how to set rlimit default values for setuid execs, Linus concluded his email by writing, "And yes, a large part of this may be that I no longer feel like I can trust "init" to do the sane thing. You all presumably know why."
Movies

Twitch Announces Six-Day Marathon Of Classic MST3K Episodes (betanews.com) 26

BrianFagioli quotes Beta News: Twitch was designed as a video game streaming service, but since Amazon bought it, it seems to be evolving into something more. While it is still primarily a platform for showing off gaming, people are using it for general videos, broadcasting pretty much anything. Heck, the service has even offered marathons of classic TV shows, such as Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and Power Rangers. Last week Twitch announced its latest marathon offering -- Mystery Science Theater 3000... The "MST3K" marathon will last an impressive six straight days, where 38 episodes will be shown. The experience begins on June 26th at 2pm ET.
Transportation

New Maglev Elevator Can Travel Horizontally, Vertically, and Diagonally (wired.co.uk) 213

An elevator that can move in any direction has been successfully tested by a German company named ThyssenKrupp. An anonymous reader quotes Wired UK: The Multi is the first ropeless lift, built using the same magnetic levitation technology used in Japan's bullet train and proposed for the Hyperloop. In the same way the train slides along a track horizontally, the lift travels both vertically, horizontally and diagonally around a building riding an electromagnetic field, a system known as a linear drive. "If you can run a 500-tonne train on magnets at 500km/h you should be able to elevate a cabin of 500 kilograms or 1,000 kilograms at a speed of five metres per second," [ThyssenKrupp CEO Andreas] Schierenbeck said.
The elevator can cost 3 to 5 times more than a regular elevator -- but can handle higher buildings than a conventional elevator.
EU

Museum of Failure Opens In Sweden (failuremag.com) 253

Slashdot reader swellconvivialguy writes: A new museum in Helsingborg displays more than 70 failed products and objects, including the Apple Newton, Google Glass, Sony Betamax, Harley-Davidson perfume, and the Donald Trump board game. According to curator Samuel West, "none of the companies that I contacted wanted to cooperate. I approached quite a few innovation directors and asked them for examples of failure that they've learned from. I thought it would be easy to get them to collaborate but none of them -- zero -- choose to cooperate."
The curator urges people to accept failure -- "as an essential aspect of progress and innovation."
Businesses

Nutella Used An Algorithm To Design 7 Million Unique Labels (inc.com) 95

An anonymous reader quotes Inc. Millions of Italians can now say they own a one-of-a-kind Nutella jar. In February, 7 million jars appeared on shelves in Italy, all of them boasting a unique label design... "An algorithm has usurped the traditional role of a designer," writes design magazine Dezeen. There are jars with polka dots. Jars with zigzags. Jars with splotchy shapes. All sorts of other patterns, too... All 7 million jars sold out within a month... Due to the sell-out success of these jars, Nutella is reportedly launching the same campaign soon in other European countries, starting with France.
The article includes a video showing some of the labels. The algorithm always kept the original logo, but then "pulled from dozens of patterns and thousands of color combination."

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