The Military

Robots Replace Soldiers In First of Its Kind Obstacle-Breaching Exercise (military.com) 23

Long-time Slashdot reader cold fjord writes: U.S. and British troops have completed a first-of-its-kind exercise using robots for breaching a complex anti-tank/anti-personnel obstacle as part of what was titled the "Robotic Complex Breach Concept demonstration" at the Grafenwoehr training area in Germany. The exercise included a number of robotic systems, including remotely controlled British Army Terrier engineering vehicles (five cameras, including thermal imaging), UAVs for reconnaissance and chemical agent detection, and the M58 Wolf under remote control and used to provide smoke screens...

British Warrant Officer Robert Kemp stated that breaching enemy obstacles is one of the most dangerous tasks on a battlefield, and that, "Any breach like this will have enemy weapons trained in on the area... Roboticizing breach operations takes away the risk of life and makes clearing enemy obstacles much safer." U.S. Army officer 1st Lt. Felix Derosin said, "As an engineer, this means a lot to me... The casualty rate for a breach is expected to be 50 percent. Being able to take our guys away from that, and have some robots go in there, is a very positive thing for us. In the future, this can save engineers' lives."

The engineer added later that "Being able to see it, eyes on, shows me what the future is going to be like, and it's pretty good."
Sci-Fi

Apple Is Developing a TV Show Based On Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series (deadline.com) 141

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Deadline: In a competitive situation, Apple has nabbed a TV series adaptation of Foundation, the seminal Isaac Asimov science fiction novel trilogy. The project, from Skydance Television, has been put in development for straight-to-series consideration. Deadline revealed last June that Skydance had made a deal with the Asimov estate and that David S. Goyer and Josh Friedman were cracking the code on a sprawling series based on the books that informed Star Wars and many other sci-fi films and TV series. Goyer and Friedman will be executive producers and showrunners. Skydance's David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and Marcy Ross also will executive produce.

Originally published as a short story series in Astounding Magazine in 1942, Asimov's Foundation is the complex saga of humans scattered on planets throughout the galaxy, all living under the rule of the Galactic Empire. The protagonist is a psycho-historian who has an ability to read the future and foresees the empire's imminent collapse. He sets out to save the knowledge of mankind from being wiped out. Even the Game of Thrones' creative team would marvel at the number of empires that rise and fall in Foundation. Asimov's trilogy has been tried numerous times as a feature film at Fox, Warner Bros (with Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne, who greenlit The Lord of the Rings), and then at Sony with Independence Day director Roland Emmerich. Many top sci-fi writers have done scripts and found it daunting to constrict the sprawling saga to a feature film format. Most recently, HBO tried developing a series with Interstellar co-writer and Westworld exec producer Jonathan Nolan, but a script was never ordered.

Twitter

Twitter Says It Will Comply With Honest Ads Act To Combat Russia Social Media Meddling (theverge.com) 47

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Twitter today pledged to support a proposed Senate bill that would require technology platforms that sell advertising space to disclose the source of and amount of money paid for political ads. Called the Honest Ads Act, the bipartisan bill was first introduced back in October by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). As part of its transparency efforts, Twitter says it's launched a new platform called the Ads Transparency Center, or ATC, that will "go beyond the requirements of the Honest Ads Act and eventually provide increased transparency to all advertisements on Twitter." Twitter says the platform will increase transparency for political and so-called issue ads, which target specific topics like immigration and gun control, by providing even more information on the origin of an ad that is required by the Honest Ads Act. "We have a dedicated team that is fully resourced to implementing the ATC and are committed to launching it this summer," the company states. "Twitter is moving forward on our commitment to providing transparency for online ads. We believe the Honest Ads Act provides an appropriate framework for such ads and look forward to working with bill sponsors and others to continue to refine and advance this important proposal."
Crime

Backpage Founders Charged With Money Laundering, Aiding Prostitution (theverge.com) 256

Federal authorities have charged the two founders of classified site Backpage.com, along with five other employees, with laundering money and facilitating prostitution. According to The Washington Post, the Justice Department claims Backpage took "consistent and concerted action" to knowingly allow ads for illegal sex work. The indictment alleges that "virtually every dollar flowing into Backpage's coffers represents the proceeds of illegal activity." The Verge reports: Law enforcement agencies seized Backpage's servers last week, and co-founder Michael Lacey was charged in a sealed 93-count indictment, which has now been revealed. Lacey, as well as his co-founder James Larkin, were already charged with violating California money laundering laws, although a judge threw out state-level pimping charges. Beyond Lacey and Larkin, the Backpage indictment includes charges against the site's chief financial officer, operations manager, assistant operations manager, and marketing director. It also charges the executive vice president of one of Backpage's parent companies. Backpage CEO Carl Ferrer, who was previously charged with pimping in California, was not charged in this indictment. The Justice Department claims Backpage's owners tried to cover up the fact that most of its "adult services" ads involved prostitution, and that Backpage allowed child sex traffickers to keep ads on the site as long as they deleted age-related keywords. The indictment also claims that Backpage disguised payments for illegal services by having customers funnel money to foreign bank accounts or apparently unrelated companies, or by transferring funds into cryptocurrency. These federal chargers are reportedly unrelated to the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act, a bill that would make website operators liable for illegal content posted to their sites. The bill is currently awaiting Trump's signature.
Facebook

Facebook CEO Says Not Planning To Extend European Privacy Law Globally (reuters.com) 84

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on Tuesday that the social network had no immediate plans to apply a strict new European Union law on data privacy in its entirety to the rest of the world. The news comes as Facebook reels from a scandal over its handling of personal information of millions of its users. Reuters reports: Zuckerberg told Reuters in a phone interview that Facebook already complies with many parts of the law ahead of its implementation in May. He said the company wanted to extend privacy guarantees worldwide in spirit, but would make exceptions, which he declined to describe. His comments signals that U.S. Facebook users, many of them still angry over the company's handling of personal information, may soon find themselves in a worse position than Europeans. The European law, called the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), is the biggest overhaul of online privacy since the birth of the internet, giving Europeans the right to know what data is stored on them and the right to have it deleted. Asked what parts of the EU law he would not extend worldwide, Zuckerberg said: "We're still nailing down details on this, but it should directionally be, in spirit, the whole thing." He did not elaborate.
Open Source

Interviews: Ask a Question To Christine Peterson, the Nanotech Expert Who Coined the Term 'Open Source' 246

Christine Peterson is a long-time futurist who co-founded the nanotech advocacy group the Foresight Institute in 1986. One of her favorite tasks has been contacting the winners of the institute's annual Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology, but she also coined the term "Open Source software" for that famous promotion strategy meeting in 1998. Now Christine's agreed to answer questions from Slashdot readers. We'll pick the very best questions and forward them along for answers.

Interestingly, Christine was also on the Editorial Advisory Board of NASA's Nanotech Briefs, and on the state of California's nanotechnology task force. Her tech talks at conferences include "Life Extension for Geeks" at Gnomedex and "Preparing for Bizarreness: Open Source Physical Security" at the 2007 Singularity Summit. Another talk argues that the nanotech revolution will be like the information revolution, except that "Instead of with bits, we should do it with atoms," allowing molecule-sized machines that can kill cancer and repair DNA. Her most recent publication is "Cyber, Nano, and AGI RIsks: Decentralized Approaches to Reducing Risks." Christine graduated from MIT with a bachelors in chemistry.

So leave your best questions in the comments. (Ask as many questions as you'd like, but please, one per comment.) We'll pick the very best questions and forward them along for answers.
Wikipedia

Teenage Subway Aficionados Help With the Upkeep of Every One of New York City's 472 Subway Stations -- At Least on Wikipedia (nytimes.com) 54

The New York Times has a feature story about two incredible teenagers who work behind the scenes to improve all of the Wikipedia articles about the New York Subway system. An excerpt: Ryan Ng is a 19-year-old freshman at Baruch College in Manhattan. He studies finance, lives at home with his parents in Queens and is a member of the college's "League of Legends" video game club. But in the somewhat fanatical world of Wikipedia supercontributors, he is best known by his alias, Epicgenius. As Epicgenius, Mr. Ng has made over 180,000 edits to Wikipedia and created more than 17,000 pages for the site. Most of his work is in the service of his particular fixation: updating the articles associated with all 472 stations of the New York Subway system.

"Sometimes I edit before I do homework, which is not a good thing," Mr. Ng said. But he finds his hobby satisfying. "When I improve an article, I feel like I've accomplished something. I see my editing as more of a mission." Mr. Ng discovered Wikipedia editing when he was 13. He recalled wanting to collaborate on the page for "Gangnam Style," the hugely popular 2012 hit by the South Korean performer Psy. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Ng decided to specialize in public transit, which he considered a somewhat more useful pursuit. He knows his hobby can become obsessive because it's happened before.

Sci-Fi

Amazon Plans Blockbuster TV Series Based On Chinese Sci-Fi Trilogy 'The Three-Body Problem' (medium.com) 158

hackingbear writes from a report: Amazon is reportedly likely to earmark $1 billion for a television series (Warning: source paywalled, alternative source) based on the ultra-popular Chinese science fiction trilogy The Three Body Problem. The American video subscription service will likely acquire the rights to the Yugo-winning, extremely popular trilogy of novels written by Liu Cixin and produce three seasons of episodes. The rights to the trilogy are currently owned by Lin Qi, the chairman of Youzu Interactive, a Chinese developer and publisher that typically focuses on online and mobile games.
The Military

Britain's Plan To Build a 2,000 Foot Aircraft Carrier Almost Entirely From Ice (bbc.com) 78

dryriver writes from a report via the BBC: In World War 2, Britain was losing the Battle of the Atlantic, with German U-boats sinking ship after ship. Enter Project Habakkuk, the incredible plan to build an aircraft carrier from ice. The British government wanted a better way of battling German U-boats and needed an aircraft carrier invulnerable to torpedoes and bombs. Inventor Geoffrey Pyke came up with the idea of using solid blocks of ice, strengthened with sawdust, creating the material Pykrete, to build a ship big enough for bombers to land on. Winston Churchill became interested in the plan after Pyke pitched it to him. The proposed ship was to be 610 meters (2,013 feet) long and weigh 1.8 Million tons, considerably larger and heavier than today's biggest ships. It would have hull armor 12 meters (40 feet) thick. Work on building a proof-of-concept prototype started at Patricia Lake, Canada. But when it became clear that the finished aircraft carrier would take until 1945 to build, and cost 10 million pounds, the British government cancelled the project in 1943, and the prototype in Canada was scuppered.
Sci-Fi

Ask Slashdot: Is Beaming Down In Star Trek a Death Sentence? 593

Artem Tashkinov writes: Some time ago, Ars Technica ran a monumental article on beaming of consciousness in Star Trek and its implications, and more importantly, whether it's plausible to achieve that without killing a person in the process.

It seems possible in the Star Trek universe. However, currently physicists find the idea absurd and unreal because there's no way you can transport matter and its quantum state without first destroying it and then recreating it perfectly, due to Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle. The biggest conundrum of all is the fact that pretty much everyone understands that consciousness is a physical state of the brain, which features continuity as its primary principle; yet it surely seems like copying the said state produces a new person altogether, which brings up the problem of consciousness becoming local to one's skull and inseparable from gray matter. This idea sounds a bit unscientific because it introduces the notion that there's something about our brain which cannot be described in terms of physics, almost like soul.

This also brings another very difficult question: how do we know if we are the same person when we wake up in the morning or after we were put under during general anesthesia? What are your thoughts on the topic?
The Almighty Buck

Did Stephen Hawking Owe a Nobel Physicist a Subscription To a Softcore Porn Magazine? (vice.com) 106

dmoberhaus writes: In 1974, Stephen Hawking made a bet with Nobel Prize-winning cosmologist Kip Thorne about a black hole. The wager was a subscription to the softcore porn magazine Penthouse for Thorne or a subscription to "Private Eye" (basically the British equivalent of The Onion) for Hawking. Hawking ultimately lost the bet, but did he ever pay up? Motherboard dug around to find out if Hawking settled this infamous bet.

Motherboard's Daniel Oberhaus wasn't able to get ahold of Thorne, but did manage to track down a copy of the obscure 1997 straight-to-VHS documentary called Black Holes, which is the only evidence that the wager even happened. "In 1990, Stephen Hawking happened to be visiting Los Angeles and he broke into my office and thumb printed off on this bet," Thorne recalls in the video. Oberhaus writes: "Although the status of Cygnus X-1 was an open question in the 70s, by the 90s mounting evidence had forced Hawking to concede the wager. The bet was recorded in a handwritten note scrawled on a piece of card which is shown in the film. It read: 'Whereas Stephen Hawking has a large investment in general relativity and black holes and desires an insurance policy, and whereas Kip Thorne likes to live dangerously without an insurance policy, therefore be it resolved that Stephen Hawking bets 1 year's subscription to 'Penthouse' as against Kip Thorne's wager of a 4-year subscription to 'Private Eye,' that Cygnus X-1 does not contain a black hole of mass above the Chandrasekhar limit.' 'I had given Thorne a subscription to Penthouse, much to his wife's disgust,' a smiling Hawking says in the film."

Graphics

NVIDIA RTX Technology To Usher In Real-Time Ray Tracing Holy Grail of Gaming Graphics (hothardware.com) 159

HotHardware writes: NVIDIA has been dabbling in real-time ray tracing for over a decade. However, the company just introduced NVIDIA RTX, which is its latest effort to deliver real-time ray tracing to game developers and content creators for implementation in actual game engines. Historically, the computational horsepower to perform real-time ray tracing has been too great to be practical in actual games, but NVIDIA hopes to change that with its new Volta GPU architecture and the help of Microsoft's new DirectX Raytracing (DXR) API enhancements. Ray tracing is a method by which images are enhanced by tracing rays or paths of light as they bounce in and around an object (or objects) in a scene. Under optimum conditions, ray tracing delivers photorealistic imagery with shadows that are correctly cast; water effects that show proper reflections and coloring; and scenes that are cast with realistic lighting effects. NVIDIA RTX is a combination of software (the company's Gameworks SDK, now with ray tracing support), and next generation GPU hardware. NVIDIA notes its Volta architecture has specific hardware support for real-time ray tracing, including offload via its Tensor core engines. To show what's possible with the technology, developers including Epic, 4A Games and Remedy Entertainment will be showcasing their own game engine demonstrations this week at the Game Developers Conference. NVIDIA expects the ramp to be slow at first, but believes eventually most game developers will adopt real-time ray tracing in the future.
Wikipedia

Why Do People Go To Wikipedia? A Survey Suggests It's Their Desire To Go Down that Random Rabbit Hole (niemanlab.org) 43

What's motivated people to visit the Wikipedia pages they're reading? Wikipedia recently tried to answer that question at scale by asking a sample of Wikipedia readers last June, "Why are you reading this article today?" It seems a lot of people go to Wikipedia for earnest, serious, information-seeking reasons. From a report: The study collected 215,000 responses from visitors to Wikipedia pages across 14 languages (Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Dutch, English, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Japanese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, and Ukrainian). The survey offered readers choices from seven types of motivations for why they were reading the Wikipedia page they were reading (e.g., "I have a work or school-related assignment, I need to make a personal decision based on this topic, I want to know more about a current event"). Thirty-five percent of Wikipedia users sampled across the 14 languages in this study said they were on the site to find a specific fact. Thirty-three percent said they were looking for an overview of a topic, while 32 percent said they wanted to get information on a topic in-depth.
Youtube

'Why YouTube's New Plan to Debunk Conspiracy Videos Won't Work' (vortex.com) 308

Slashdot reader Lauren Weinstein believes YouTube's plan to combat conspiracy videos with "information cues" is "likely doomed to be almost entirely ineffective." The kind of viewers who are going to believe these kinds of false conspiracy videos are almost certainly going to say that the associated Wikipedia articles are wrong, that they're planted lies... Not helping matters at all is that Wikipedia's reputation for accuracy -- never all that good -- has been plunging in recent years, sometimes resulting in embarrassing Knowledge Panel errors for Google in search results...

The key to avoiding the contamination...is to minimize their visibility in the YouTube/Google ecosystem in the first place... Not only should they be prevented from ever getting into the trending lists, they should be deranked, demonetized, and excised from the YouTube recommended video system. They should be immediately removed from YouTube entirely if they contain specific attacks against individuals or other violations of the YouTube Terms of Service and/or Community Guidelines. These actions must be taken as rapidly as possible with appropriate due diligence, before these videos are able to do even more damage to innocent parties.

Wikipedia

Wikipedia Had No Idea YouTube Was Going To Use It To Fact-Check Conspiracy Theories (gizmodo.com) 136

Yesterday, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki announced that the company would drop a Wikipedia link beneath videos on highly contested topics. We have now learned that Wikipedia did not know about this move prior to the announcement. Gizmodo reports: In a Twitter thread asking the public to support Wikipedia as much as it relies on it, Wikimedia executive director Katherine Maher first suggested that the organization was unaware of YouTube's plans. When asked whether this new module would only apply to English Wikipedia pages, Maher responded, "I couldn't say; this was something they did independent of us." In a statement to Gizmodo, the Wikimedia Foundation confirmed that the organization first learned of the new YouTube feature on Tuesday. "We are always happy to see people, companies, and organizations recognize Wikipedia's value as a repository of free knowledge," a Wikimedia Foundation spokesperson said in a statement. "In this case, neither Wikipedia nor the Wikimedia Foundation are part of a formal partnership with YouTube. We were not given advance notice of this announcement."
Wikipedia

YouTube Will Add Information From Wikipedia To Videos About Conspiracies (theverge.com) 226

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: YouTube will add information from Wikipedia to videos about popular conspiracy theories to provide alternative viewpoints on controversial subjects, its CEO said today. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said that these text boxes, which the company is calling "information cues," would begin appearing on conspiracy-related videos within the next couple of weeks. Wojcicki, who spoke Tuesday evening at a panel at the South by Southwest Interactive festival in Austin, showed examples of information cues for videos about the moon landing and chemtrails. "When there are videos that are focused around something that's a conspiracy -- and we're using a list of well-known internet conspiracies from Wikipedia -- then we will show a companion unit of information from Wikipedia showing that here is information about the event," Wojcicki said. The information cues that Wojcicki demonstrated appeared directly below the video as a short block of text, with a link to Wikipedia for more information. Wikipedia -- a crowdsourced encyclopedia written by volunteers -- is an imperfect source of information, one which most college students are still forbidden from citing in their papers. But it generally provides a more neutral, empirical approach to understanding conspiracies than the more sensationalist videos that appear on YouTube.
Earth

What Image Should Represent All of Humanity On Wikipedia? (wired.com) 349

An anonymous reader writes: If aliens ever do come across the Pioneer spacecraft and make assumptions about the entire human species based on the man and woman etched onto the plaque it carries, this is what they will think of us: We all look like white people; we all look about 30ish years old; we do not wear clothes. It's a problem you encounter anytime you have to choose a few individuals to represent an entire group, and it's one that the editors of Wikipedia have debated for years: What image should grace the top of the "human" entry in the online dictionary?

The photo that's there now, after years of feverish debate, is of an Akha couple from a region of Thailand along the Mekong river. "The photo of the Akha couple remain humanity's type specimens on Wikipedia," writes author Ellen Airhart. "Just as a shriveled northeastern leopard frog at the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology represents its whole species, so this couple stands for all of us."

Such musing about the taxonomic representation of the human species could actually have a big impact on our digital future. "Future scientists will have to teach computers, not aliens, to recognize the human image. Right now, software engineers program artificial intelligence to recognize people by feeding them millions of pictures of faces," she writes. "But whose faces? Computer scientists run into the same questions about gender, race, and culture that the Wikipedia editors encountered. Being able to use more than one photo expands the conversation but does not necessarily make it easier."

United States

'Personal Drone' Crash Causes 335-Acre Wildfire In Coconino National Forest (azcentral.com) 70

McGruber writes: A "personal drone" that crashed and burst into flames was the cause of the Kendrick Fire, a 335-acre fire in the Coconino National Forest in northern Arizona. Coconino National Forest spokesman George Jozens said that about 30 firefighters from the U.S. Forest Service and Summit Fire and Medical worked to quell the fire.
Amiga

A Short Documentary About 81-Year-Old Commodore Amiga Artist, Programmer Samia Halaby (youtube.com) 58

erickhill shares a short documentary about Samia Halaby, an 81-year-old Commodore Amiga artist and programmer: Samia Halaby is a world renowned painter who purchased a Commodore Amiga 1000 in 1985 at the tender age of 50 years old. She taught herself the BASIC and C programming languages to create "kinetic paintings" with the Amiga and has been using the Amiga ever since. Samia has exhibited in prestigious venues such as The Guggenheim Museum, The British Museum, Lincoln Center, The Chicago Institute of Art, Arab World Institute, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art, Sakakini Art Center, and Ayyam Gallery just to name a few.
Android

Google Lens Is Coming To All Android Phones Running Google Photos (theverge.com) 57

Google announced that Google Lens, a machine learning-powered image analyzer, will be rolling out to more Android devices and make an appearance on iOS. "This means users will be able to scan things through the app to receive information, like a dog's breed or a flower type," reports The Verge. Some phones will also be able to access Lens through the Google Assistant too, including flagships from Samsung, Huawei, LG, Motorola, Sony, and HMD / Nokia. "Google says Lens is rolling out in batches, so you might not get the update right away," reports The Verge.

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