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Education

Why America's Obsession With STEM Education Is Dangerous 24

Posted by timothy
from the fallacy-of-the-excluded-middle dept.
HughPickens.com writes According to an op-ed by Fareed Zakaria in the Washington Post, if Americans are united in any conviction these days, it is that we urgently need to shift the country's education toward the teaching of specific, technical skills, expand STEM courses (science, technology, engineering and math) and deemphasize the humanities. "It is the only way, we are told, to ensure that Americans survive in an age defined by technology and shaped by global competition. The stakes could not be higher." But according to Zakaria the dismissal of broad-based learning, however, comes from a fundamental misreading of the facts — and puts America on a dangerously narrow path for the future.

As Steve Jobs once explained "it's in Apple's DNA that technology alone is not enough — that it's technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing." Zakaria says that no matter how strong your math and science skills are, you still need to know how to learn, think and even write and cites Jeff Bezos' insistence that writing a memo that makes sense is an even more important skill to master. "Full sentences are harder to write," says Bezos. "They have verbs. The paragraphs have topic sentences. There is no way to write a six-page, narratively structured memo and not have clear thinking." "This doesn't in any way detract from the need for training in technology," concludes Zakaria, "but it does suggest that as we work with computers (which is really the future of all work), the most valuable skills will be the ones that are uniquely human, that computers cannot quite figure out — yet. And for those jobs, and that life, you could not do better than to follow your passion, engage with a breadth of material in both science and the humanities, and perhaps above all, study the human condition."
Earth

Cetaceans Able To Focus Sound For Echolocation 6

Posted by timothy
from the are-you-a-squeaker dept.
Rambo Tribble writes A recent study from Denmark has determined that porpoises, dolphins and whales can focus the sounds they make, described as "clicks and buzzes", when hunting. This appears to exceed even the capabilities of bats. One researcher described the ability as, "like adjusting a flashlight." The BBC offers approachable, and illustrated coverage.
The Internet

EU Commission Divided Over Nation-Specific Content Blocking 22

Posted by timothy
from the for-me-and-not-for-thee dept.
jfruh writes In theory, the European Union is supposed to act as a single national market. But one area in which practice doesn't live up to theory is geoblocking: Europeans may find that a website they can reach or content they have a legal right to stream in one EU country is blocked in another. Now two members of the EU Commission (the equivalent of a nation's cabinet) are feuding as to whether geoblocks should be eliminated: Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip said that "deep in my heart ... I hate geoblocking," while Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Günther Oettinger, worrying about protecting the European film industry, said "We must not throw the baby out with the bathwater."
Microsoft

License Details Hint MS Undecided On Suing Users of Its Open Source Net Runtime 75

Posted by timothy
from the full-of-shift dept.
ciaran2014 writes With Microsoft proudly declaring its .NET runtime open source, a colleague and I decided to look at the licensing aspects. One part, the MIT licence, is straightforward, but there's also a patent promise. The first two-thirds of the first sentence seems to announce good news about Microsoft not suing people. Then the conditions begin. It seems Microsoft can't yet bring itself to release something as free software without retaining a patent threat to limit how those freedoms can be exercised. Overall, we found 4 Shifty Details About Microsoft's "Open Source" .NET.
NASA

X-37B To Fly Again 16

Posted by timothy
from the gets-high-with-a-little-help-from-its-friends dept.
schwit1 writes The May 6 Atlas 5 launch will carry one of the Air Force's two X-37B mini-shuttles on a new mission in space. "The Air Force won't yet confirm which of the Boeing-built spaceplanes will be making the voyage. The first craft returned in October from a 675-day mission in space following a 224 day trek in 2010. OTV No. 2 spent 469 days in space in 2011-2012 on its only mission so far. "The program selects the Orbital Test Vehicle for each activity based upon the experiment objectives," said Capt. Chris Hoyler, an Air Force spokesperson. "Each OTV mission builds upon previous on-orbit demonstrations and expands the test envelope of the vehicle. The test mission furthers the development of the concept of operations for reusable space vehicles." There are indications that the Air Force wants to attempt landing the shuttle at Kennedy this time.
Input Devices

Control Anything With Gestures: Myo Bluetooth Protocol Released 10

Posted by timothy
from the not-for-use-while-driving dept.
First time accepted submitter Legendary Teeth writes The makers of the Myo Gesture Control Armband (Thalmic Labs) have just released the specs for the Bluetooth protocol it uses. While there are already official SDKs for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android, this means that now anyone can roll their own support for other platforms like Linux or Arduino without needing to use one of the official platforms as a bridge. Anything you can write code for that that can act as a Bluetooth GATT client would now be possible, really. If you aren't familiar with the Myo armband, it's a Bluetooth Low Energy device with 8 EMG pods and an IMU that you wear on your arm. It can read your muscle activity to detect gestures you make with you hands, which you can then use to do things like fly drones, play games, or control music.
China

Bitcoin In China Still Chugging Along, a Year After Clampdown 16

Posted by timothy
from the government-vs-the-people dept.
angry tapir writes A year after China began tightening regulations around Bitcoin, the virtual currency is still thriving in the country, albeit on the fringes, according to its largest exchange. Bitcoin prices may have declined, but Chinese buyers are still trading the currency in high volumes with the help of BTC China, an exchange that witnessed the boom days back in 2013, only to see the bust following the Chinese government's announcement, in December of that year, that banks would be banned from trading in bitcoin.
Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF Questions US Government's Software Flaw Disclosure Policy 13

Posted by Soulskill
from the we'll-do-that-at-least-once-in-the-past-decade dept.
angry tapir writes: It's not clear if the U.S. government is living up to its promise to disclose serious software flaws to technology companies, a policy it put in place five years ago, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. They write, "ODNI has now finished releasing documents in response to our suit, and the results are surprisingly meager. Among the handful of heavily redacted documents is a one-page list of VEP 'Highlights' from 2010. It briefly describes the history of the interagency working group that led to the development of the VEP and notes that the VEP established an office called the 'Executive Secretariat' within the NSA. The only other highlight left unredacted explains that the VEP 'creates a process for notification, decision-making, and appeals.' And that's it. This document, which is almost five years old, is the most recent one released. So where are the documents supporting the 'reinvigorated' VEP 2.0 described by the White House in 2014?"
Botnet

Ask Slashdot: Who's Going To Win the Malware Arms Race? 123

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-you-and-not-me dept.
An anonymous reader writes: We've been in a malware arms race since the 1990s. Malicious hackers keep building new viruses, worms, and trojan horses, while security vendors keep building better detection and removal algorithms to stop them. Botnets are becoming more powerful, and phishing techniques are always improving — but so are the mitigation strategies. There's been some back and forth, but it seems like the arms race has been pretty balanced, so far. My question: will the balance continue, or is one side likely to take the upper hand over the next decade or two? Which side is going to win? Do you imagine an internet, 20 years from now, where we don't have to worry about what links we click or what attachments we open? Or is it the other way around, with threats so hard to block and DDoS attacks so rampant that the internet of the future is not as useful as it is now?
Education

No Film At 11: the Case For the Less-Video-Is-More MOOC 63

Posted by Soulskill
from the better-learning-through-animated-GIFs dept.
theodp writes: In Why My MOOC is Not Built on Video, GWU's Lorena Barba explains why the Practical Numerical Methods with Python course she and colleagues put together has but one video: "Why didn't we have more video? The short answer is budget and time: making good-quality videos is expensive & making simple yet effective educational videos is time consuming, if not necessarily costly. #NumericalMOOC was created on-the-fly, with little budget. But here's my point: expensive, high-production-value videos are not necessary to achieve a quality learning experience." When the cost of producing an MOOC can exceed $100,000 per course, Barba suggests educators pay heed to Donald Bligh's 1971 observation that "dazzling presentations do not necessarily result in learning." So what would Barba do? "We designed the central learning experience [of #NumericalMOOC] around a set of IPython Notebooks," she explains, "and meaningful yet achievable mini-projects for students. I guarantee learning results to any student that fully engages with these!"
Microsoft

Microsoft Rolls Out Project Spartan With New Windows 10 Build 106

Posted by Soulskill
from the this!-is!-spar!-tan! dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Today Microsoft released a new Technical Preview build for Windows 10. Its most notable addition is Microsoft's new browser: Project Spartan. In a brief post explaining the basics of the browser, the company says it includes their personal assistant software, Cortana, as well as "inking" support, which lets you write or type on the webpage you're viewing. But the biggest change, of course is the new rendering engine. The "suggestion box" page for Project Spartan is already filling up with idea from users, including one for Trident/EdgeHTML to be released as open source.
Businesses

Why You Should Choose Boring Technology 164

Posted by Soulskill
from the predictable-headaches dept.
An anonymous reader writes Dan McKinley, a long-time Etsy engineer who now works at online payment processor Stripe, argues that the boring technology option is usually your best choice for a new project. He says, "Let's say every company gets about three innovation tokens. You can spend these however you want, but the supply is fixed for a long while. You might get a few more after you achieve a certain level of stability and maturity, but the general tendency is to overestimate the contents of your wallet. Clearly this model is approximate, but I think it helps. If you choose to write your website in NodeJS, you just spent one of your innovation tokens. If you choose to use MongoDB, you just spent one of your innovation tokens. If you choose to use service discovery tech that's existed for a year or less, you just spent one of your innovation tokens. If you choose to write your own database, oh god, you're in trouble. ... The nice thing about boringness (so constrained) is that the capabilities of these things are well understood. But more importantly, their failure modes are well understood."
Businesses

IT Jobs With the Best (and Worst) ROI 124

Posted by Soulskill
from the becoming-borg-is-at-both-the-top-and-the-bottom dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes: Over at Dice, there's a breakdown of which tech jobs have the greatest return on investment, with regard to high starting salaries and growth potential relative to how much you need to spend on degrees and certifications. Which jobs top this particular calculation? No shockers here: DBAs, software engineers, programmers, and Web developers all head up the list, with salaries that tick into six-figure territory. How about those with the worst ROI? Graphic designers, sysadmins, tech support, and software QA testers often present a less-than-great combination of relatively little money and room for advancement, even if you possess a four-year degree or higher, unless you're one of the lucky few.
Businesses

Amazon Launches 'Home Services' For Repair, Installation, and Other Work 109

Posted by Soulskill
from the remember-when-they-sold-books dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Amazon has quietly rolled out a new business called "Home Services," which aims to be a middleman between customers and all sorts of contracted services. It includes things like appliance repair, home cleaning, installation/assembly of products in your car or home, tutoring (academic and musical), and even performance art. Amazon makes money on this by taking a cut of the total price — between 10 and 20 percent. Since everything is geolocated, they have many more options available in big cities than in small rural communities. One of Amazon's goals is to help standardize the price for various services, so there aren't any surprises when the bill comes due.
The Almighty Buck

Poverty May Affect the Growth of Children's Brains 289

Posted by Soulskill
from the money-is-the-root-of-all dept.
sciencehabit writes: Stark and rising inequality plagues many countries, including the United States, and politicians, economists, and — fortunately — scientists, are debating its causes and solutions. But inequality's effects may go beyond simple access to opportunity: a new study finds that family differences in income and education are directly correlated with brain size in developing children and adolescents. The findings could have important policy implications and provide new arguments for early antipoverty interventions, researchers say.