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KentuckyFC writes One way of predicting the future is to study data about events in the past and build a statistical model that generates the same pattern of data. Statisticians can then use the model to generate data about the future. Now one statistician has taken this art to new heights by predicting the content of the soon-to-be published novels in the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R R Martin. The existing five novels are the basis of the hit TV series Game of Thrones. Each chapter in the existing books is told from the point of view of one of the characters. So far, 24 characters have starred in this way. The statistical approach uses the distribution of characters in chapters in the first five books to predict the distribution in the forthcoming novels. The results suggest that several characters will not appear at all and also throw light on whether one important character is dead or not, following an ambiguous story line in the existing novels. However, the model also serves to highlight the shortcomings of purely statistical approaches. For example, it does not "know" that characters who have already been killed off are unlikely to appear in future chapters. Neither does it allow for new characters that might appear. Nevertheless, this statistical approach to literature could introduce the process of mathematical modelling to more people than any textbook.
An anonymous reader writes Parents in China's Zhejiang province can give their own blood to earn some extra points on their child's high school entrance exam. Four liters of donated blood will get your child one extra point; 6 liters adds two points; and 8 liters, three. From the article: "The policy burst into the national limelight this week, when a Weibo user posted a photo of a bandaged arm, saying, 'For my future child, I say one thing: Relax when you take the high school entrance exam. Your dad's already helped you gain points.' The post was widely shared. Though the user declined to be interviewed by China Real Time, he also clarified his original post, saying that he had in fact been giving blood since age 18."
An anonymous reader writes with this interesting story about what it's like to work at “Store Number 1,” the CIA's Starbucks. The new supervisor thought his idea was innocent enough. He wanted the baristas to write the names of customers on their cups to speed up lines and ease confusion, just like other Starbucks do around the world. But these aren't just any customers. They are regulars at the CIA Starbucks. "They could use the alias 'Polly-O string cheese' for all I care," said a food services supervisor at the Central Intelligence Agency, asking that his identity remain unpublished for security reasons. "But giving any name at all was making people — you know, the undercover agents — feel very uncomfortable. It just didn't work for this location."
Jason Koebler writes With all the conspiracy theories surrounding some high-profile deaths in recent years, how can you, theoretical whistleblower with highly sensitive documents, be assured that your information gets leaked if you're murdered in some government conspiracy? A new dark web service says it's got your back. "Dead Man Zero" claims to offer potential whistleblowers a bit more peace of mind by providing a system that will automatically publish and distribute their secrets should they die, get jailed, or get injured.
Nerval's Lobster writes Placing your iPhone in the microwave will destroy the phone, and possibly the microwave. While that might seem obvious to some people, others have fallen for the "Wave" hoax making its way around online. The fake advertisement insists that the new iOS 8 allows users to charge their iPhones by placing them in a "household microwave for a minute and a half." Microwave energy will not charge your smartphone. To the contrary, it will scorch the device and render it inoperable. If you nuke your smartphone and subsequently complain about it online, people will probably make fun of you. (If you want a full list of things not to place in a microwave, no matter how pretty the flames, check this out.)
MojoKid writes Facebook has become too crowded and too mundane. With around 1.3 billion Facebook users, it's understandable to be overwhelmed by everything and want to get away from it all. However, unlike Facebook which is looking to connect everyone to the internet, there is a new site called Netropolitan that focuses more on exclusivity and privacy. The site was founded by composer and former conductor of the Minnesota Philharmonic Orchestra James Touchi-Peters who wanted to provide a social media site for affluent and accomplished individuals. People wishing to join need only pay a mere $9,000 to join. Of that amount, $6,000 is the initiation fee and the remaining $3,000 is for the annual membership fee which users will continue to pay. So what does the initiation and annual fee get you? For starters, Netropolitan will offer an ad-free experience and will not promote any kind of paid promotions to its members. However, it will allow the creation of groups by businesses in which members can advertise to each other under certain guidelines.
wiredog writes Security researcher Michael Jordon has hacked a Canon's Pixma printer to run Doom. He did so by reverse engineering the firmware encryption and uploading via the update interface. From the BBC: "Like many modern printers, Canon's Pixma range can be accessed via the net, so owners can check the device's status. However, Mr Jordon, who works for Context Information Security, found Canon had done a poor job of securing this method of interrogating the device. 'The web interface has no user name or password on it,' he said. That meant anyone could look at the status of any device once they found it, he said. A check via the Shodan search engine suggests there are thousands of potentially vulnerable Pixma printers already discoverable online. There is no evidence that anyone is attacking printers via the route Mr Jordon found."
An anonymous reader writes The Chinese city of Chongqing has created a smartphone sidewalk lane, offering a path for those too caught up in messaging and tweeting to watch where they're going. "There are lots of elderly people and children in our street, and walking with your cell phone may cause unnecessary collisions here," said Nong Cheng, a spokeswoman for the district's property management company. However, she clarified that the initiative was meant to be a satirical way to highlight the dangers of texting and walking.
dcblogs writes With parts from an electric motor, a few household items, an open-source hardware board running Linux, and some coding, Thomas Ruecker, built a connected toilet that Tweets with each flush. The first reaction to the Twitter feed at @iotoilets may be a chuckle. But the idea behind this and what it illustrates is serious. It tracks water usage, offers a warning about the future of privacy in the Internet of Things, and may say something about the modern job hunt. Ruecker built his device on a recent long weekend after he was laid off as an open source evangelist at a technology firm undergoing "rightsizing," as he put it.
Zothecula writes While their contents might be considered an environmental hazard by many, disposable diapers themselves pose a more significant problem for the environment. According to the EPA, the average baby will work their way through 8,000 of them before they end up in landfill where they'll take centuries to break down. In an effort to reduce the problem, scientists at Mexico's Autonomous Metropolitan University, Azcapotzalco (UAM-A), have turned used diapers to the task of growing mushrooms.
Esther Schindler writes "You're not alone in your struggle against people who think a shell is something you hold to your ear," writes Carol Pinchefsky. "Other techies are out there supporting users in remote offices, fighting the good fight against computer- and user-related mishaps – or at least tolerating user frustration with a modicum of grace." One example she gives is a tech support person whose systems in Brazil went down — during Carnival: "...We had to wait more than a week for the locals to sober up enough to reconnect the line. In the end, I had to walk a tech (who did not know the system) through the process step by step via an interpreter. Of course, the interpreter was not technical. So it was kind of like explaining to your mom to tell your grandfather (who is hard of hearing) how to do something while she is on the phone and he is across the room from her."
An anonymous reader writes with news that the NSF has just awarded a group of researchers a grant to study the life cycle of memes. "Indiana University is receiving nearly $1 million in federal grant money to investigate the genesis, spread, and demise of Internet memes. The grant from the National Science Foundation awards four Indiana researchers $919,917 to for a project called Truthy that will, as the grant's abstract explains, "explore why some ideas cause viral explosions while others are quickly forgotten." (And yes, in case you're wondering, the name was inspired by Stephen Colbert's neologism "truthiness.") The government-funded research is aimed at identifying which memes are organic and which ones are mere astroturf. "While the vast majority of memes arise in a perfectly organic manner, driven by the complex mechanisms of life on the Web, some are engineered by the shady machinery of high-profile congressional campaigns," Truthy's About page explains."
An anonymous reader writes A Florida man currently on trial for murder reportedly attempted to use Siri to garner ideas about where to bury the body of his dead roommate. According to police allegations, a University of Florida student named Pedro Bravo murdered his roommate via strangulation in late September of 2012 over a dispute involving Bravo's ex- girlfriend. According to a detective working the case, Bravo subsequently fired up Siri on his iPhone and asked it "I need to hide my roommate."
An anonymous reader writes The entire South Korean space program has been forced to shut down after its only astronaut resigned for personal reasons. Yi So-yeon, 36, became the first Korean in space in 2008 after the engineer was chosen by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) to lead the country's $25m space project. Her resignation begs questions of KARI regarding whether she was the right person to lead the program and whether the huge cost of sending her into space was a waste of taxpayer's money.
cartechboy writes Self-driving cars are coming, that's nothing new. People are somewhat nervous about this technology, and that's also not news. But it appears self-driving cars are already here, and one idiot was dumb enough to climb out of the driver's seat while his car cruised down the highway. The car in question is a new Infiniti Q50, which has Active Lane Control and adaptive cruise control. Both of which essentially turn the Q50 into an autonomous vehicle while at highway speeds. While impressive, taking yourself out of a position where you can quickly and safely regain control of the car if needed is simply dumb. After watching the video, it's abundantly clear why people should be nervous about autonomous vehicles. It's not the cars and tech we need to worry about, it's idiots like this guy.