Nerval's Lobster writes "Former vice president Al Gore sat down with Wall Street Journal columnist Walt Mossberg at this year's SXSW conference to talk about the future — specifically, what Gore sees as the dangers and opportunities awaiting the planet for the next few years. Gore drilled down into what he referred to as the "stalker economy." The rise of apps such as SnapChat, which allows smartphone users to control how long friends can view messages, is emblematic of people reaching the "gag point" with pervasive recording and surveillance by government and business. "Our democracy has been hacked," Gore also told his audience, referring to the U.S. Constitution as "our operating system." While there's never been a "golden age" of American Democracy, he added, the perils emerging today are new. "If a Congressman or Senator has to spend five hours a day begging special interests or rich people for money," he said, they'll be more concerned about how what they're saying will appeal to those interests—rather than their constituents. In yet another tangent, Gore railed against genetic engineering, including Spider Goats, which are goats with spliced spider DNA that allows them to secrete spider silk along with their milk. The goats breed, extending that trait to future generations. Gore sees such things as a case of science run amok, alternately creepy and scary."
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jjoelc writes "Being one of those 'suffering' through the time change last night, the optimist in me reminded me that it could be much worse. That's when I started wondering how many different time/date standards there really are. Wikipedia is a good starting point, but is sorely lacking in the various formats used by e.g. Unix, Windows, TRS-80, etc. And that is without even getting into the various calendars that have been in and out of use throughout the ages. So how about it? How many different time/date 'standards' can we come up with? I'm betting there are more than a few horror stories of having to translate between them..."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors, took the keynote stage at this year's SXSW to talk about everything from space exploration to electric cars. Joining him onstage to ask questions was Chris Anderson, the former Wired editor and co-founder of 3DRobotics. Musk used his keynote discussion to show off a video of a rocket test, which he said had taken place earlier that week. In the video, a ten-story rocket takes off from a launching pad and hovers several hundred feet in the air before landing in the same spot, upright. It's an early test of SpaceX's reusable-rocket project. 'Reusability is extremely important,' Musk told the audience. 'If you think it's important that humanity extends beyond Earth and becomes a multitenant species' then reusable rockets will prove essential. Musk also talked about the recent controversy involving his Tesla Motors, which started when a New York Times reporter claimed in a much-circulated column that his electric-powered Model S sedan had ground to a halt during a test drive up the East Coast. 'I have no problem with negative feedback,' he told Anderson, in response to the latter's question. 'There have been hundreds of negative articles, and yet I've only spoken out a few times. I don't have a problem with critical reviews, I have a problem with false reviews.'"
astroengine writes "Decades of searching and a 7.5 billion Euro particle accelerator later, why is everyone so down on one of the biggest discoveries of the century? Well, as the evidence strengthens for a bona fide signal of a 'Standard Model' Higgs boson with a mass of 125 GeV, many scientists are disappointed that the discovery of an 'ordinary' — or 'vanilla' according to Caltech cosmologist Sean Carroll — Higgs removes any doubt for more exotic physics beyond the Standard Model. It's a strange juxtaposition; a profound discovery that's also an anticlimax. But to confirm the identity of the Higgs candidate, LHC physicists still need to measure the particle's spin. 'Until we can confidently tie down the particle's spin,' said CERN Research Director Sergio Bertolucci at this week's Rencontres de Moriond conference in Italy, 'the particle will remain Higgs-like. Only when we know that is has spin-zero will we be able to call it a Higgs.'"