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New Mars Crater Spotted In Before-and-After Pictures
Posted by News Fetcher on May 22 '14 at 06:46 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's take-another-look department:
The Bad Astronomer (563217) writes "The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spotted a new crater on the surface of Mars, and, using before-and-after pictures, the impact date has been nailed down to less than a day — it happened on or about March 27, 2012. The crater is 50 meters or so in size, and surrounded by smaller craters that may have been caused by smaller impacts due to the incoming meteoroid breaking up. Several landslides were spotted in the area as well, possibly due to the shock wave of the impact."

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Who Helped Kill Patent Troll Reform In the Senate
Posted by News Fetcher on May 22 '14 at 04:30 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's whoever-has-the-most-money department:
First time accepted submitter VT-802-Software (3663479) writes "A bipartisan proposal to curb patent trolls was shelved by the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Wednesday. 'Supporters of the compromise accuse trial lawyers, universities, pharmaceutical companies and biotech companies for foiling the plan at the eleventh hour. As late as Tuesday, the University of Vermont and a biotech coalition each sent letters to Leahy opposing the legislation. "We believe the measures in the legislation go far beyond what is necessary or desirable to combat abusive patent litigation, and would do serious damage to the patent system," reads one of the letters. "Many of the provisions would have the effect of treating every patent holder as a patent troll."'"

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The World's Worst Planes: Aircraft Designs That Failed
Posted by News Fetcher on May 22 '14 at 03:45 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's what-goes-up-must-come-down department:
dryriver (1010635) writes in with an interesting look at some aircraft that should have stayed on the ground. "It's more than 110 years since mankind first took to the air in a powered aircraft. During that time, certain designs have become lauded for their far-sighted strengths – the Supermarine Spitfire; Douglas DC-3 Dakota; or the Anglo-French Concorde supersonic airliner, to name a few. But then there are planes like the Christmas Bullet. Designed by Dr William Whitney Christmas, who was described by one aviation historian as the 'greatest charlatan to ever see his name associated with an airplane', this 'revolutionary' prototype biplane fighter had no struts supporting the wings; instead, they were supposed to flap like a bird's. Both prototypes were destroyed during their first flights – basically, because Christmas's 'breakthrough' design was so incapable of flight that the wings would twist off the airframe at the first opportunity. Just as many of the world's most enduring designs share certain characteristics, the history of aviation is littered with disappointing designs."

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Why Not Every New "Like the Brain" System Will Prove Important
Posted by News Fetcher on May 22 '14 at 03:15 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's you-keep-using-that-word-I-do-not-think-it-means-what-you-think-it-means department:
An anonymous reader writes "There is certainly no shortage of stories about AI systems that include the saying, 'like the brain'. This article takes a critical look at those claims and just what 'like the brain' means. The conclusion: while not a lie, the catch-phrase isn't very informative and may not mean much given our lack of understanding on how the brain works. From the article: 'Surely these claims can't all be true? After all, the brain is an incredibly complex and specific structure, forged in the relentless pressure of millions of years of evolution to be organized just so. We may have a lot of outstanding questions about how it works, but work a certain way it must. But here's the thing: this "like the brain" label usually isn't a lie — it's just not very informative. There are many ways a system can be like the brain, but only a fraction of these will prove important. We know so much that is true about the brain, but the defining issue in theoretical neuroscience today is, simply put, we don't know what matters when it comes to understanding how the brain computes. The debate is wide open, with plausible guesses about the fundamental unit, ranging from quantum phenomena all the way to regions spanning millimeters of brain tissue.'"

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Russian Meteor: Chelyabinsk Asteroid Had Violent Past
Posted by News Fetcher on May 22 '14 at 02:46 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's use-your-words department:
astroengine (1577233) writes "The asteroid that hit Earth last year and exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, had a prior crash record. Fragments of the asteroid recovered after the powerful Feb. 15, 2013, airburst show it contained an unusual form of the mineral jadeite embedded in glassy structures known as shock veins. Shock veins typically form when the parent body of a meteor or asteroid collides with a larger object in space. Heat and pressure from the impact cause rock to melt. It later reforms bearing vein-shaped patterns. 'Impact-induced jadeite has been found from other shocked meteorites. However, a unique point of the Chelyabinsk jadeite is that it seems to have crystallized from melt. To my knowledge, previously reported jadeite in other meteorites is considered to have formed (by solid-state reaction) without melting,' graduate student Shin Ozawa, with Japan's Tohoku University, wrote in an email to Discovery News."

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NSA Surveillance Reform Bill Passes House 303 Votes To 121
Posted by News Fetcher on May 22 '14 at 01:30 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's better-than-nothing department:
First time accepted submitter strangeintp (892348) writes "The first legislation aimed specifically at curbing US surveillance abuses revealed by Edward Snowden passed the House of Representatives on Thursday, with a majority of both Republicans and Democrats. But last-minute efforts by intelligence community loyalists to weaken key language in the USA Freedom Act led to a larger-than-expected rebellion by members of Congress, with the measure passing by 303 votes to 121. The bill's authors concede it was watered down significantly in recent days but insist it will still outlaw the practice of bulk collection of US telephone metadata by the NSA first revealed by Snowden."

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Printing 3-D Replicas of Human Beings with a Home Brew Printer (Video)
Posted by News Fetcher on May 22 '14 at 01:00 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's honey-i-shrunk-the-gamers department:
When I bumped into Abram Thau at Metrix Createspace in Seattle's Capitol Hill, he showed me a few printed figurines, including a Storm Trooper (of the Star Wars variety), and I thought at first that he had printed them as duplicates of similar-sized commercial products. Not so: It turns out these are made-from-life, specifically from cos-players who have stood on Abram's human-suitable turntable (powered by a chicken rotisserie motor hooked to a 3-D printed pulley) while he scanned them in. Thau's apartment is practically shouting distance from Metrix, but that pulley was made on a large Deltabot filament printer in the corner of his living room. (A living room usefully cluttered with tools, bottles of resin, projectors in various states of repair, and more printed objects.) More interesting still, Thau's figurines are produced with a home-built resin printer. Resin is messier to work with than the filament feedstock of RepRap/Makerbot style printers (and the resin itself has a slight odor), but it allows different results. Overhanging pieces are possible without requiring elaborate support pieces built into the mesh, and the resulting product can be noticeably smoother than typical filament printing, though all 3-D printing techniques are getting better. Thau didn't buy one of the commercially available resin printers, though (like FormLabs's), but instead decided to build his own out of scavenged and off-the-shelf components. Budget concerns and improvisation rule the day (Thau is also a grad student, studying to be a middle school teacher): That means there's a book holding up the projector which is vital to curing the resin, and the printer's case is recycled from a previous one. The results look as good as the affordable commercial ones I've seen, and he's excited to teach others to make their own. Third-party resin makers and a robust market in used projectors mean that other hobbyists can follow his lead and turn their friends into figurines. (Alternate video link)

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California Opens Driverless Car Competition With Testing Regulations
Posted by News Fetcher on May 22 '14 at 12:15 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's johnny-cab department:
smaxp (2951795) writes "California just released rules for testing autonomous vehicles on California's roads and highways. Californians will soon be seeing more autonomous vehicles than just those built by the Google X labs. These vehicles offer great promise, such as freeing the driver's attention for productivity or leisure, better safety and less congestion. It will be a while, though, before we see these vehicles on the road. From the article: 'Getting started requires the RMV’s approval of testing under controlled circumstances prior to testing on public roads. The manufactures must insure the vehicles with a $5 million surety bond. Autonomous vehicle manufacturers need a permit and test drivers need a special license. The RMV will receive applications beginning on July 1, 2014, and the permits that are granted will be announced beginning on September 1, 2014.'"

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CERN's Particle Smashers List Their Toughest Tech Challenges
Posted by News Fetcher on May 22 '14 at 11:30 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's this-is-hard department:
An anonymous reader writes "Researchers at CERN have detailed some of the big technology problems they need to solve to help the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) solve some of the fundamental questions about the nature of the universe. 'You make it, we break it' is the CERN openlab motto which looks at emerging tech: data acquisition, computing platforms, data storage architectures, compute management and provisioning and more are on the to do list."

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Swiss Space Systems Announces Plan To Offer World's Cheapest Zero-G Flights
Posted by News Fetcher on May 22 '14 at 10:30 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's discount-vomit-rocket department:
Zothecula (1870348) writes "Although you'll probably never make it to outer space, Swiss Space Systems (S3) is at least trying to move the zero-gravity experience a little closer to reality for the average person. This week, the company announced its plans to start offering what it claims will be the world's cheapest weightlessness-inducing flights, from 15 international locations."

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Japanese Court Rules Against Restarting Ohi Reactors
Posted by News Fetcher on May 22 '14 at 10:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's fear-is-power-against-power department:
AmiMoJo writes: "A Japanese court has ordered the operator of the Ohi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture, central Japan, not to restart two of its reactors, citing inadequate safety measures. The plant's No. 3 and 4 reactors were halted for regular inspections last September. Local residents filed a lawsuit asking that the reactors be kept offline. They said an estimate of possible tremors is too small, and that the reactors lack backup cooling systems. The operator, Kansai Electric Power Company, has insisted that no safety problems exist."

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Google Fiber: No Charge For Peering, No Fast Lanes
Posted by News Fetcher on May 22 '14 at 09:15 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's will-carry-more-weight-when-their-infrastructure-ages department:
An anonymous reader writes "Addressing the recent controversy over Netflix paying ISPs directly for better data transfer speeds, Google's Director of Network Engineering explains how their Fiber server handles peering. He says, 'Bringing fiber all the way to your home is only one piece of the puzzle. We also partner with content providers (like YouTube, Netflix, and Akamai) to make the rest of your video's journey shorter and faster. (This doesn't involve any deals to prioritize their video 'packets' over others or otherwise discriminate among Internet traffic — we don't do that.) Like other Internet providers, Google Fiber provides the 'last-mile' Internet connection to your home. ... So that your video doesn't get caught up in this possible congestion, we invite content providers to hook up their networks directly to ours. This is called 'peering,' and it gives you a more direct connection to the content that you want. ... We don't make money from peering or colocation; since people usually only stream one video at a time, video traffic doesn't bog down or change the way we manage our network in any meaningful way — so why not help enable it?'"

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It's Time For the Descent Games Return
Posted by News Fetcher on May 22 '14 at 09:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's i-expect-a-kickstarter-project-within-the-week department:
An anonymous reader writes "Gamers of a certain age will probably remember Descent, a game that combined first-person shooters with flight sims in a way that has never really been replicated. GameSpot has an article calling for a new entry in the Descent series, and it reminded me of all the stomach-churning battles I had as a kid (when the game wasn't bringing my 33MHz 486 to its knees). 'Here's where modern gaming innovations make Descent an even more tempting reboot. From the two-dimensional mines of Spelunky to the isometric caves of Path of Exile, procedurally generated levels help deliver fresh experiences to players in a number of genres. The mines of Descent would be perfect candidates for such creation, and they wouldn't have to be limited to the metallic walls and lunar geology of past Descent games.

Imagine exploring organic tunnels carved by some unknown alien creature, or floating past dazzling crystalline stalactites in pristine ancient caves. Perhaps the influences of Red Faction and Minecraft could also come into play as you bored your own shortcuts through layers of destructible sediment. All of Descent's dizzying navigation challenges could be even more exciting with the immersive potential of a virtual reality headset like the Oculus Rift or the Sony Morpheus. Feeling the mine walls close in on you from all sides could get your heart racing, and turning your head to spot shortcuts, power-ups, or delicate environmental details could greatly heighten the sense of being an explorer in an uncharted land.'"


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With the Surface Pro, Microsoft Is Trying To Recreate the PC Market
Posted by News Fetcher on May 22 '14 at 08:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's can't-lose-if-you-don't-fight department:
An anonymous reader writes "An opinion piece at ReadWriteWeb makes an interesting suggestion: Microsoft's efforts in the tablet market aren't aimed at competing with the iPad or any of the Android tablets, but rather inventing a new facet of the PC market — one Microsoft alone is targeting. Quoting: 'Microsoft wants everyone to think the Surface Pro 3 is a tablet, but its pricing gives the game away. Microsoft wants to recreate the lucrative PC market that made the company billions of dollars by repackaging a PC into tablet clothing and then hammering away at the Surface product line until everybody believes that PCs never really went anywhere, they just got a touchscreen and a cellular connection.' This is also supported by the lack of a smaller Surface tablet, which many analysts were predicting before this week's press conference. Microsoft is clearly not pursuing the tablet-for-everyone approach, but instead focusing on users who want productivity out of their mobile computing device. The Surface Pros are expensive, but Microsoft is hoping people will balance that cost against the cost of a work laptop plus a personal tablet."

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Interviews: Ask Jennifer Granick What You Will
Posted by News Fetcher on May 22 '14 at 08:00 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's go-ahead-and-ask department:
samzenpus (5) writes "Jennifer Granick was one of the primary crafters of a 2006 exception to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and served as the EFF's Civil Liberties Director. She has represented many high profile hackers during her career and was sought out by Aaron Swartz after his arrest. She currently serves as the Director of Civil Liberties for the Center for Internet and Society at Stanford Law School. Jennifer has agreed to answer your questions about security, electronic surveillance, data protection, copyright, and the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Please limit yourself to one question per post."

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Is It Really GPS If It Doesn't Use Satellites?
Posted by News Fetcher on May 22 '14 at 07:15 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's is-it-really-a-hot-dog-if-it's-not-made-from-dogs? department:
cartechboy writes: "GPS was originally developed by the military, but today it's in your smartphones, and soon, possibly your watches. Now the British military is developing something called quantum compass. The concept is a GPS-style navigation for submarines that doesn't use satellites. The quantum compass uses the movements of super-cooled subatomic particles to pinpoint a vessel's location. These particles, stored in a vacuum, react to the Earth's magnetic field. The movements caused by this interaction can be used for location positioning. At the moment, the Ministry of Defense's prototype resembles a '1-meter long shoe box,' so the next step is to miniaturize it. It could then be used by individual soldiers, as well as huge ships and submarines. Not only is it useful, but it's secure too—the technology is apparently interference-proof. Is this the future of navigation systems, or the reinvention of the compass? Possibly both."

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5 Years Later, 'Do Not Track' System Ineffective
Posted by News Fetcher on May 22 '14 at 07:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's never-track-me-unless-you-feel-like-tracking-me department:
An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from ComputerWorld:
"In 2009, a few Internet privacy advocates developed an idea that was supposed to give people a way to tell websites they don't want to be monitored as they move from website to website. The mechanism, which would eventually be built into all the major browsers, was called Do Not Track. ... But today, DNT hangs by a thread, neutered by a failure among stakeholders to reach agreement. Yes, if you turn it on in your browser, it sends a signal in the form of an HTTP header to Web companies' servers. But it probably won't change what data they collect. That's because most websites either don't honor DNT — it's currently a voluntary system — or they interpret it in different ways. Another problem — perhaps the biggest — is that Web companies, ad agencies and the other stakeholders have never reached agreement on what "do not track" really means."

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Google Using YouTube Threat As Leverage For Cheaper Streaming Rights
Posted by News Fetcher on May 22 '14 at 05:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's not-playing-fair department:
Sockatume writes: "According to a press release issued by WIN, a group representing independent musicians, Google is threatening to de-list musicians' videos from YouTube if they do not agree to the terms for its unannounced streaming music service. The template contracts issued to musicians are described as 'undervalued' relative to other streaming services, and are not open for negotiation. The press release was issued by WIN but rescinded when Google agreed to further discussions; The Associated Free Press and The Guardian have published stories based on that original release."

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U.S. Drone Attack Strategy Against Al-Qaeda May Be Wrong
Posted by News Fetcher on May 22 '14 at 05:15 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's fighting-fire-with-gasoline department:
An anonymous reader writes "A new study (abstract) in the journal Informational Security evaluates the U.S. military's strategy for killing off al-Qaeda's leadership using remote drone strikes. The study argues that the strategy is ineffective, calling into question both the military's rationale for doing so and the allocation of defense funds to run it. Essentially, there are two different types of terrorist organizations: those held together by a small number of charismatic leaders, and those who have developed their own bureaucracy, almost like a business. 'Companies don't fall apart when they lose their CEO or CFO; other people are being trained to do that job and there are institutional mechanisms preserving the knowledge the CEO brought to the table. Also, rules create clear lines of succession, so destabilizing struggles over who gets to take over the group's leadership become less likely.'

Intelligence on al-Qaeda indicates it's more of a bureaucratic group — unsurprising, since terrorist organizations that have been around for a while tend to evolve that way. Since the drone attacks started, there has been no significant correlation between successful strikes and a reduction in al-Qaeda attacks. 'The case for the drone program, at its heart, is that killing significant numbers of underlings AND a small number of high-level leaders is severely weakening the group's operating ability. Jordan's study suggests that al-Qaeda just isn't the kind of group that can be beaten that way.'"


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World's Smallest Nanomotor Could Power Cell-Sized Nanobots For Drug Delivery
Posted by News Fetcher on May 22 '14 at 04:15 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's getting-small department:
Zothecula (1870348) writes "Scientists at the Cockrell School of Engineering at the University of Texas have built and tested what appears to be the world's smallest, fastest, and longest-running nanomotor yet – so small that it could fit inside a single cell. The advance could be used to power nanobots that would deliver specific drugs to individual living cells inside the human body."

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