By samzenpus from Slashdot's how-lovely-are-your-branches department
writes The Washington Post reports the White House holiday decor is going digital this year, with dog-bots and crowdsourced tree lights. "Thanks to Google's Made with Code initiative," reports a National Park Foundation press release, "girls across the country will experience the beauty of code by lighting up holiday trees in President's Park, one of America's 401 national parks and home to the White House." Beginning on December 2, explains the press release, girls can head over to Google's madewithcode.com (launched last June by U.S. CTO Megan Smith, then a Google X VP), to code a design for one of the 56 state and territory trees. Girls can select the shape, size, and color of the lights, and animate different patterns using introductory programming language and their designs will appear live on the trees. "Made with Code is a fun and easy way for millions of girls to try introductory code and see Computer Science as a foundation for their futures. We're thrilled that this holiday season families across the country will be able to try their hands at a fun programming project," said former Rep. Susan Molinari, who now heads Google's lobbying and policy office in Washington, DC.Read Replies (0)
By samzenpus from Slashdot's keeping-it-running department
writes Amazon is continuing to maintain its vision of an automatic warehouse. Since acquiring robot-maker Kiva, a Massachusetts company, for $775 million in cash in 2012, the e-commerce retailer has been increasingly implementing automation at its gargantuan fulfillment centers. This holiday season, Amazon's little helper is an orange, 320-pound robot. The 15,000 robots are part of the company's high-tech effort to serve customers faster. By lifting shelves of Amazon products off the ground and speedily delivering them to employee stations, the robots dramatically reduce the manual labor to locate and carry items. The Kiva robots, which resemble overgrown Roombas, are capable of lifting as much as 750 pounds and glide across Amazon's warehouse floors by following rows of sensors. Because Kiva-equipped facilities eliminate the need for wide aisles for humans to walk down, eighth-generation centers can also hold 50% more inventory than older warehouses. As Amazon is doing well, the company says that increase of automation hasn't yet led to staff reduction.Read Replies (0)
By timothy from Slashdot's das-Volk-und-den-Staat department
writes The Local (DE) reports, "The Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany's foreign intelligence service, spied on some citizens living abroad, a former lawyer for the spies told MPs on Thursday. Dr Stefan Burbaum ... said that some Germans were targeted as "office holders," a legal loophole the spies used to circumvent the law that protects Germans citizens from being spied on by its own intelligence agency. ... the German spies argue that a citizen working for a foreign company abroad is only protected in his private life, not in his professional communications ... "The office holder is the legal person," Burbaum said. ... "This construct of an office holder is just as absurd in practice as it appears in the law," Konstantin von Notz of the Green party said. Further, foreigners' communications conducted abroad are not protected, even if they are in contact with German people or work for a German company. MPs ... criticized the BND's ability to operate in a "lawless zone" when it came to spying on foreigners. ... the BND regularly retains traffic which it had not received specific permission to investigate which it collects during such trawls. In this way, access acquired under the "G10 law" becomes a "foot in the door" to otherwise closed-off sources of data, Burbaum said." The parliamentary investigation was initiated by reports that Chancellor Merkel's phone was being tapped by NSA, but later it was found that at least five countries were tapping Merkel's phone.Read Replies (0)
By timothy from Slashdot's it's-a-movie-get-through-it department
A review of Interstellar
at Scientific American that was not entirely flattering of the film's scientific aspects caught the eye of Cal Tech physicist Kip Thorne, who served as a consultant on the movie, and has actually written a book on the physics depicted. He and SciAm writer Lee Billings ended up having a conversation about how the film deals with time travel, black holes, and more
. A slice:I think the laws of physics very probably forbid warp drives and traversable wormholes. The research that has gone on over the past 25 years trying to determine whether its possible all point in negative directions, but it’s not a firmly closed door. So there are two issues here. One is that the laws of physics probably forbid it, but, gee, if they don’t, it would be great to have! The other is that the technology required to make a warp drive or a traversable wormhole is so far, far, far beyond the technology needed for a laser sail or a nuclear-pulse rocket that I would not be in favor of putting any significant resources into trying to develop it.
Now, you may have small amounts of money—tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars—spent on this, but nothing is wrong with that. Peer-review, at least in the United States and in Europe, is too strong for there to be any danger of millions or billions of dollars being spent on these things. The technology required for wormholes is so far removed from our current and plausible near-future capabilities that to throw lots of money at it would almost certainly be a total boondoggle.Read Replies (0)
By timothy from Slashdot's big-red-button department
Space.com (which will also carry live web-cam coverage) reports that the <a>Orion capsule</a> is scheduled for a test flight, sans passengers
, on Thursday, December 4th. For this test flight, Orion will make two orbits of Earth, with the second lap taking the capsule 15 times farther from the planet than the International Space Station. Officials have attached more than 1,000 sensors to the spacecraft to monitor its systems during flight.
Orion will also beam down images from its cameras as it is flying through space. NASA will use the information gathered during the test flight to make improvements to the spacecraft before humans set foot onboard.
The Houston Chronicle has an article with some excellent diagrams
of the planned flight, the Orion capsule itself, as well as some of the technological and political history behind the project.Read Replies (0)
By timothy from Slashdot's what-about-segway department
writes Driverless vehicles are coming. The question is: what form will they take? Uber's management has suggested that, rather than owning our own private autonomous, cars, we'll all be glad to pay Uber by the trip for a private ride in one. But an Italian consultant working on experimental driverless vehicles in Europe thinks that the future will lie with automated buses, because driverless cars, "may be able to go and park themselves out of harm's way, they may be able to do more trips per day, but they will still need a 10 ft wide lane to move a flow of 3600 persons per hour ... their advantages completely fade away in an urban street, where the frequent obstacles and interruptions will make robots provide a performance that will be equal, or worse than, that of a human driver, at least in terms of capacity and density."Read Replies (0)
By timothy from Slashdot's plusses-minuses department
Forbes writer Marco Chiappetta revisits Microsoft's Surface Pro 3
half a year after its U.S. debut, and finds the tablet-laptop hybrid has held up pretty well, but suffers some dings worth knowing about before jumping at holiday sale prices, pointing out a number of scenarios where a full-fledged notebook, even if it’s roughly the same size, will be the better choice. I’ve found that the Surface Pro 3 is ideal for users that will likely fire the machine up when sitting at a desk or when in a conference room-type environment that has a table. The Surface Pro 3’s performance is plenty good for everyday computing and office applications, and the screen is top notch. Using the Surface Pro 3 as a notepad with its stylus is also very useful. In fact, over the course of the device’s life, Microsoft has issued a number of firmware, driver, and OS updates that have improved the overall responsiveness and usefulness of the Surface Pro 3.
For those who want a laptop, though for actual laptop use
, the Surface is an awkward fit. However, a thin, tablet-convertible, touchscreen laptop may appear soon from LG, as well
.Read Replies (0)
By timothy from Slashdot's or-just-whenever department
As reported by The Register, Japan's Hayabusa 2
mission to mine (or at least sample) an asteroid, which was to have been launched Saturday, has been delayed by weather
, until a time no earlier than Monday, Dec. 1st
(and from JAXA's web site
, it appears that Dec. 3rd is the current target):If all goes to plan, the space probe will lift off next month and fly out to asteroid 1999JU3 by mid-2018 using ion engines. The craft will orbit the rock before dropping a bomb onto the surface. The resulting blast should leave a hole [in] the asteroid. The probe will then land and dig around in the rubble for material from below the surface using a "sampler horn". The probe will then take off again and head for home carrying its booty, and is due to return in 2020 or slightly later.Read Replies (0)