Trax3001BBS writes "A 65-foot (20-meter) crack has been found in Wanapum Dam, one of the major dams along the Columbia River in southern Washington. Water levels are being lowered to both reduce water pressure and give the inspectors access to the area. 'Earlier this week, an engineer noticed a slight irregular "bowing" above the spillway gates near where cars can drive across the dam. When divers finally took a look under water they found a 2-inch-wide crack that stretched for 65 feet along the base of one of the dam's spillway piers.' The article goes on to say, 'Even if the dam doesn't fail, the significance of the damage is likely to require extensive repairs and that, too, could impact the entire Columbia River system. "All these dams coordinate to generate energy on a regional scope," Stedwick said. "If Wanapum is impacted, that has impacts on dams upstream as well as below." Upstream dams would be required to handle more water; there's only one lower dam (Priest Rapids). After that is the last free flowing section of the Columbia river. I've taken walks along that section, and I've seen it deviate (higher or lower) by amazing amount of water, so it can handle the changing flow rate. Making this situation more complex, a large group of people would like that particular dam removed, as well as the one above and below it (think of the fish!). On top of that, after the Priest Rapids dam (downstream from Wanapum Dam) is the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, once a site for Plutonium production. Either of these issues could generate a ton of attention. Personally, I'd like to give the engineer that noticed a slight irregular 'bowing' my congratulations."
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sciencehabit writes "X-rays of a specific wavelength emanating from the hearts of nearby galaxies and galaxy clusters could be signs of particles of dark matter decaying in space, two independent teams of astronomers report (first study, second study). If that interpretation is correct, then dark matter could consist of strange particles called sterile neutrinos that weigh about 1/100 as much as an electron."
An anonymous reader tips news that Apple's efforts to bring iOS to cars will be shown at the Geneva Motor Show next week. 'Drivers will be able to use Apple Maps as in-car navigation, as well as listen to music and watch films. Calls can be made through the system, which will tie into the Siri voice recognition platform so that messages can be read to the driver who can respond by dictating a reply.' Apple's partners in the automotive industry will be Volvo, Ferrari, and Mercedes Benz to start. Apple first said they were working on this system at last year's WWDC.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Emily Sohn reports at Discovery Magazine that high levels of air pollution in Beijing, where levels of pollution have spiked above 750 micrograms per cubic meter, have caused a run on face masks as people look for ways to protect themselves from the smog. The capital is on its sixth day of an 'orange' smog alert — the second-highest on the scale — with the air tasting gritty and visibility down to a few hundred meters. But experts say that under the hazards they're facing, the masks are unlikely to help much. In fact, images of masked citizens navigating the streets of Beijing highlight the false confidence that people put in face masks in all sorts of situations, including flu outbreaks and operating rooms. For a step up in protection, consumers can buy a category of mask known technically as N95 respirators, which are generally available at hardware stores. N95 facemasks are often used in industrial workplace situations to protect against things like lead dust and welding fumes, and they are certified by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to trap 95 percent of particles sent through them in testing situations. But in order to work N95 respirators need to be professionally fitted to each person's individual face (PDF) to make sure there is a tight seal with no leaks. If they truly fit right, they are uncomfortable to wear."
camperdave writes "I was recently going through a pile of receipts and other papers to put them into order by date. Lacking one of those fancy sorting sticks they have at the office, I wound up with all sorts of piles and I was getting confused as to which pile was for what. Finally, it struck me: Why don't I use one of the many sorting algorithms I learned back in my computer science classes? So I swept all the papers back into the box and did a radix sort on them. It worked like a charm. Since then, I've had occasion to try quicksorts and merge sorts. So, when you have to physically sort things, what algorithm (if any) do you use?"
alphadogg writes "Security and how to protect users from pervasive monitoring will dominate the proceedings when members of Internet Engineering Task Force meet in London starting Sunday. For an organization that develops the standards we all depend on for the Internet to work, the continued revelations made by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden have had wide-ranging repercussions. 'It wasn't a surprise that some activities like this are going on. I think that the scale and some of the tactics surprised the community a little bit. ... You could also argue that maybe we needed the wake-up call,' said IETF Chairman Jari Arkko. Part of that work will also be to make security features easier to use and for the standards organization to think of security from day one when developing new protocols."
An anonymous reader writes "Columnist Jon Evans points out that the tech industry has been slowly getting stranger over the past several years. When you look at the headlines individually, they all seem to make sense, but putting them together and trying to imagine them popping up a decade ago really illustrates how odd it has become. Quoting: 'In Japan, some half-billion dollars' worth of cryptocurrency vanished from a site founded to trade Magic: The Gathering cards. In New Zealand, the world's greatest Call of Duty player has launched a political party to revenge himself on those who had him arrested and seized his sports cars. In Britain, the secret service is busy collecting and watching homegrown porn. Here in Silicon Valley, mighty Apple just revealed that a flagrant, basic programming error gutted the security of all its devices for years. Google, "more wood behind fewer arrows" Google, now has its own navy, to go with its air force and robot army.'"
An anonymous reader sends this news from the University of Washington: "[C]omputer scientists have built a low-cost gesture recognition system that runs without batteries and lets users control their electronic devices hidden from sight with simple hand movements. The prototype, called 'AllSee,' uses existing TV signals as both a power source and the means for detecting a user's gesture command (PDF). 'This is the first gesture recognition system that can be implemented for less than a dollar and doesn't require a battery,' said Shyam Gollakota, a UW assistant professor of computer science and engineering. 'You can leverage TV signals both as a source of power and as a source of gesture recognition.' The researchers built a small sensor that can be placed on an electronic device such as a smartphone. The sensor uses an ultra-low-power receiver to extract and classify gesture information from wireless transmissions around us. When a person gestures with the hand, it changes the amplitude of the wireless signals in the air. The AllSee sensors then recognize unique amplitude changes created by specific gestures."
An anonymous reader writes "A village in the West Papua central highlands runs a telecom network out of a box latched to a tree. The network runs on open source. 'OpenBTS, an all-software cellular transceiver, is at the heart of the network running on that box attached to a treetop. Someday, if those working with the technology have their way, it could do for mobile networks what TCP/IP and open source did for the Internet. The dream is to help mobile break free from the confines of telephone providers' locked-down spectrum, turning it into a platform for the development of a whole new range of applications that use spectrum "white space" to connect mobile devices of every kind. It could also democratize telecommunications around the world in unexpected ways. ... It is a 2G GSM system with two operating channels (GSM absolute radio-frequency channel numbers, or ARFCNs) in the 900MHz range, putting out 10 watts of signal power from an omnidirectional antenna. That gives the system a range of about five kilometers under ideal conditions, but in reality it averages about a three kilometer range because of vegetation and terrain (1.86 miles to 3.10 miles). The whole system is installed in a weatherproof box up a tree and draws less than 80 watts of power.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Time reports that American students and grads were carrying $1.08 trillion in student loan debt at the end of 2013. This compares to just $253 billion a decade earlier. Aggregate debt grew 10% in the past year alone. 'By comparison, overall debt grew just 43% in the last decade and 1.6% over the past year.' About 70% of students graduate with some amount of debt, and the average amount owed is $29,400. 'Delinquencies on student loans have risen dramatically over the past decade: 11.5 percent of graduates were at least 90 days late on paying back their loans at the end of 2013, compared with 6.2 percent delinquencies on student loans in 2003. Moreover, the Fed's figures on delinquencies hide more stark data: nearly half of all students with debt aren't currently in repayment thanks to deferments and forbearances and the fact that students are not expected to pay while they're in school.' An attached graph shows an alarming spike in delinquent loans that looks a bit like mortgage delinquencies did at the beginning of the sub-prime crisis."
An anonymous reader writes "Scientists at NASA and JPL have found evidence of past water movement throughout a Martian meteorite, reviving debate over life on Mars. 'In this new study, Gibson and his colleagues focused on structures deep within a 30-pound (13.7-kilogram) Martian meteorite known as Yamato 000593 (Y000593). The team reports that newly discovered different structures and compositional features within the larger Yamato meteorite suggest biological processes might have been at work on Mars hundreds of millions of years ago. ... Analyses found that the rock was formed about 1.3 billion years ago from a lava flow on Mars. Around 12 million years ago, an impact occurred on Mars which ejected the meteorite from the surface of Mars. The meteorite traveled through space until it fell in Antarctica about 50,000 years ago.'"
An anonymous reader sends in a story about a network engineer named Bryan Seely, who was tired of seeing fake listings and spam on Google Maps. He contacted the company and tried to convince them to fix their system, but didn't have much luck. Afterward, he thought of an effective demonstration. He put up fake listings for the FBI and the Secret Service with phone numbers that sent the calls to him. When people called, he forwarded them to the actual agencies while he listened in. After recording a couple of calls for proof, he went to a local Secret Service office to explain the problem: "After that, Seely says, he got patted down, read his Miranda rights, and put in an interrogation room. Email correspondence with the Secret Service indicates that the special agent in charge called him a 'hero' for bringing this major security flaw to light. They let him go after a few hours. Seely says the fake federal listings, which were both ranked second every time I checked Google Maps, were up for four days. He took them down himself when the Secret Service asked."
rjmarvin writes "The Apache Software Foundation announced that Spark, the open-source cluster-computing framework for Big Data analysis has graduated from the Apache Incubator to a top-level project. A project management committee will guide the project's day-to-day operations, and Databricks cofounder Matei Zaharia will be appointed VP of Apache Spark. Spark runs programs 100x faster than Apache Hadoop MapReduce in memory, and it provides APIs that enable developers to rapidly develop applications in Java, Python or Scala, according to the ASF."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Nick Statt reports at Cnet that at Apple's annual shareholder meeting Friday, Apple CEO Tim Cook shot down the suggestion from a conservative, Washington, DC-based think tank that Apple give up on environmental initiatives that don't contribute to the company's bottom line. The National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), hasn't taken kindly to Apple's increasing reliance on green energy and said so in a statement issued to Apple ahead of the meeting. 'We object to increased government control over company products and operations, and likewise mandatory environmental standards,' said NCPPR General Counsel Justin Danhof demanding that the pledge be voted on at the meeting. 'This is something [Apple] should be actively fighting, not preparing surrender.' Cook responded that there are many things Apple does because they are right and just, and that a return on investment (ROI) was not the primary consideration on such issues. 'When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind. I don't consider the bloody ROI,' said Cook. 'We do a lot of things for reasons besides profit motive, We want to leave the world better than we found it.' Danhof's proposal was voted down and to any who found the company's environmental dedication either ideologically or economically distasteful, Cook advised 'if you want me to do things only for ROI reasons, you should get out of this stock.'"
00_NOP writes "The political battle over Scotland's independence ballot — to take place in September this year — has now moved on to how the BBC project the UK on their national weather forecast. The BBC use a projection based on the view of Britain from geostationary weather satellites and so there is naturally some foreshortening at the northern end of Britain (Scotland, in other words). But nationalist campaigners say this means Scottish viewers are constantly being shown a distorted image of their country which makes it look smaller and hence (in their view) less able to support independence. In response others have suggested that the nationalists are truly 'flat earthers.'"
Bismillah writes "The Vodafone Foundation's Mini Instant Network cellular access site is deployable in ten minutes and can be carried on as hand luggage on commercial airliners. It's only 2G, but hey ..." This reminds me a bit of the Gargoyles in Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash, and useful for more than just emergencies.
sciencehabit writes "700-year-old human feces, preserved in sealed barrels under a town square from the Middle Ages, are shedding new light on the evolution of the bacteria in our guts. Viruses isolated from the ancient poop reveal a growing arms race between our native bacteria and microbial invaders. Such viruses may have been instrumental in helping us digest food, temper inflammation, and fight obesity." Less frightening news that touches on the same domain: European cities (notably Britain) decided to go with sewers instead of barrels, and now, writes reader DW100 "An ISP in the UK has come up with an innovative way to deliver broadband around London: its Victorian sewer network. Geo Networks runs the cables along the roof of the sewers, avoiding any 'waste' issues and providing fast, low-latency, high-fibre services to business and other providers."