How Amazon's Robots Move Everything Around 174

dkatana writes: Amazon's drones have a long way to become reality, but the real magic of the Internet of Things (IoT) is already happening at Amazon's vast fulfillment warehouses in the US. Amazon runs a fleet of thousands of small robots moving storage pods around so orders can be fulfilled in record time. They are so efficient that they can move an entire warehouse and have ready to operate again during the weekend. All together the small robots have traveled over 93 million miles — almost the distance from Earth to the Sun.

LibreOffice Turns Five 147

An anonymous reader writes: Italo Vignoli, founding member of The Document Foundation, reflects on the project's five-year mark in an article on "LibreOffice was launched as a fork of on September 28, 2010, by a tiny group of people representing the community in their capacity as community project leaders. At the time, forking the office suite was a brave -- and necessary -- decision, because the open source community did not expect to survive for long under Oracle stewardship." The project that was does still exist, in the form of Apache Open Office, but along with most Linux distros, I've switched completely to LibreOffice, after some initial misgivings.
The Military

Don't Worry, That Blimp Isn't Watching You Much 43

According to the Baltimore Sun, and despite claims by its maker Raytheon that the system is "performing well right now," the expensive tethered-blimp observatory called JLENS (for "Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System") seems to be mostly a boondoggle. The report focuses on the JLENS installation that was launched in Maryland last year. The Sun makes much of the flight taken by disaffected postal worker Douglas Hughes last April to the White House lawn, directly in the JLENS observation area -- the success of which (to be charitable) casts doubt on the effectiveness of the flying observatory system. Beyond its evidently low utility in doing its job, JLENS seems to be a brittle system, amplying its potential costs as well as its military vulnerability with grand, expensive failures as well as everyday difficulties: in 2010, "a civilian balloon broke loose from its mooring, destroying a grounded JLENS blimp that had cost about $182 million." The article lays out some political shenanigans, too: politicians in a wide range of states have supported the project, which has a nationwide footprint of contractors and possible deployment locations. From the article: Within the Pentagon, Marine Corps Gen. James E. "Hoss" Cartwright, then vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, came to JLENS' defense, arguing that it held promise for enhancing the nation's air defenses. At Cartwright's urging, money was found in 2011 for a trial run of the technology in the skies above Washington. Cartwright retired the same year — and joined Raytheon's board of directors five months later. By the end of 2014, Raytheon had paid him more than $828,000 in cash and stock for serving as a director, Securities and Exchange Commission records show.

Making Liquid Fuels From Sun and Air 163

GregLaden writes: There is promising research on converting atmospheric CO2 and water, using sunlight as a source of energy, into burnable liquid fuels. This is not a carbon capture technique because the CO2 ultimately returns to the atmosphere after burning the fuel, but it could allow the production of enough liquid fuel to allow the rest of the motorized economy to switch to mainly electric. There are key uses for liquid fuels, even if most 'engines' become electric motors. The science of how this works is fairly interesting, and a recent writeup in Science gives some of the details.

More Time Outside Tied To Less Nearsightedness In Children 60

Bookworm09 writes: For primary school children in China, spending an extra 45 minutes per day outside in a school activity class may reduce the risk of myopia, according to a new study. In some parts of China, 90% of high school graduates have nearsightedness, and rates are lower but increasing in Europe and the Middle East, the authors write. "There were some studies suggesting the protective effect of outdoor time in the development of myopia, but most of this evidence is from cross-sectional studies (survey) data that suggest 'association' instead of causality," said lead author Dr. Mingguang He of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou. "Our study, as a randomized trial, is able to prove causality and also provide the high level of evidence to inform public policy."

Miami Installs Free Public Sunscreen Dispensers In Fight Against Cancer 210 writes: If you walk along South Beach in Miami right now, you will notice something strange, even by Florida standards: Dotting the sandscapes are sky-blue boxes that supply free sunscreen. In a novel experiment this year, the City of Miami Beach has put 50 free sunscreen dispensers in public spaces, and those dispensers are full of radiation-mitigating goo, free to any and all passersby. BBC reports that one in five people living in Florida will eventually suffer from skin cancer but the new campaign hopes that increasing people's awareness will lead to a change in behavior. "[The sunscreen dispensers'] visibility — even without additional messaging — could be a good cue to action," says Dr Richard De Visser, a psychologist who has researched health campaigns.

The sunscreen is the type that is effective at preventing cancer and premature skin aging: Broad-spectrum, water resistant, and SPF 30. You can buy a product that is labeled as higher than SPF 30, but it's almost always a waste, and potentially harmful. Above SPF 30, the difference is essentially meaningless. SPF 15 filters out about 93 percent of UV-B rays, SPF 30 filters out 97 percent, SPF 50 filters out 98 percent, and SPF 100 might get you to 99. The problem, though, is the psychology of the larger number. "We put on the "more powerful" sunscreens and then suddenly think we're Batman or some other superhero who can stay out in the sun indefinitely." says James Hamblin. "But no sunscreen is meant to facilitate prolonged exposure of bare skin to direct sunlight." Dr. Jose Lutzky, head of the melanoma program out Mount Sinai, says Florida is second behind California in incidence of melanoma but the trend is going in the wrong direction. "Unfortunately, our numbers are growing. That is really something we do not want to be first in."
United Kingdom

WWII Bomb Shelter Becomes Hi-Tech Salad Farm 122

asjk points out a story of how a World War II bomb shelter, situated 33 meters beneath the streets of London, has been turned into a high-tech hydroponic farm. "The growing system uses energy-efficient LEDs instead of sun, no pesticides, needs 70 percent less water than growing plants in open fields, and less energy than a greenhouse." The computer-controlled environment is designed to shorten the growth cycle of plants like coriander and radishes. They're currently only using about a quarter of the gear necessary to fill up the shelter, but they can produce 5,000-20,000 kilograms of food per year, depending on what they raise. Co-founder Steven Dring said, "We've got to utilize the spaces we've got. There's a finite amount of land and we can grow salads and herbs — which start losing flavor and quality as soon as you cut them — in warehouses and rooftops in cities near the people who will eat them. Use the rural land for things like carrots, potatoes and livestock."

How Close Are We, Really, To Nuclear Fusion? 399

StartsWithABang writes: The ultimate dream when it comes to clean, green, safe, abundant energy is nuclear fusion. The same process that powers the core of the Sun could also power everything on Earth millions of times over, if only we could figure out how to reach that breakeven point. Right now, we have three different candidates for doing so: inertial confinement, magnetic confinement, and magnetized target fusion. Recent advances have all three looking promising in various ways, making one wonder why we don't spend more resources towards achieving the holy grail of energy.

A "Public Health" Approach To Internet of Things Security 48

New submitter StewBeans writes: Guaranteeing your personal privacy in an era when more and more devices are connecting our daily lives to the Internet is becoming increasingly difficult to do. David Bray, CIO of the FCC, emphasizes the exponential growth we are facing by comparing the Internet we know today to a beachball, and the Internet of Everything future to the Sun. Bray says unless you plan to unplug from the Internet completely, every consumer needs to assume some responsibility for the security and overall health of the Internet of Everything. He says this might look similar to public health on the consumer side — the digital equivalent of hand washing — and involve an open, opt-in model for the rapid detection of abnormal trends across global organizations and networks.

Next Texas Energy Boom: Solar 327

Layzej writes: The Wall Street Journal reports: "Solar power has gotten so cheap to produce—and so competitively priced in the electricity market—that it is taking hold even in a state that, unlike California, doesn't offer incentives to utilities to buy or build sun-powered generation." Falling cost is one factor driving investment. "Another reason for the boom: Texas recently wrapped up construction of $6.9 billion worth of new transmission lines, many connecting West Texas to the state's large cities. These massive power lines enabled Texas to become, by far, the largest U.S. wind producer. Solar developers plan to move electricity on the same lines, taking advantage of a lull in wind generation during the heat of the day when solar output is at its highest."

Rosetta Probe's Comet Reaches Closest Approach To the Sun 16

An anonymous reader writes: The European Space Agency has released pictures taken by the Rosetta probe at comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko as it reached closest approach to the Sun. The comet has now travelled 750 million kilometers since Rosetta arrived, and the increased solar radiation has caused ices to sublimate and create jets of gas. "The activity reaches its peak intensity around perihelion and in the weeks that follow – and is clearly visible in the spectacular images returned by the spacecraft in the last months. One image taken by Rosetta's navigation camera was acquired at 01:04 GMT, just an hour before the moment of perihelion, from a distance of around 327 km." They've released both still images and animations of the comet's outgassing. "Rosetta's measurements suggest the comet is spewing up to 300 kg of water vapor – roughly the equivalent of two bathtubs – every second. This is a thousand times more than was observed this time last year when Rosetta first approached the comet. ... Along with gas, the nucleus is also estimated to be shedding up to 1000 kg of dust per second, creating dangerous working conditions for Rosetta." It's a fascinating, close-up look at a comet during its most volatile time.

Our Early Solar System May Have Been Home To a Fifth Giant Planet 60

sciencehabit writes: A cluster of icy bodies in the same region as Pluto could be proof that our early solar system was home to a fifth giant planet, according to new research (abstract). That planet may have 'bumped' Neptune during its migration away from the sun 4 billion years ago, causing the ice giant to jump into its current orbit and scattering a cluster of its satellites into the Kuiper belt in the outer solar system.

Oracle To Debut Low-Cost SPARC Chip Next Month 92

jfruh writes: Of the many things Oracle acquired when it absorbed Sun, the SPARC processors have not exactly been making headlines. But that may change next month when the company debuts a new, lower-cost chip that will compete with Intel's Xeon. "Debut," in this case, means only an introduction, though -- not a marketplace debut. From the article: [T]he Sparc M7 will have technologies for encryption acceleration and memory protection built into the chip. It will also include coprocessors to accelerate database performance. "The idea of Sonoma is to take exactly those same technologies and bring them down to very low cost points, so that people can use them in cloud computing and for smaller applications, and even for smaller companies who need a lower entry point," [Oracle head of systems John] Fowler said. ... [Fowler] didn’t talk about prices or say how much cheaper the new Sparc systems will be, and it could potentially be years before Sonoma comes to market—Oracle isn’t yet saying. Its engineers are due to discuss Sonoma at the Hot Chips conference in Silicon Valley at the end of the month, so we might learn more then.
The Military

Sun Tzu 2.0: The Future of Cyberwarfare 77

An anonymous reader writes: Cyberwar and its ramifications have been debated for some time and the issue has been wrought with controversy. Few would argue that cyber-attacks are not prevalent in cyberspace. However, does it amount to a type of warfare? Let's break this down by drawing parallels from a treatise by 6th century military general, Sun Tzu, who authored one of the most definitive handbooks on warfare, "The Art of War." His writings have been studied throughout the ages by professional militaries and can be used to not only answer the question of whether or not we are in a cyberwar, but how one can fight a cyber-battle.

Interviews: Shaun Moss Answers Your Questions About Mars and Space Exploration 48

Recently the founder of the Mars Settlement Research Organization and author of The International Mars Research Station Shaun Moss agreed to sit down and answer any questions you had about space exploration and colonizing Mars. Below you will find his answers to your questions.

NASA Spies Earth-Sized Exoplanet Orbiting Sun-Like Star 134

An anonymous reader writes: NASA has announced that a new Earth-like planet has been discovered that may be the closest thing yet to a first true "Earth twin." Kepler 452b is located 1,000 light years away, is 60% larger than Earth, and orbits Kepler 452 at a distance similar to that between Earth and the Sun. "It is the first terrestrial planet in the habitable zone around a star very similar to the Sun," says Douglas Caldwell, an astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California.

Grooveshark Co-founder Josh Greenberg Dead At 28 173

alphadogg writes: The tech startup world has been shaken today by news that 28-year-old Josh Greenberg, co-founder of recently defunct music sharing service Grooveshark, was found dead on Sunday in the Florida apartment he shared with his girlfriend. No foul play is suspected, but the local medical examiner is conducting an autopsy, according to the Gainesville Sun. Grooveshark was shut down in April after the company was threatened with legal action and possibly hundreds of millions in damages by several big music labels.

NASA's New Horizons Focuses On Pluto's Largest Moon Charon 77

MarkWhittington writes: New Horizons has already discovered much of what was previously unknown about Pluto, the dwarf planet that is the former ninth planet from the sun. NASA reported that the space probe has also uncovered some of the secrets of Pluto's largest moon, Charon. It has found indications of impact craters on the moon's gray surface as well as a chasm that seems to be bigger than the Grand Canyon on Earth. Charon has a diameter of just 1440 miles. By contrast, Earth has a diameter of 7918 miles.

Double-Dynamo Model Predicts 60% Fall In Solar Output In The 2030s 249

sycodon points out reports of a new model of solar dynamics from University of Northumbria professor Valentina Zharkova, predictions from which "suggest that solar activity will fall by 60 per cent during the 2030s to conditions last seen during the 'mini ice age' that began in 1645." Zharkova's model, based on observation of solar magnetism, "draws on dynamo effects in two layers of the Sun, one close to the surface and one deep within its convection zone." Zharkova’s and her colleages at three other universities believe that this two-layer model "could explain aspects of the solar cycle with much greater accuracy than before — possibly leading to enhanced predictions of future solar behaviour. “We found magnetic wave components appearing in pairs; originating in two different layers in the Sun’s interior. They both have a frequency of approximately 11 years, although this frequency is slightly different [for both] and they are offset in time.”