First time accepted submitter biodata writes "The BBC is reporting that hundreds of UK commercial air flights have been delayed for most of Saturday due to an internal telephone systems problem in the National Air Traffic Control Service, and delays are likely to continue into the evening. A spokesperson said that it was a different software bug from the one which grounded flights in the summer."
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sciencehabit writes "One does not simply model the climate of Mordor; unless, of course, you are the University of Bristol's Dan Lunt, who has created a climate simulation of J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Using supercomputers and a model originally developed by the U.K. Met Office, his study compares Middle-earth's climate with those of our (modern) and the dinosaur's (Late Cretaceous) worlds. The Middle-earth model reveals that the Shire — home to the Hobbits — would enjoy weather much like England's East Midlands, with an average temperature of 7C and about 61 cm of rainfall each year. An epic journey to Mount Doom, however, would see a shift in climate, with the subtropical Mordor region being more like Los Angeles or western Texas." The full academic paper is available in English, Elvish, and Dwarfish.
Arvydas Juskevicius (say that five times fast) is an independent software developer and hardware hacker based in London (which is where I got a chance to talk with him) who's decided to bring the useful LED signalling capabilities of many modern smartphones into the world of desktop or laptop computers. With his £10 BlinkStick kit (£15 pre-assembled), you get a programmable multi-color LED that's about the size of a flash memory key. Deceptively simple -- it's essentially one giant pixel, after all, which might not sound exciting when you have millions of them on a dense display surface. But that LED light is something you can use as a signal for alarms, or to tell you that you have a message from one app while another is at full-screen, or practically anything else that you can devise software to notice and react to. I get the sense that Juskevicius would prefer that people get the kit version, to help spur interest in actually soldering some hardware rather than just plugging it in. If you're allergic to paying in other than U.S. dollars, the BlinkStick is also available from Adafruit Industries. Watch the video below to see it in action.
DavidGilbert99 writes "The founder of eBay, the parent company of PayPal, Pierre Omidyar has called on U.S. prosecutors to have mercy on the 14 members of Anonymous who are appearing in court this week facing up to 15 years in jail and a $500,000 fine for their part in a DDoS attack against PayPal in 2010. Despite thousands of Anons taking part, and most of the damage being done by two major botnets, the 14 are set to bear all the responsibility if U.S. prosecutors have their way."
doom writes "Ian Sample at the Guardian UK does a really thorough write-up of what's going on with the Fukushima Clean-up. From the article: 'Though delicate and painstaking, retrieving the fuel rod assemblies from the pools is not the toughest job the workers face. More challenging by far will be digging out the molten cores in the reactors themselves. Some of the fuel burned through its primary containment and is now mixed with cladding, steel and concrete. The mixture will have to be broken up, sealed in steel containers and moved to a nuclear waste storage site. That work will not start until some time after 2020.'"
An anonymous reader writes "A medical radioactive material truck has been stolen just outside Mexico City. From the article: 'BBC world affairs correspondent Rajesh Mirchandani says Cobalt-60 could theoretically be used in a so-called "dirty bomb" - an explosive device that could spread radioactive material over a wide area - although there is no official suggestion this was the purpose of the theft. Mexican police are currently conducting a search for the truck and its contents and have issued a press release to alert the public to its potential dangers.'"
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "The Telegraph reports that NASA plans to send turnip, cress, and basil seeds to the Moon inside a specially constructed canister, known as the Lunar Plant Growth Chamber. The chamber will carry enough air for 10 days and NASA says the air in the chamber would be adequate to allow the seeds to sprout and grow for five days. It is hoped that the latest experiment will help to pave the way for astronauts to grow their own food while living on a lunar base. NASA says it will use natural sunlight to germinate the plants inside the chamber and the seeds will grow on pieces of filter paper laden with nutrients. 'If we send plants and they thrive, then we probably can. Thriving plants are needed for life support — food, air, water — for colonists. And plants provide psychological comfort, as the popularity of the greenhouses in Antarctica and on the Space Station show.' The Lunar Plant Growth Chamber is expected to weigh around 2.2lbs and will also carry 10 seeds each of basil and turnips. Upon landing on the Moon a trigger would release a small reservoir of water to wet the filter paper and initiate the germination of the seeds. Photographs of the seedlings would be taken at regular intervals to monitor their progress and compare them to seedlings being growing in similar conditions on Earth."
nk497 writes "Consumer hard drives don't fail any more often than enterprise-grade hardware — despite the price difference. That's according to online storage firm Backblaze, which uses a mix of both types of drive. It studied its own hardware, finding consumer hard-drives had a failure rate of 4.2%, while enterprise-grade drives failed at a rate of 4.6%. CEO Gleb Budman noted: 'It turns out that the consumer drive failure rate does go up after three years, but all three of the first three years are pretty good,' he notes. 'We have no data on enterprise drives older than two years, so we don't know if they will also have an increase in failure rate. It could be that the vaunted reliability of enterprise drives kicks in after two years, but because we haven't seen any of that reliability in the first two years, I'm skeptical.'"
OldJuke writes "Called the YotaPhone, the device pairs a traditional LCD color touch-screen on one side with a black-and-white, electronic-paper display on the other, allowing users to continuously view data in real time without having to constantly wake up their phones and drain their batteries. General interaction will be done through the LCD screen, but the e-paper display allows an image to be displayed at all times — from maps, airline boarding passes and family photos to Twitter messages and emails — but only uses power when the picture changes. BBC News interviewed the company's leader, Vlad Martynov, for a hands-on demonstration."
Rambo Tribble writes "An article in Current Biology (abstract) details the finding that minute particles of plastic waste are affecting marine worms, potentially having grave impacts on marine biodiversity (PDF) and leading to the accumulation of toxins in marine animals. 'The team found that the tiny bits of plastic, which measure 1mm or smaller, transferred pollutants and additive chemicals — such as flame-retardants — into the guts of lugworms (Arenicola marina). This process results in the chemical reaching the creatures' tissue, causing a range of biological effects such as thermal stress and the inability to consume as much sediment.' Unfortunately, policymakers have routinely treated such wastes as benign. The BBC provides more approachable coverage of the findings."
New submitter LordWabbit2 sends this quote from an AP report: "The Vatican Library and Oxford University's Bodleian Library have put the first of 1.5 million pages of ancient manuscripts online. The two libraries in 2012 announced a four-year project to digitize some of the most important works of their collections of Hebrew manuscripts, Greek manuscripts and early printed books. Among the first up on the site Tuesday, are the two-volume Gutenberg bibles from each of the libraries and a beautiful 15th-century German bible, hand-colored and illustrated by woodcuts. ... The Vatican Library was founded in 1451 and is one of the most important research libraries in the world. The Bodleian is the largest university library in Britain."
Rambo Tribble writes "Research out of the University of Philadelphia concludes there are major differences in the neural pathways in the brains of men and women. Men, they say, are wired more front-to-back, women more side-to-side. 'The results establish that male brains are optimized for intrahemispheric and female brains for interhemispheric communication. The developmental trajectories of males and females separate at a young age, demonstrating wide differences during adolescence and adulthood. The observations suggest that male brains are structured to facilitate connectivity between perception and coordinated action, whereas female brains are designed to facilitate communication between analytical and intuitive processing modes.' They propose this may explain why women have been found to be better multitaskers. Of course, this may also have ramifications for what skill and career proclivities each sex exhibits."
An anonymous reader writes with news of a device built by a company in the U.K. which uses pulses of electromagnetic energy to disrupt the electronic systems of modern cars, causing them to shut down and cut the engine. Here's a description of how it works: "At one end of a disused runway, E2V assembled a varied collection of second-hand cars and motorbikes in order to test the prototype against a range of vehicles. In demonstrations seen by the BBC a car drove towards the device at about 15mph (24km/h). As the vehicle entered the range of the RF Safe-stop, its dashboard warning lights and dials behaved erratically, the engine stopped and the car rolled gently to a halt. Digital audio and video recording devices in the vehicle were also affected.''It's a small radar transmitter,' said Andy Wood, product manager for the machine. 'The RF [radio frequency] is pulsed from the unit just as it would be in radar, it couples into the wiring in the car and that disrupts and confuses the electronics in the car causing the engine to stall.'"
Pseudonymous Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto (whether that name represents one person or several) is believed to hold many millions of dollars in Bitcoin. Various attempts have been made to pin down Nakamoto's identity; the IB Times reports today that a (sadly anonymous) analysis points to George Washington University economics professor Nick Szabo, based on textual analysis and some other clues, such as Szabo's expertise in digital currency and his role as founder of GoldCoin. Szabo's blog Unenumerated is fascinating reading, whether or not this analysis is right.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "CNN reports that the 600 horsepower Porsche Carrera GT is notoriously difficult to handle, even for professional drivers. Known as the car actor Paul Walker was riding in when he died, there is no suggestion anyone was to blame for Walker's crash but Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson says drivers are on a 'knife edge' handling the car and described it as 'brutal and savage". 'It is a phenomena — mind blowingly good. Make a mistake — it bites your head off.' Todd Trimble, an exotic car mechanic in Las Vegas, says the Carrera GT is a 'very hard car to drive.' It's (a) pure racer's car. You really need to know what you're doing when you drive them. And a lot of people are learning the hard way.' The sports car has a top speed of 208 mph, a very high-revving V10 engine and more than 600 horsepower says Eddie Alterman, editor-and-chief of Car and Driver magazine. 'This was not a car for novices,' says Alterman. Having the engine in the middle of the car means it's more agile and turns more quickly than a car with the engine in the front or in the rear so it is able to change direction 'very quickly, very much like a race car,' adds Alterman. The Carrera GT is also unusual because it has no electronic stability control which means that it's unforgiving with mistakes. 'Stability control is really good at correcting slides, keeping the car from getting out of shape,' says race car driver Randy Pobst. Alterman concludes that learning to drive a car like a Carrera GT can be extremely tricky. 'Every car is sort of different. And this one, especially since it had such a hair-trigger throttle, because it changed directions so quickly, there is a lot to learn.'"
smf28 writes "In a recent research paper published in Science, a team of researchers at MIT describe a new imaging technique that produces three-dimensional photos with only a single photon per pixel, using essentially one-hundredth the light of the best existing imaging technologies. The researchers say the technology could have a wide variety of low-light imaging applications from military to biological use."
New submitter Raging Bool writes "The BBC is reporting that acquired phobias or aversions by mice can be passed on to subsequent generations. From the article: 'Experiments showed that a traumatic event could affect the DNA in sperm and alter the brains and behavior of subsequent generations. A Nature Neuroscience study shows mice trained to avoid a smell passed their aversion on to their 'grandchildren.''"
Qedward writes "Volvo is starting a pilot project that aims to have 100 self-driving cars on Swedish public roads around the city of Gothenburg by 2017. The project is called 'Drive Me' and is a joint initiative between the Volvo Car Group, the Swedish Transport Administration, the Swedish Transport Agency, Lindholmen Science Park and the City of Gothenburg, Volvo said Monday. Together they will make an effort to eliminate deadly car crashes in Sweden, said Erik Coelingh, technical specialist at Volvo Car Group. In the next few years, Volvo will develop its Scalable Product Architecture (SPA) in its XC90 model. The goal is to have the first self-driving cars available to 100 consumers by 2017, Coelingh said. They will be able to let their cars navigate about 50 typical commuter arteries that include motorway conditions and frequent traffic jams in and around Gothenburg, the country's second largest city."
mrspoonsi writes "Studies suggest red-haired women tend to choose the best passwords and men with bushy beards or unkempt hair, the worst. These studies also reveal that when it comes to passwords, women prefer length and men diversity. On the internet, the most popular colour is blue, at least when it comes to passwords. If you are wondering why, it is largely because so many popular websites and services (Facebook, Twitter and Google to name but three) use the colour in their logo. That has a subtle impact on the choices people make when signing up and picking a word or phrase to form a supposedly super-secret password. The number one conclusion from looking at that data — people are lousy at picking good passwords. 'You have to remember we are all human and we all make mistakes,' says Mr Thorsheim. In this sense, he says, a good password would be a phrase or combination of characters that has little or no connection to the person picking it. All too often, Mr Thorsheim adds, people use words or numbers intimately linked to them. They use birthdays, wedding days, the names of siblings or children or pets. They use their house number, street name or pick on a favourite pop star. This bias is most noticeable when it comes to the numbers people pick when told to choose a four digit pin. Analysis of their choices suggests that people drift towards a small subset of the 10,000 available. In some cases, up to 80% of choices come from just 100 different numbers."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Industry Tap reports that there is a place so quiet you can hear your heart beat, your lungs breathe and your stomach digest. It's the anechoic chamber at Orfield Labs in Minnesota where 3ft of sound-proofing fiberglass wedges and insulated steel and concrete absorbs 99.99% of sound, making it the quietest place in the world. 'When it's quiet, ears will adapt,' says the company's founder and president, Steven Orfield. 'The quieter the room, the more things you hear. You'll hear your heart beating, sometimes you can hear your lungs, hear your stomach gurgling loudly. In the anechoic chamber, you become the sound.' The chamber is used by a multitude of manufacturers, to test how loud their products are and the space normally rents for $300 to $400 an hour. 'It's used for formal product testing, for research into the sound of different things — heart valves, the sound of the display of a cellphone, the sound of a switch on a car dashboard.' But the strangest thing about the chamber is that sensory deprivation makes the room extremely disorienting, and people can rarely stay in the dark space for long. As the minutes tick by in absolute quiet, the human mind begins to lose its grip, causing test subjects to experience visual and aural hallucinations. 'We challenge people to sit in the chamber in the dark — one reporter stayed in there for 45 minutes,' says Orfield who says even he can't stand the quiet for more than about 30 minutes. Nasa uses a similar chamber to test its astronauts putting them in a water-filled tank inside the room to see 'how long it takes before hallucinations take place and whether they could work through it.'"