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Successful Launch of ESA's Herschel and Planck 121

rgarbacz writes "Today at 13:12 GMT, the ESA launched successfully new and long-awaiting spacecraft: Herschel, the infrared telescope with a 3.5m mirror, and Planck, the CMB mapper. The spacecraft were carried by the Ariane-5, which lifted off from Kourou in French Guiana. They will stay in L2 to perform the research. This launch is one of the most expensive and important missions of the European Space Agency. Planck will measure the CMB with an accuracy more than 10 times better than the previous mission, WMAP. Because of this high sensitivity, both spacecraft are cooled to temperatures close to absolute zero by on-board liquid helium; staying in L2 is very helpful to maintain this state. Both spacecraft are designed to observe the Universe at its infancy: Herschel by observing the first stars and galaxies (whichever came first), and Planck by scrutinizing the first photons that were set free, making up the cosmic microwave background radiation."
Classic Games (Games)

The Origins of Pong 14

Gamasutra is running a feature about the origins and development of Pong, and how it helped to kick start the gaming industry. Quoting: "... games found their way onto even the earliest mainframes, starting the ongoing trend of implementing video games wherever a viable platform presented itself. The first known instance of an actual implementation was Alexander Douglas's 1952 creation of OXO (also known as Naughts and Crosses), a simple graphical single-player-versus-the-computer tic-tac-toe game on the EDSAC mainframe at the University of Cambridge. Although more proof of a concept than a compelling gameplay experience, OXO nevertheless set the precedent of using a computer to play games. The first known precursor of Pong debuted in 1958 on a visitors' day at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York. It was there that William Higinbotham and Robert Dvorak demonstrated Tennis for Two, a small analog computer game that used an oscilloscope for its display."

Handling Caller ID Spoofing? 556

An anonymous reader writes "A nice little old lady I know has had her number spoofed by some car warranty scammers. They're calling hundreds of potential victims per day pretending to use her phone number, and the angry ones call her back; some of them have even left death threats. She's terrified. Some well-intending anti-telemarketing folks have posted her address on the 'net as well. How can we figure out where these scammer bastards are, and what's the state of the current legislation to prevent caller ID spoofing? I called the FBI in Boston (near where she lives) and they said they can't help. She's called her phone company, but they said they can't help either. She's had the same number for over 50 years and doesn't want to change it." If the Feds can't or won't handle it, what's the best approach here?

Microsoft's Mundie Sees a Future In Spatial Computing 89

An anonymous reader writes "Speaking at the MIT Emerging Technology Conference, Microsoft Chief Research and Strategy Officer Craig Mundie explained that he sees the industry evolving into 'spatial computing,' and he envisions a 3-D virtual world populated by virtual presences, using a combination of client and cloud services. 'In a few months, the compay plans to test a new virtual reception assistant in some of its campus buildings. The assistant, which takes the form of an avatar, helps schedule shuttle reservations to get people to various locations across the 10-million-square-foot Redmond, Wash., campus. The system includes array microphones and natural language processing by which the avatar listens to the subjects and then interacts with them in real time. The system has been programmed to differentiate people by their clothing. Someone in a suit, for instance, would more likely be a visitor and not a potential shuttle rider.'"

Movie Review, Hellboy II 277

Although I'm not sure the corporate overlords will let me retroactively expense a movie ticket, I wanted to take a few minutes to write my review of Hellboy II. It's been a pretty good summer for movies already: but Wall-E and Iron Man were pretty much perfect A movies. I was a big fan of the original Hellboy comic, the first movie, and of Pan's Labyrinth- my fear was that it could only go downhill. And I was wrong. VERY wrong. Read on for my review which will be mostly spoiler free.

40 Years After Carterphone Ended AT&T Equipment Monopoly 132

fm6 writes "Wednesday was the 40th anniversary of the Carterfone Decision which brought to an end AT&T's monopoly on telephone terminal equipment. Ars Technica has an opinionated but informative backgrounder on this landmark, which pretty much created the telecommunications world as we currently know it."

Bye Bye Bananas — the Return of Panama Disease 519

Ant sends in a disturbing report in The Scientist on an imminent threat to worldwide banana production. "The banana we eat today is not the one your grandparents ate. That one — known as the Gros Michel — was, by all accounts, bigger, tastier, and hardier than the variety we know and love, which is called the Cavendish. The unavailability of the Gros Michel is easily explained: it is virtually extinct. Introduced to our hemisphere in the late 19th century, the Gros Michel was almost immediately hit by a blight that wiped it out by 1960. The Cavendish was adopted at the last minute by the big banana companies — Chiquita and Dole — because it was resistant to that blight, a fungus known as Panama disease... [Now] Panama disease — or Fusarium wilt of banana — is back, and the Cavendish does not appear to be safe from this new strain, which appeared two decades ago in Malaysia, spread slowly at first, but is now moving at a geometrically quicker pace. There is no cure, and nearly every banana scientist says that though Panama disease has yet to hit the banana crops of Latin America, which feed our hemisphere, the question is not if this will happen, but when. Even worse, the malady has the potential to spread to dozens of other banana varieties, including African bananas, the primary source of nutrition for millions..."

Richard Dawkins to Appear on Doctor Who 692

Ravalox writes "In an interview with The Independent, current curator of the Doctor Who legacy Russell T. Davis announced that distinguished evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins would be making an appearance in the new season of Doctor Who. To quote Davies: 'People were falling at his feet ... We've had Kylie Minogue on that set, but it was Dawkins people were worshipping.' Dawkins is the author of many best-selling non-fiction books, from The Selfish Gene and The Blind Watchmaker to The God Delusion, and a renowned advocate of both Darwin's evolutionary theory and the merits of atheism."
Operating Systems

Granular Linux Distro Preview is Worth a Look 119 has an interesting look at Granular Linux, a desktop-oriented distribution that's primary goal is to be easy to use. "With a single CD's worth of included programs, Granular Linux manages to cover a significant portion of normal end user needs, and those applications not already installed can be easily added through Synaptic. The slight problem with video and more serious problem with sound of my machine suggest that Granular is not without its issues, especially when most other distributions work properly on this hardware, but as this is a preview release of version 1.0 I think it can be more or less forgiven. I'd definitely recommend Granular to anyone with an interest in trying out a new distribution. "

Identifying Manipulated Images 162

Jamie found a cool story at MIT Tech Review. (As an aside, it sits behind an interstitial ad AND on 2 pages: normally I reject websites that do that, but it's a slow news day, so I'm letting it through.) Essentially, software is used to analyze light patterns in still photographs. Once you can figure out where the light sources are, it becomes a lot easier to determine if an image has been photoshopped.

Tolkien Trust Sues New Line, May Kill "Hobbit" 450

oboreruhito writes "The AP is reporting that the Tolkien Trust and HarperCollins are suing New Line Cinema for $150 million in compensatory damages, unspecified punitive damages, and a court order revoking New Line's rights to produce any more films on Tolkien properties. The Tolkien Trust says that New Line paid them only $62,500 to make 'The Lord of the Rings' trilogy of films — instead of the agreed-upon 7.5 percent of gross receipts of all film-related revenue. The suit may set back, if not kill, a film adaptation of Lord of the Rings prequel 'The Hobbit,' which Peter Jackson had recently signed up to make after his own legal row with the studio over payment for the sequels."

Mac OS X 10.5.2 Update Brings Welcome Fixes 433

jetpack writes to make sure we're aware that Apple's OS X 10.5.2 update is available and that it contains plenty of improvements and fixes that users have been asking for. Macworld enumerates some of the big ones, saying that the update "shows Apple listens to users" (sometimes). A couple of the new features simply restore Tiger (10.4) capabilities that Leopard (10.5) had inexplicably withdrawn. You can now shut off the much-maligned transparency of the menu bar, and organize your Dock stacks hierarchically and display them as folders. And Apple has provided welcome access to common Time Machine functions in the menu bar.

EPA Sends Data Center Power Study to Congress 127

BDPrime writes "We've all been hearing ad nauseum about power and cooling issues in the data center. Now the EPA has issued a final report to Congress detailing the problem and what might be done to fix it. Most likely what will happen is the EPA will add servers and data centers into its Energy Star program. If you don't feel like reading the entire 133-page report, the 14-page executive summary is a little easier to get through."
United States

A Flawed US Election Reform Bill 188

H.R.811 sounds great: It's stated purpose is "to require a voter-verified permanent paper ballot." Unfortunately, it sounds like the details have some devils, as usual. From the Bev Harris article Is a flawed bill better than no bill?: "[T]he Holt Bill provides for a paper trail (toilet paper roll-style records affixed to DRE voting machines) in 2008, requires more durable ballots in 2010, and requires a complex set of audits. It also cements and further empowers a concentration of power over elections under the White House, gives explicit federal sanction to trade secrets in vote counting, mandates an expensive 'text conversion' device that does not yet exist which is not fully funded, and removes 'safe harbor' for states in a way that opens them up to unlimited, expensive, and destabilizing litigation." Update: 07/11 16:23 GMT by KD : Derek Slater writes "EFF's e-voting expert Matt Zimmerman recently published this article separating the myths about HR 811 from the facts, and countering many of the misleading and outright false claims being made about it."

We're here to give you a computer, not a religion. - attributed to Bob Pariseau, at the introduction of the Amiga