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+ - Opportunity Rover Reaches Martian Day 4,000 of Its 90-Day Mission->

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes: Let's take a moment to appreciate the incredible engineering, scientific, and planning skill that went into the construction and deployment of the Opportunity rover. It landed on Mars with the goal of surviving 90 sols (Martian days), and it has just logged its 4,000th sol of harvesting valuable data and sending it back to us. The Planetary Society blog has posted a detailed update on Opportunity's status, and its team's plans for the future. The rover's hardware, though incredibly resilient, is wearing down. They reformatted its flash drive to block off a corrupted sector, and that solved some software problems that had cropped up. They're currently trying to figure out why the rover unexpectedly rebooted itself. Those events are incredibly dangerous to the rover's survival, so their highest priority right now is diagnosing that issue. Fortunately, weather on Mars is good where the rover is, and it's still able to harvest upwards of 500 Watt-hours of energy from its solar panels. Opportunity recently took an impressive picture of the Spirit of St. Louis crater, and the rover will soon be on its way to enormous clay deposits that could provide valuable information about where we can look for water when we eventually put people on Mars. As always, you can look through Opportunity's images at the official website.
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+ - Why Was Linux The Kernel That Succeeded?-> 2

Submitted by jones_supa
jones_supa writes: One of the most puzzling questions about the history of free and open source software is this: Why did Linux succeed so spectacularly, whereas similar attempts to build a free or open source, Unix-like operating system kernel met with considerably less success? Christopher Tozzi has rounded up some theories, focusing specifically on kernels, not complete operating systems. These theories take a detailed look at the decentralized development structure, pragmatic approach to things, and the rich developer community, all of which worked in favor of Linux.
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+ - Congressional liberals, conservatives unite against NSA spying->

Submitted by SonicSpike
SonicSpike writes: In an ornate room on the first floor of the Capitol, some of the most liberal members of Congress met for lunch on Thursday with nearly a dozen stalwart conservatives who’ve repeatedly taken on their own leadership for being too soft.

The agenda consisted of a single topic, perhaps the only one that would bring together such ideologically divergent politicians in Washington at this moment: their shared disdain for the PATRIOT Act.

With key provisions of the controversial post-9/11 law set to expire at the end of the month, including authority for the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, critics in both parties are preparing to strike. Among those on hand for the meeting were Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan, a card-carrying ACLU member from the liberal mecca of Madison, Wisconsin, and GOP Rep. Thomas Massie, a tea party adherent from Kentucky.

Along with Pocan and Massie, the Thursday gathering drew Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.). The lawmakers, many of them privacy zealots with libertarian leanings, discussed the USA Freedom Act, bipartisan legislation that would rein in the bulk collection of telephone records and reauthorize expiring anti-terror surveillance provisions in the PATRIOT Act.

“We are definitely making it a bipartisan effort because we believe there are people on both sides of the aisle who are interested in protecting the rights of Americans,” Amash said.

Democrats and libertarian-minded Republicans want changes that go beyond what’s currently on the table, but it’s unclear whether they have the numbers. Massie and Amash are key players in a growing conservative bloc of the Republican caucus that in the past has forced Boehner and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to alter legislation that didn’t pass conservative muster.

“People are going to have to make a decision if there are enough real reforms in there to make it worth reauthorizing the PATRIOT Act,” Massie said. “I don’t think the reforms are significant enough.”

“The onus is really on [Republican and Democratic leaders] to have something in place if this is going to run out and they need to reauthorize something,” the Republican added. “We’re trying to figure out how to get a better, stronger [bill] that protects privacy rights.”

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+ - In blow, native Hawaiian panel withdraws support for world's largest telescope->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit writes: Trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) – a state agency established to advocate for native Hawaiins — voted Thursday to withdraw their support for construction of the Thirty-Meter Telescope (TMT) on the summit of the Mauna Kea volcano. The vote follows weeks of protests by Native Hawaiians who say the massive structure would desecrate one of their most holy places. The protests have shut down construction of the telescope, which would be the world’s largest optical telescope if completed.

The vote, which reverses a 2009 decision to endorse the project, strikes a powerful if symbolic blow against a project that, for many native Hawaiians, has come to symbolize more than a century of assaults against their land, culture and sovereignty.

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+ - Can riots be predicted by social media?->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit writes: The broken glass and burned wreckage are still being cleared in the wake of the riots that convulsed Baltimore's streets on 27 April. The final trigger of the unrest was the funeral of a 25-year-old African-American man who had died in police custody, but observers point to many other root causes, from income inequality to racial discrimination. But for a few researchers who are studying Baltimore's unrest, the question is not the ultimate causes of the riot but its mechanism: How do such riots self-organize and spread? One of those researchers, Dan Braha, a social scientist at the New England Complex Systems Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has been collecting data from Twitter that spans the riot from buildup to aftermath, part of a larger study of social media and social unrest around the world. He spoke to Science about how researchers are helping to predict the riots of the future.
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+ - U.S. Senate targets patent trolls 1

Submitted by jeffkoch
jeffkoch writes: Last year, the United States Senate failed to pass bipartisan legislation to combat patent trolls when it was killed by then-Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. Congressional-insider newspaper Roll Call reports today that, “Knowing Reid would no longer control the Senate's legislative schedule in 2015, staff for John Cornyn, (a Republican from Texas), and Charles E. Schumer, (a Democrat from New York)”, began work in February to assemble a new bill and to build support among fellow members of the Senate. Patent law is usually not a partisan issue, and President Barack Obama has called for getting an overhaul to his desk on several occasions including in his 2014 State of the Union speech.
The last overhaul of United States patent law, the America Invents Act, took several years to be developed. The U.S. Congress is likely to act on the proposed legislation before they recess in August.
“Patent trolls are taking a system meant to drive innovation and instead using it to stifle job-creating businesses around the country. Main Street stores, tech startups and more are being smothered by the abuse that is all too common in our patent system, and it’s time for that to end,” Schumer said in a statement. “This bipartisan bill shifts the legal burden back onto those who would abuse the patent system in order to make a quick buck at the expense of businesses that are playing by the rules.”

+ - EM Drive is now a real thing->

Submitted by thayfen
thayfen writes: NASA’s Johnson Space Center has successfully tested an electromagnetic (EM) propulsion drive in a vacuum-- we now have the potential to reach the outer-planets in months-long time-spans! Corporate America wants to build a pipe-line to Titan :(
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+ - Bitcoin is Disrupting the Argentine Economy

Submitted by HughPickens.com
HughPickens.com writes: Nathaniel Popper writes in the NYT that with its volatile currency and dysfunctional banks, Argentina is the perfect place to experiment with a new digital currency. The number of Bitcoin users in Argentina is relatively small; it barely registers on most charts of global Bitcoin usage. But Argentina has been quietly gaining renown in technology circles as the first, and almost only, place where Bitcoins are being regularly used by ordinary people for real commercial transactions. For example, BitPagos is selling bitcoins in over 8,000 Argentine convenience stores and is helping more than 200 hotels, both cheap and boutique, take credit-card payments from foreign tourists. The money brought to Argentina using Bitcoin circumvents the onerous government restrictions on receiving money from abroad

The Rock Hostel is one of hundreds of hotels in the country using BitPagos to collect credit-card payments from foreign customers. If owner Rodriguez Pons accepted credit-card payments from American customers through the usual financial channels, customers would be billed in dollars, and when those dollars came to Pons’s Argentine bank account, they would be converted at the official rate, about 30 percent lower than the black-market rate. It would also take 20 days for Pons to get her pesos. BitPagos helped counter these drawbacks by taking the credit-card payment in the United States and then using the dollars to buy Bitcoins, generally from Coinbase, before sending them to Pons immediately.

Bitcoin proponents like to say that the currency first became popular in the places that needed it least, like Europe and the United States, given how smoothly the currencies and financial services work there. It makes sense that a place like Argentina would be fertile ground for a virtual currency. Inflation is constant: At the end of 2014, for example, the peso was worth 25 percent less than it was at the beginning of the year. And that adversity pales in comparison with past bouts of hyperinflation, defaults on national debts and currency revaluations. “In the long run, Bitcoin will be very disruptive to the developed world,” says Dan Morehead, a former Goldman Sachs executive who now runs a hedge fund focused on Bitcoin. Things are happening sooner in Argentina, he says, because its financial system creates hassles for the people there. But, he added, “Argentina is just a more extreme example of the situation in every country.”

+ - How one tweet wiped $8bn off Twitter's value

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes: Someone mistakenly published earnings information on a Nasdaq-run investor relations page for Twitter before the company officially released the news and it sent the stock into a tailspin. Initially the earnings statement went unnoticed, but soon a Tweet with the results got a lot of attention. The stock lost more than $8 billion at one point as news spread. "We asked the New York Stock Exchange to halt trading once we discovered our Q1 numbers were out, and we published our results as soon as possible thereafter," said Twitter's senior director for investor relations, Krista Bessinger. "Selerity, who provided the initial tweets with our results, informed us that earnings release was available on our Investor Relations site before the close of market. Nasdaq hosts and manages our IR website, and we explicitly instructed them not to release our results until after the market close and only upon our specific instructions, which is consistent with prior quarters. We are continuing to investigate with them exactly what occurred."

+ - Is it dark matter, or a previously unrecognized failure of Newton? 2

Submitted by schwit1
schwit1 writes: The uncertainty of science: Using new data gathered by the 10-meter Keck telescope in Hawaii, astronomers have found that the outer stars of elliptical galaxies exhibit the same behavior as the outer stars of spirals, suggesting once again the existence of dark matter.

One of the most important scientific discoveries of the 20th century was that the spectacular spiral galaxies, such as our own Milky Way, rotate much faster than expected, powered by [the] extra gravitational force of invisible "dark matter" as it is now called. Since this discovery 40 years ago, we have learned that this mysterious substance, which is probably an exotic elementary particle, makes up about 85 percent of the mass in the Universe, leaving only 15 percent to be the ordinary stuff encountered in our everyday lives. Dark matter is central to our understanding of how galaxies form and evolve — and is ultimately one of the reasons for the existence of life on Earth — yet we know almost nothing about it.

"The surprising finding of our study was that elliptical galaxies maintain a remarkably constant circular speed out to large distances from their centers, in the same way that spiral galaxies are already known to do," said Cappellari. "This means that in these very different types of galaxies, stars and dark matter conspire to redistribute themselves to produce this effect, with stars dominating in the inner regions of the galaxies, and a gradual shift in the outer regions to dark matter dominance."

What is most fascinating about this press release, however, is that it also noted that dark matter is only one explanation for the data, and that the failure of Newtonian physics at large distances, instead of dark matter, might also provide an explanation.

However, the [solution] does not come out naturally from models of dark matter, and some disturbing fine-tuning is required to explain the observations. For this reason, the [problem] even led some authors to suggest that, rather than being due to dark matter, it may be due to Newton's law of gravity becoming progressively less accurate at large distances. Remarkably, decades after it was proposed, this alternative theory (without dark matter) still cannot be conclusively ruled out.

Physicists call this other theory MOND, for modified Newtonian dynamics. It is not a very popular theory, however, and is almost always ignored, even though it appears to work as well as dark matter to explain the motion of stars in galaxies. Instead, most scientists favor dark matter.

For this press release to mention it as suggests the new data favors it over dark matter, which would make this a significant discovery.

+ - Breakthough makes Transparent Aluminum affordable

Submitted by frank249
frank249 writes: In the Star Trek universe, transparent aluminum is used in various fittings in starships, including exterior ship portals and windows. In real life, Aluminium oxynitride is a form of ceramic whose properties are similar to those of the fictional substance seen in Star Trek. It has a hardness of 7.7 Mohs and was patented in 1980, and has military applications as bullet-resistant armour, but is too expensive for widespread use.

Engadget reports that there has been a major breakthrough in materials science. After decades of research and development, the US Naval Research Laboratory has created a transparent, bulletproof material that can be molded into virtually any shape. This material, known as Spinel (magnesium aluminate), is made from a synthetic powdered clay that is heated and pressed under vacuum into transparent sheets. Spinel weighs just a fraction of a modern bulletproof pane.

+ - Twin-Fuselage Carplane Prototype Makes Public Debut->

Submitted by Zothecula
Zothecula writes: We've been teased with the prospect of a flying car for years now, with many designs, like the Terrafugia Transition, having been under development for some time but yet to arrive in garages or hangars. The Braunschweig-based company, Carplane hopes to square the circle with a twin-fuselage roadable monoplane that made its first public appearance in prototype form at the recent AERO show in Friedrichshafen, Germany.
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+ - Why Our Antiquated Power Grid Needs Battery Storage ->

Submitted by Lucas123
Lucas123 writes: Last year, renewable energy sources accounted for half of new installed electric-generation capacity (natural gas units made up most of the remainder). As more photovoltaic panels are installed on rooftops around the nation, an antiquated power grid is being overburdened by a bidirectional load its was never engineered to handle. The Hawaiian Electric Company, for example, said it's struggling with electricity "backflow" that could destabilize its system. Batteries for distributed renewable power has the potential to mitigate the load on the national grid by allowing a redistribution of power during peak hours. As such Tesla, which is expected to announce batteries for homes and utilities on Thursday, and others are targeting a market estimated to be $1.2B market by 2019. Along with taking up some of the load during peak house, battery capacity can be used when power isn't being generated by renewable systems, such as at night and during inclement weather. That also reduces grid demand.
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