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Laser Fusion's Brightest Hope 115

First time accepted submitter szotz writes "The National Ignition Facility has one foot in national defense and another in the future of commercial energy generation. That makes understanding the basic justification for the facility, which boasts the world's most powerful laser system, more than a little tricky. This article in IEEE Spectrum looks at NIF's recent missed deadline, what scientists think it will take for the facility to live up to its middle name, and all of the controversy and uncertainty that comes from a project that aspires to jumpstart commercial fusion energy but that also does a lot of classified work. NIF's national defense work is often glossed over in the press. This article pulls in some more detail and, in some cases, some very serious criticism. Physicist Richard Garwin, one of the designers of the hydrogen bomb, doesn't mince words. When it comes to nuclear weapons, he says in the article, '[NIF] has no relevance at all to primaries. It doesn't do a good job of mimicking validates the codes in regions that are not relevant to nuclear weapons.'"
Star Wars Prequels

Submission + - The Battle of Hoth: Vader the Invader

JustOK writes: Darth Vader did alot of bad things and did alot of things bad, and the Battle of Hoth was of both types. The Empire's attempt to capture Echo Base, while successful, was still a horrible failure. Sure, the Empire overran the ground defenses and captured the base, but most of the Rebels escaped. Luke, Leia and Han all got away. The Rebels had a poorly laid out ground defense, and a planetary "shield that can’t keep an invader out and complicates their own escape." Read "Inside teh Battle of Hoth" at

Submission + - Source code for Photoshop 1.0 (

gbooch writes: "With the permission of Adobe Systems, the Computer History Museum has made available the source code for Photoshop version 1.0.1, comprising about 128,000 lines code within 179 files, most of which is in Pascal, the remainder in 68000 assembly language.

This the kind of code I aspire to write.

The Computer History Museum has earlier made available the source code to MacPaint (which you'll find here"


Submission + - Tesla, Ford, Amazon Hint at Cloudy Future for Cars (

Nerval's Lobster writes: "The automobile, once the most analog of technologies, is rapidly becoming a smartphone on wheels: Amazon announced Feb. 13 that Ford SYNC Applink-equipped vehicles will include the Amazon Cloud Player, allowing drivers to access their music libraries via voice command or dashboard controls. Ford isn’t the only automotive company seeking to integrate cloud computing into the driving experience. Tesla Motors’ Model S electric sedan boasts a 17-inch capacitive touch-screen in place of the usual dashboard buttons and dials. And who could forget Google's self-driving car? This isn't a future everybody wants—there are more than a few wannabe Steve McQueens who won’t feel complete unless they can stomp on a pedal connected to an internal-combustion engine, flick a physical dashboard knob to the radio station of their choice, and peel out their driveway in a cloud of burning rubber. But as the latest technology migrates into automobiles, it could well be the future we’re going to receive."

The Sun Unleashes Coronal Mass Ejection At Earth 220

astroengine writes "Yesterday morning, at 08:55 UT, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory detected a C3-class flare erupt inside a sunspot cluster. 100,000 kilometers away, deep within the solar atmosphere (the corona), an extended magnetic field filled with cool plasma forming a dark ribbon across the face of the sun (a feature known as a 'filament') erupted at the exact same time. It seems very likely that both eruptions were connected after a powerful shock wave produced by the flare destabilized the filament, causing the eruption. A second solar observatory, the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, then spotted a huge coronal mass ejection blast into space, straight in the direction of Earth. Solar physicists have calculated that this magnetic bubble filled with energetic particles should hit Earth on August 3, so look out for some intense aurorae — a solar storm is coming."
Social Networks

Submission + - Paying for Popularity: Digg for Gold?

JustOK writes: With the rise of social/political/news commentary sites such as Digg, StumbleUpon, our beloved Slashdot and others, comes another step towards a profit plateau. Mormons, Marines and Koreans are apparently paying for popularity, according to a LA Times report. USocial offers to draw serious traffic to your site. "Clients pay $105 to $200 to kick-start a Digg submission, ensuring 100 to 250 votes. Digg is by far the top target, attracting about 60% of purchases, uSocial says. StumbleUpon gets 35% and Propeller (the least trafficked but cheapest option) gets 5%."
The people at TechDirt question the value of such popularity, they say "Over the past few years we've been on Digg's front page a bunch of times and it certainly drives a nice stream of traffic, but never more than a few thousand visitors (sometimes significantly less)."
As always, trolling is provided for free.

Jet Pack Runs For Hours On Water 268

Ponca City, We love you writes "Jet packs have been around for half a century, but there's always been one problem: they run out of fuel in around 30 seconds. Now a German company has taken the standard jet pack design, run a fat yellow hose out the back, and connected it to a small unmanned boat that houses an engine, pump, and fuel tank and sends pressurized water up the hose, where it's shot out by two nozzles just behind the wearer's shoulders. Called the JetLev-Flyer, the design purportedly can reach a height of 15 meters, a speed of 72 kph, and a range of 300 kilometers based on four hours of flying time. A digital fly-by-wire system is used to control the throttle. Future designs may achieve higher altitudes, higher top speeds, and extended range, and even travel below the water's surface. The American manufacturers claim it is 'amazingly easy to learn and operate' and they're taking orders now at $130,000 each."

Stone Tool 1.83M Years Old Discovered In Malaysia 200

goran72 writes with news out of Malaysia that archaeologists have announced the discovery of stone tools more than 1.8 million years old — the earliest evidence of human ancestors in South-east Asia. Researchers believe the tools were made by members of the early human ancestor species Homo erectus. The tools actually date as slightly older than the earliest H. erectus fossils, which came from Georgia and China. No bones of that antiquity have so far been found in Malaysia. "The stone hand-axes were discovered last year in the historical site of Lenggong in northern Perak state, embedded in a type of rock formed by meteorites which was sent to a Japanese lab to be dated."

Mars Lander Sees Falling Snow 118

Riding with Robots writes "NASA reports that the Phoenix Mars Lander has detected snow falling from Martian clouds. According to the Canadian team running a weather experiment, a laser instrument designed to study how the atmosphere and surface interact on Mars has detected snow from clouds about 4 kilometers above the landing site. Data shows the snow vaporizing before reaching the surface, but one of the mission scientists said, 'We'll be looking for signs that the snow may even reach the ground.' Spacecraft soil experiments have also provided evidence of past interaction between minerals and liquid water."

Hubble Stops Sending Data, Mission On Hold 141

mknewman writes to tell us that NASA is no longer receiving data from the Hubble Space Telescope, which could possibly delay the shuttle launch planned just two weeks from now. There is a backup system installed which may be used instead of training the astronauts on the installation of the new component, but that would itself leave no fallback option. "NASA is reviewing whether the mission should be delayed a couple of months so that plans can be made to send up a replacement part for the failed component, said NASA spokesman Michael Curie. It would take time to test and qualify the old replacement part and train the astronauts to install it in the telescope, Curie said. NASA also would have to work out new mission details for the astronauts who have trained for two years to carry out five Hubble repair spacewalks."

New Solar Cell Sets World Efficiency Record 299

asoduk writes to tell us that a new world record has been set for the most efficient photovoltaic device. Topping the scale at 40.8% efficiency, the new solar cell differs significantly from the previous record holder. "Instead of using a germanium wafer as the bottom junction of the device, the new design uses compositions of gallium indium phosphide and gallium indium arsenide to split the solar spectrum into three equal parts that are absorbed by each of the cell's three junctions for higher potential efficiencies. This is accomplished by growing the solar cell on a gallium arsenide wafer, flipping it over, then removing the wafer. The resulting device is extremely thin and light and represents a new class of solar cells with advantages in performance, design, operation and cost."
Classic Games (Games)

PC Historian Finds Puzzling Game Diskette Image 232

This past weekend, Trixter — a self-proclaimed IBM PC historian — picked up some old software for his archive. What he didn't count on was a couple of additional Avantage titles that had never been released into the wild. If this weren't enough of a find, one of these titles provided Trixter with an interesting puzzle: the diskette for Mental Blocks is apparently hand-formatted to work on both C64 and IBM (on a single side, not the "flippy disks" of old). Quite an interesting little piece of history.

"Pull" Barcode Scanning Could Be Android's Killer App 296

Seor Jojoba writes "The release of T-Mobile's G1 Smartphone is shifting focus away from push-based barcode scanning, where embedded URLs send you to locations of a vendor's choosing. There is now more interest in pull-scanning, where product information is retrieved from user-specified sources. It may be that QR-Codes and other 2D barcodes will have their thunder stolen by 1970s-era linear barcodes. On the iPhone, scanning a 1D barcode is slow and unreliable. But the G1's improved optics and Android's improved access to image scans has made 1D scanning quick and useful, opening the gateway for killer apps that help people make spending decisions."

Galaxy Zoo Produces a Rare Specimen 188

We discussed the Galaxy Zoo project soon after it launched last summer. Science News is now following developments about an odd celestial object that is fueling a lot of excitement among astronomers around the world. In August, a Dutch schoolteacher named Hanny, in the process of characterizing galaxy images, noticed a peculiar object and posted a query about it on the Galaxy Zoo blog. She called it a "Voorwerp," which Science News says is Dutch for "thing" but which Google translates as "subject." Hanny's Voorwerp emits mostly green light (the earlier report said blue). The best guess astronomers have now is that the Voorwerp is emitting "ghost light," i.e. it is "lit by the ultraviolet light and X-rays from a quasar that has vanished in the last 100,000 years," to quote astronomer Bill Keel. "As far as we can tell, it's an unprecedented thing," Keel added. Researchers are scrambling to book time on the Hubble and other major telescopes to get a closer look.


I was playing poker the other night... with Tarot cards. I got a full house and 4 people died. -- Steven Wright