Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: Robert Lee Hotz reports in the WSJ that solar activity is stranger than in a century or more, with the sun producing barely half the number of sunspots as expected and its magnetic poles oddly out of sync. Based on historical records, astronomers say the sun this fall ought to be nearing the explosive climax of its approximate 11-year cycle of activity—the so-called solar maximum. But this peak is "a total punk," says Jonathan Cirtain. "I would say it is the weakest in 200 years," adds David Hathaway, head of the solar physics group at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center. Researchers are puzzled. They can't tell if the lull is temporary or the onset of a decades-long decline, which might ease global warming a bit by altering the sun's brightness or the wavelengths of its light. To complicate the riddle, the sun also is undergoing one of its oddest magnetic reversals on record with the sun's magnetic poles out of sync for the past year so the sun technically has two South Poles. Several solar scientists speculate that the sun may be returning to a more relaxed state after an era of unusually high activity that started in the 1940s (PDF). "More than half of solar physicists would say we are returning to a norm," says Mark Miesch. "We might be in for a longer state of suppressed activity." If so, the decline in magnetic activity could ease global warming, the scientists say. But such a subtle change in the sun—lowering its luminosity by about 0.1%—wouldn't be enough to outweigh the build-up of greenhouse gases and soot that most researchers consider the main cause of rising world temperatures over the past century or so. “Given our current understanding of how the sun varies and how climate responds, were the sun to enter a new Maunder Minimum, it would not mean a new Little Ice Age," says Judith Lean. "t would simply slow down the current warming by a modest amount."
ewolfson writes: A blind man has received the gift of sight, thanks to an innovative stem-cell treatment. The treatment, which was part of a trial examining the safety of using human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), has restored the man's vision enough for him to pass any standard vision test for a driver's license.
"There's a guy walking around who was blind, but now can see," said Gary Rabin of Advance Cell Technology (ACT) . "With that sort of vision, you can get a driver's license."
This news comes on the heels of the announcement last week that U.S. scientists have successfully cloned human embryos to make stem cells, a development that has reignited the debate surrounding human cloning and the morality of experimentation with stem-cells.
GovCheese writes: Canonical, the software company that manages and funds Ubuntu, announced that the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology will base their national reference architecture for standard operating systems on Ubuntu, and they will call it Kylin. Arguably China is the largest desktop market and the announcement has important implications. Shuttleworth's phrasing of, “The release of Ubuntu Kylin brings the Chinese open source community into the global Ubuntu community,” will irk many who already feel Shuttleworth controversial, but the partnership further cements Ubuntu as an open-source influencer. This is a win for Ubuntu. Is it a win for the open-source community?
tsamsoniw writes: "Hoping to strike a blow against sexism in the tech industry, developer and tech evangelist Adria Richards took to Twitter to complain about two male developers swapping purportedly offensive jokes at PyCon. The decision has set into motion a chain of events that illustrate the impact a tweet or two can make in this age of social networking: One the developers and Richards have since lost their jobs, and even the chair of PyCon has been harassed for his minor role in the incident."
ShadowBot writes: Hello. I'm currently working on a mod project that involves being able to generate different amounts of weight on the fly for something similar to an exercise machine. My current research is pointing me towards a Torque motor, as a motor that can continuously apply torque even when it is being prevented from moving. However, will it be able to continue applying this torque even when the rotor is being forced to rotate in the opposite direction to the that the motor is trying to move it in? Also, is it possible to vary the amount of torque being applied to simulate different weights?
The goal is not just to provide resistance to movement, but to actually simulate a weight which wants to drop to the floor while the user is pulling it in the opposite direction.
Diggester writes: Researchers at the University of Cape Town in South Africa have developed a pill that can wipe out malaria with a single dose. It's a development that could save millions of lives in Africa alone, not to mention the rest of the world. But there's a teensy weensy little hurdle that must first be overcome: human testing.
FreedomFirstThenPeac writes: Apparently we could diagnose you as depressed if the mechanics of your internet use fit certain patterns. By using a cleverly embedded questionnaire that classifies the subject as depressed, and by using existing net usage data collection to collect features (variables), researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology were able to correctly predict the diagnoses of the questionnaire using the net usage data. I wonder if this could be a new Firefox plug-in, designed to help parents detect depression in their adolescents by tracking the mechanics (not the sites) and automatically emailing them if their ward is showing increasing signs of depression.
Fluffeh writes: "Around a year ago, a person working for the ABC in Australia with the highest levels of access to systems got caught caught with his fingers on the CPU cycles. The staffer had installed BitCoin mining software on the systems used by the Australian broadcaster. While the story made a bit of a splash at the time, it was finally announced today that the staffer hadn't been sacked, but was merely being disciplined by his manager and having his access to systems restricted. All the stories seem a little vague as to what he actually installed however — on one side he installed the software on a public facing websever, and the ABC itself admits "As this software was for a short time embedded within pages on the ABC website, visitors to these pages may have been exposed to the Bitcoin software" and "the Coalition (current Opposition Parties) was planning on quizzing the ABC further about the issue, including filing a request for the code that would have been downloaded to users’ machines", but on the other side there is no mention of the staffer trying to seed a BitCoin mining botnet through the site, just that mining software had been installed."
sebt writes: "ZX Spectrum, the microcomputer launched in 1982 by Sinclair Research (Cambridge, UK) turns 30 today. The launch of the machine is seen by many today as the inspiration for a generation of eager young programmers, software and game designers in the UK. The events surrounding its launch, notably Sinclair's well-known rivalry with Acorn, later helped to inspire the design of the ARM architecture and most recently the Raspberry PI (based on ARM), in an effort to reboot the idea of enthusiastic kid programmers first captured by the Spectrum and Acorn's BBC micro. Happy birthday Spec!"
CowboyRobot writes: "Last year, a Nigerian man boarded a plane from N.Y. to L.A. using an invalid ID and a boarding pass issued to another person. A week later he was caught again with 10 expired boarding passes. In response to this and similar events, the Transportation Security Administration has begun testing a new system at Washington's Dulles International Airport that verifies an air traveler's identity by matching photo IDs to boarding passes and ensures that boarding passes are authentic. The test will soon be expanded to Houston and Puerto Rico."
AstroPhilosopher writes: Using a combination of biomimicry, nanotubes, and shape-memory alloys, researchers have developed a robotic jellyfish that uses the hydrogen in water for power. Theoretically, it will never run out of energy.
tmcb writes: On Saturday protests are planned across the world against Acta — the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. The treaty has become the focus of activists associated with the Anonymous hacking network because of concerns that it could undermine internet privacy and aid censorship.
First published in 1982, the comic series V for Vendetta charted a masked vigilante's attempt to bring down a fascist British government and its complicit media. Many of the demonstrators are expected to wear masks based on the book's central character.
Ahead of the protests, the BBC asked V for Vendetta's writer, Alan Moore, for his thoughts on how his creation had become an inspiration and identity to Anonymous.
parkejr writes: I started off building a media library a few years ago with an old PC running ubuntu. Folders for photos, ogg vorbis music from my CD collection, and x264 encoded mkv movies. I have a high spec machine for encoding, but over the years I've moved the server to a bigger case, with 8 TB of disk capacity, and reverted back to debian, but still running with the same AMD Semperon processor and 2Gb RAM. It's working well, it's also the family mail server, and the kids are starting to use it for network storage, and it runs both llink and twonkyserver, but my disks are almost full, and there are no more internal slots. The obvious option to me is to add in a couple of SATA PCI cards, to give me 4 more drives, and buy an externally powered enclosure, but that doesn't feel very elegant. I'm a bit of an amateur, so I'd like some advice. Should I start looking at a rack system? Something that can accomodate say 10 3.5" drives (I'm thinking long term, and some redundancy)?. Also, what about location — I could run some cat6 to the garage and move it out of the house, incase noise is an issue. Finally, what about file format, file system, and OS/software. I'm currently running with ext3 and debian squeeze. Happy with my audio encoding choice, but not sure about x264 and mkv. I'd also consider different media server software too. Any comments appreciated