anastasd writes: Russian science fiction author Boris Strugatsky claims James Cameron stole the idea of the movie Avatar from his novel "The Noon Universe" (Russian: "Mir Poludnja") written in the '60s. Strugatsky said that the planet Pandora, its flora and fauna as well as its inhabitants — the cat-alike na'vi are originally created by him and his brother Arkady Unfortunately Mr. Strugatsky said he will not watch the movie so most probably he will not verify his claims.
from the you-should-see-the-superplacenta dept.
FiReaNGeL writes "Astronomers have seen the aftermath of spectacular stellar explosions known as supernovae before, but no one had witnessed a star dying in real time — until now. While looking at another object in the spiral galaxy NGC 2770, using NASA's orbiting Swift telescope, scientists detected an extremely luminous blast of X-rays released by a supernova explosion. They alerted 8 other telescopes to turn their eyes on this first-of-its-kind event. 'We were looking at another, older supernova in the galaxy, when the one now known as SN 2008D went off. We would have missed it if it weren't for Swift's real-time capabilities, wide field of view, and numerous instruments.'" Bad Astronomy has an excellent, well-illustrated story about the discovery as well. I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property contributes a link to the BBC's coverage, and adds a nugget gleaned from Ars Technica: "SN 2007uy's collapse caused an X-ray burst of about 10^39 joules, most likely due to the 'shock break out' when the energy of the core's collapse finally reached the neutron star's surface."
from the I-want-talking-fruit dept.
coondoggie writes "The National Science Foundation announced today 14 grand engineering challenges for the 21st century that, if met, would greatly improve how we live. The final choices fall into four themes that are essential for humanity to flourish — sustainability, health, reducing vulnerability, and joy of living. The committee did not attempt to include every important challenge, nor did it endorse particular approaches to meeting those selected. Rather than focusing on predictions or gee-whiz gadgets, the goal was to identify what needs to be done to help people and the planet thrive, the group said. A diverse committee of engineers and scientists — including Larry Page, Robert Langer, and Robert Socolow — came up with the list but did not rank the challenges. Rather, the National Academy of Engineering is offering the public an opportunity to vote on which one they think is most important."
from the this-way-lies-madness dept.
Microsoft has released documentation on their Office binary formats. Before jumping up and down gleefully, those working on related open source efforts, such as OpenOffice, might want to take a very close look at Microsoft's Open Specification Promise to see if it seems to cover those working on GPL software; some believe it doesn't. stm2 points us to some good advice from Joel Spolsky to programmers tempted to dig into the spec and create an Excel competitor over a weekend that reads and writes these formats: find an easier way. Joel provides some workarounds that render it possible to make use of these binary files. "[A] normal programmer would conclude that Office's binary file formats: are deliberately obfuscated; are the product of a demented Borg mind; were created by insanely bad programmers; and are impossible to read or create correctly. You'd be wrong on all four counts."
from the small-sights-big-thrills dept.
BotnetZombie writes "Wired has up an article/gallery with very impressive images from the nanoworlds around us, and little stories for each picture. Besides giving an inspiring insight into the world of very little things, images of this kind can help scientists in many fields get a better handle on their subjects."
I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "AT&T and Verizon will be shutting down their old, analog AMPS networks next Monday, and AT&T will also turn off its old TDMA network, with smaller providers expected to follow thanks to a sunset date set by the FCC. After these old networks are shut down, the networks will be all digital. Of course, if you have one of those old fashioned 'just a phone' cellphones and it happens to be analog, you'd best enjoy the last few days before it becomes useless."
conlaw writes to share that according to Discovery.com scientists have found a way to extract energy from rain. A new technique could utilize piezoelectric principles of a special kind of plastic to generate power from falling water in rainstorms or even commercial air conditioners. "The method relies on a plastic called PVDF (for polyvinylidene difluoride), which is used in a range of products from pipes, films, and wire insulators to high-end paints for metal. PVDF has the unusual property of piezoelectricity, which means it can produce a charge when it's mechanically deformed."
from the surprised-it-took-this-long dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Local search engine company, Zvents, has released an open source distributed data storage system based on Google's released design specs. 'The new software, Hypertable, is designed to scale to 1000 nodes, all commodity PCs [...] The Google database design on which Hypertable is based, Bigtable, attracted a lot of developer buzz and a "Best Paper" award from the USENIX Association for "Bigtable: A Distributed Storage System for Structured Data" a 2006 publication from nine Google researchers including Fay Chang, Jeffrey Dean, and Sanjay Ghemawat. Google's Bigtable uses the company's in-house Google File System for storage.'"