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First US Public Library With No Paper Books Opens In Texas 212

cold fjord writes "Bexar Country in Texas has opened a new $2.3 million library called BiblioTech. It doesn't have physical books, only computers and e-reader tablets. It is the first bookless public library system in the U.S. The library opened in an area without nearby bookstores, and is receiving considerable attention. It has drawn visitors from around the U.S. and overseas that are studying the concept for their own use. It appears that the library will have more than 100,000 visitors by year's end. Going without physical books has been cost effective from an architecture standpoint, since the building doesn't have to support the weight of books and bookshelves. A new, smaller library in a nearby town cost $1 million more than Bexar Country's new library. So far there doesn't appear to be a problem with returning checked out e-readers. A new state law in Texas defines the failure to return library books as theft."

'Darkness Ray' Beams Invisibility From a Distance 86

KentuckyFC writes "Optical engineers generally build imaging systems with the best possible resolving power. The basic idea is that an imaging system focuses light into a pattern known as a point spreading function. This consists of a central region of high intensity surrounded by a concentric lobe of lower intensity light. The trick to improving resolution is narrowing and intensifying this central region while suppressing the outer lobe. Now optical engineers have turned this approach on its head by suppressing the central region so that the field intensity here is zero while intensifying the lobe. The result is a three-dimensional beam of darkness that hides any object inside it. The engineers say this region can be huge — up to 8 orders of magnitude bigger than the wavelength of the imaging light. What's more, the optics required to create it are simple and cheap: a lens consisting of concentric dielectric grooves. The team has even tested a prototype capable of hiding a 40-micrometre object in visible laser light."

Comment Wrong second number (Score 1) 322

A lot of us protested the passage of the bill at the time, knowing that its prohibitive length and ridiculously short consideration period guaranteed there was no effective review by Congress even if there could be "good" ideas in it. Not enough, and nobody was listening in October 2001, but enough to knock that second number down a bit (and that said, Russ Feingold was admittedly on his own in Congress). Still, as someone who was downtown during 9/11 and then spent seven years vigorously protesting that administration's policies, you're welcome to make that "cowards" comment to my face and see what it gets you. But what's truly appalling is not the initial passage of the bill during a time when the whole country was traumatized, but the subsequent extensions of what were originally provisions supposed to sunset in 2005. The current administration's Patriot Act extensions in 2011 sailed by the Senate 72-23, with no discernible partisan division and little outcry from the public. For those who follow civil liberties, the "most open and transparent administration in history" has turned out to be worse in many ways than the previous one, which at least pretended that its wholesale revocation of the 4th Amendment was provisional.

Comment Recently viewed texting accident (Score 2) 1440

From a restaurant window on a downtown corner, I recently viewed the following:

A large Jeep pulled up to the red light, followed by an SUV. I didn't see the first driver from my angle, but the SUV had a young woman who was texting something while waiting at the light. As the light changed, the Jeep began to move. It stopped abruptly because a late car from the cross street sailed through the intersection. Apparently cued only by peripheral vision, the woman in the SUV put her foot on the accelerator – without raising her head, while continuing to text. The SUV plowed into the back of the Jeep at a healthy speed, crumpling its own entire front end dramatically (but oddly, not doing any apparent damage to the Jeep, which had one of those large tires strapped to its back that I guess served as a buffer). Both vehicles pulled around the corner of the restaurant I was watching from, and I got to see the insurance information exchange. I found it interesting that the woman continued texting the instant the exchange was over and she had phoned for help.

Nominally, I suppose this was a moving accident but as its instigation happened when the SUV's driver was texting while motionless at a red light, I'm more sympathetic to the above article's cop's "unlawful communications" legal rationale than I might be otherwise. Although from the linked article and legality aside, the cop still sounds like a classic paper-dispensing jerk.


Colorado Company Says It Plans To Test Hyperloop Transport System 258

Freshly Exhumed writes "Elon Musk's dream of a hyperloop transport system seems to be closer to reality than he anticipated. Hyperloop transportation, referred to by Musk as a "cross between a Concorde, a railgun, and an air hockey table", is a tubular pneumatic transport system with the theoretical capability of carrying passengers from New York to L.A. in about 30 minutes at velocities near 4,000 miles per hour, while maintaining a near-continuous G force of 1. Colorado-based company ET3 is planning to build and test its own version of such a hyperloop system, Yahoo reports." A more critical article would point out that the numbers presented seem absurdly optimistic; $100 for a 4,000mph cross country trip may be "projected," but construction of a cross-country train tube is a long way off, and so are ticket sales.

Comment This ignores the external values of education (Score 2) 668

[O]ver-educating the population makes nearly everyone poor.

There is a hell of a lot more value in an educated populace than can be put in dollars, even if one accepts the zero-sum premise you are outlining here. For starters, an educated population is much more likely to be a functioning civic population; that is, one that keeps its government under scrutiny and actually fulfills its end of the social contract rather than allowing the mindless pulling of a lever every four years to serve as a substitute for real governed consent.

That said, the employment value of being "educated" is becoming increasingly meaningless in a future where traditional vocational jobs that haven't yet been outsourced are being systematically eradicated by automation and the potential for AI-type programming to squash still more traditional "educated" work is growing. Cf. recent article in Mother Jones for a depressing analysis of the logical employment outcomes advanced AI could bring.

Comment Re:Your tax dollars at work... (Score 1) 812

Do you have an exact attribution or context for that quote? Googling for about 10 minutes yielded a bunch of right-wing sites citing the "Associated Press", one or two "ABC", and one individual claiming to have seen it that day on CSpan, but no newspaper citations. Given the nature of the statement, I find the lack of the latter renders it pretty suspect and am honestly curious to know the original source. FWIW, Snopes has declared another quote from the same time period (1994) to be bogus.

Comment Re:Morning Show (Score 1) 644

Try watching "Up With Chris Hayes." You may like or dislike the "liberal bias," but his approach is factual and empirically driven, and the guest selection reflects that. The comparatively long intervals spent examining single U.S. policy topics may not match industry magazines or white papers for depth, but they're probably as close as current American television will ever get. IMHO, a large step up from usual morning fare (and a big leap from the ice-pick lobotomy entries offered on Fox and Friends).

Disney Wants To Track You With RFID 278

Antipater writes "Disney parks and resorts have long had a system that combined your room key, credit card, and park ticket into a single card. Now, they're taking it a step further by turning the card into an RFID wristband (called a 'MagicBand'), tracking you, and personalizing your park experience, targeted-ad style. 'Imagine booking guaranteed ride times for your favorite shows and attractions even before setting foot in the park,' wrote Tom Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, in a blog posting on Monday. 'With MyMagic+, guests will be able to do that and more, enabling them to spend more time together and creating an experience that's better for everyone.' Disney does go on to talk about all the things you can opt out of if you have privacy concerns, and the whole system seems to be voluntary or even premium." With a theme park, at least, you can also choose to avoid the place entirely; that makes it, however creepy, a bit different from compulsory education settings, or mandatory car tracking.

Steve Jobs Joins House of Wax 49

Hugh Pickens writes writes "The LA Times reports that Steve Jobs is about to join Barack Obama, Jackie Chan, Nicole Kidman, and Mozart at Madame Tussauds Hong Kong, the tourist attraction famous for creating hauntingly lifelike sculptures of famous people. The model of Jobs, to be unveiled to mark the first anniversary of Jobs' death, is based on pictures taken of the tech innovator during a 2006 Fortune magazine shoot and shows the Apple Inc. cofounder in a relaxed position, arms crossed loosely over his chest, with a pair of silver-rimmed Lunor glasses perched on his face and wearing a black cotton turtle neck, Levi 501 jeans and New Balance trainers. The company says a team of artists spent three months working on the wax figure, inserting each strand of hair one by one into the wax head using a forked needle, and using fine silk threads to recreate the subtle veining in the whites of his eyes. The figure will remain at the Historical and National Heroes attraction of Madame Tussauds Hong Kong through November 26, before travelling on to Madame Tussauds Bangkok and then Madame Tussauds Shanghai."

Report Hints At Privacy Problem of Drones That Can Recognize Faces 107

New submitter inotrollyou writes "Drones are getting more sophisticated, and will soon carry 'soft' biometrics and facial recognition software. In other news, sales of hats, tinfoil, and laser pointers go up 150%. Obviously there are major privacy concerns and not everyone is down for this." It's not just drones, either: In my old neighborhood in Philadelphia the Orwellian police cameras were everywhere, and they're being touted as a solution for crime in my Texas neighborhood, too. The report itself is more predictive than proscriptive; under U.S. law, as the Register points out, you can expect less legal as well as practical privacy protection the further you are on the continuum between home and public space.
The Military

DARPA's Robo-Cheetah Is Now Faster Than Usain Bolt 91

pigrabbitbear writes "The Boston Dynamics Cheetah just clocked a 28.3 miles per hour sprint on a treadmill, and it's heading outdoors soon. At that speed, it could edge out the world's fastest man, Usain Bolt, in a dead sprint. (Bolt peaked at 27.78 miles per hour in his world-record-setting 100-meter dash back in 2009.) 'To be fair, keep in mind that the Cheetah robot runs on a treadmill without wind drag and has an off-board power supply that it does not carry,' admitted Boston Dynamics in a press release. 'So Bolt is still the superior athlete.' Nevertheless, the team hopes to drop these implements and have a freestanding speed bot by early next year. They're calling that model the WildCat."
The Almighty Buck

IEEE Spectrum Digs Into the Future of Money 292

New submitter ArmageddonLord writes "Small, out-of-pocket cash exchanges are still the stuff of everyday life. In 2010, cash transactions in the United States totaled $1.2 trillion (not including extralegal ones, of course). There will come a day, however, when you'll be able to transfer funds just by holding your cellphone next to someone else's and hitting a few keys — and this is just one of the ways we'll wean ourselves off cash. In 'The Last Days of Cash,' a special report on the future of money, we describe the various ways that technology is transforming how we pay for stuff; how it's boosting security by linking our biometric selves with our accounts; and how it's helping us achieve, at least in theory, an ancient ideal — money that cannot be counterfeited."

"If Diet Coke did not exist it would have been neccessary to invent it." -- Karl Lehenbauer