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Comment Heads in the sand, anyone? (Score 1) 54

Coming after the Stuxnet experience and the recent hack of a steel mill in Germany, which forced an emergency shutdown of the furnace, with 'heavy damage', the complacent assertion that no cyber attack could cause a reactor malfunction just seems witless. Of course these reactors are susceptible to getting hacked, the main obstacle is the relative obscurity of the control systems and the reality that there are multiple different designs in service, so that a wide ranging attack is very complicated. By the same token, the diversity of targets makes the defense much more difficult, no 'one size fits all' protocol is likely to be effective.

The hope may be that hacking a nuclear plant might be seen as an act of war, so not something most states would pursue, but the proliferation of devices makes it easier to create a hard to attribute hack. There is plenty of ill will around as well, so this is likely to be just the first such attack post Stuxnet.

Comment Another Teledesic? (Score 5, Interesting) 74

Shades of Teledesic!

The idea is not new, the technology is probably better, especially for efficient solid state RF transmitters, success depends on the spectrum available and the money. Do note that one of the gotchas in satellite internet access is that it is not easy to for apartment dwellers to get an adequate signal, whereas rural users should rejoice, as they usually get left out by the wireline/cable providers..

Comment Noise is the killer (Score 1) 233

The noise this kind of gizmo, a short rotor helicopter, makes is really pretty astounding.
The dreams of a tilt rotor commuter transport went on the rocks because of the noise, no community would tolerate it. Unfortunately there is no currently known technical fix. We limit airplane noise around airports, just like motorcycle and lawnmower noise in the community. This thing will be way louder than a motorcycle.
Public acceptance is going to be nil if the noise comes from next door.
Imho, Terrafugia has just shifted from barely possible start up venture to fantasy, for some unknown reason.

Comment Innovation does not pay the bills (Score 1) 146

While it is encouraging to see innovation as a management focus, the more interesting story is glossed over.
How is Kimberly keeping the lights on with a crushed IT department?
It seems the basics must be running pretty well if a new IT guy can come in and focus on innovation opportunities. It would help to know if the goal is cost reduction or service enhancement.

Submission + - Federal Reserve wants TIA (

etudiant writes: The Federal Reserve has issued an RFP, due Sept 26, 2011, for the following:
" The creation of a "Social Listening Platform" whose function is to "gather data from various social media outlets and news sources." It will "monitor billions of conversations and generate text analytics based on predefined criteria." The Fed's desired product should be able to "determine the sentiment [ED:LOL] of a speaker or writer with respect to some topic or document"... "The solution must be able to gather data from the primary social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, Forums and YouTube. It should also be able to aggregate data from various media outlets such as: CNN, WSJ, Factiva etc." Most importantly, the "Listening Platform" should be able to "Handle crisis situations, Continuously monitor conversations, and Identify and reach out to key bloggers and influencers."

Note that the Federal Reserve is a private entity, not a branch of the US Government, so that the strictures that impeded similar earlier efforts by the FBI and the NSA may not apply.
As the RFP was issued Sept 16 with proposals due Sept 26, it may be assumed that this topic has been under discussion with industry for some time.

Is the management of the country's money helped by a global monitoring system such as this? Is it even feasible? It certainly seems a novel initiative for a Central Bank.

Comment Re:Learn from the Japanese (Score 1) 102

Sorry, that is unfortunately incorrect. There was an earlier disaster, with the cover up of a massive sodium leak leading to a senior executive's suicide, back in Jan 1996.
This is a separate event, involving the plant manager in charge of the fuel section, a hard core engineer, in February of this year.

Comment Learn from the Japanese (Score 4, Informative) 102

The Japanese have built and used a similar tool for removing fuel from their troubled Monju fast breeder reactor prototype. The latest glitch was that the tool fell into the reactor and got stuck. The senior engineer on the effort committed suicide after this.
The tool was retrieved last month, after much effort.
It would be a shame if the Brits ran into similar problems, so hopefully they are talking to the Japanese and getting some lessons learned.

Comment There is an accountability issue (Score 3, Insightful) 1229

The absence of control over the cross fertilization from GM plants is a legitimate issue that is thus far not adequately addressed.
People breeding pure strains that are inadvertently contaminated from adjacent GM plants may see their business destroyed with no recourse. This has happened in the case of some orange growers. It also is a concern for those seeking to market GM free vegetables that command market premiums.
Thus far, the proponents of GM plants have essentially had a free ride on this issue and no consequential damages have been paid. This is unjust, as it puts the burden of adjustment on the injured party, rather than on the originator of the damage. When the law acts thus unjustly, people will respond similarly.
I would not be happy either if someone moved a contamination source into my neighborhood and told me that adjusting to it was my problem.

Comment Re:here in Italy.. (Score 1) 398

This is an excellent idea.
Afaik, the USPS already has substantial money processing experience. The USPS money order is a wonderfully cheap and reliable way to send small sums anywhere in the country. Expanding that service seems a pretty logical next step.
Moreover, it would help improve civic morality. Not only does it seem much less glamorous to rob the post office rather than the bank, but additionally, the frustration of waiting in line to rob the attendant should drive most would be criminals back to the straight and narrow.

Comment Re:Reasonable first steps (Score 1) 116

The degree of disfunction in this effort is beyond belief.
The accident was almost 2 months ago, admittedly in the context of a massive natural disaster.
Since then, nothing has happened except the barest minimum. There are a quarter of the workers on site as were there before the disaster, living in a bunker with no showers or decent meals, no hazard pay or adequate equipment. They are going in baby steps because there is not the people or the equipment to do more than one thing at a time. Not even the basic debris clearing has made much headway, less than 50 containers worth from a 1200x400 ft site.
The company is admonished from all sides, but not supported. When the CEO tried to fly back to his office from a remote site after the disaster by using a government plane, it was made to turn back after it had taken off, ensuring a more than 24 hour delay in the response.
This absence of effective national leadership continues, even though the radioactive vapors from the spent fuel pools have poisoned a large swath of central Japan.
At the present rate, the site will not even be free from radioactive flooding until next year, so the problems will fester at least until then. If anything breaks before then, the problem could easily get much worse. Perhaps there is need for a supranational nuclear emergency team setup and a corresponding code of conduct. Japan is certainly showing how not to do it.

Comment Japanese robots for Fukushima (Score 1) 50

It is indicative of the gravity of the situation that the Japanese have not accepted any of the offers of radiation hardened robots designed for nuclear incidents such as this.
The most logical explanation is that the situation is known to be impossible, so why accept foreign robots and the obligations that go with them just to be further embarrassed.
No work can be done in the facility until the radioactive lake in the plant, currently about 1300x80x20 ft is drained, which will not be until year end at best. After all, no one has swimming robots for nuclear cleanup.
So it is a waste of time to fulminate about the slow cleanup, because it is paced by the need to build holding tanks and a big radioactive water treatment facility, expected to start work by the end of May.

1000 pains = 1 Megahertz