sgunhouse writes "Wired has a story up on the lethality of airborne prions. It should be noted that prions (which cause 'mad cow disease' and similar disorders) are not normally airborne, and take a long time to kill the infected animal, but so far are 100% lethal if something else doesn't kill the animal first. So, they are not likely to be useful as a biological weapon (my first thought when reading their headline), but they present another safety precaution to consider."
Ponca City, We Love You writes "When the Patriot Act was first signed in 2001, it was billed as a temporary measure required because of the extreme circumstances created by the terrorist threat. The fear from its opponents was that executive power, once given, is seldom relinquished. Now the Examiner reports that on January 5th, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) introduced a bill to add yet another year to the soon-to-be-expiring Patriot Act, extending it until February, 2012, with passage likely to happen after little debate or contention. If passed, this would be the second time the Obama administration has punted on campaign promises to roll back excessive surveillance measures allowed under the act. Last year's extension passed under the heading of the Medicare Physician Payment Reform Act. 'Given the very limited number of days Congress has in session before the current deadline, and the fact that the bill's Republican sponsor is only seeking another year, I think it's safe to read this as signaling an agreement across the aisle to put the issue off yet again,' writes Julian Sanchez."
coondoggie writes "The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has been given new marching orders: expand work with the private sector to develop standards for a range of key technologies such as cloud computing, emergency communications and tracking, green manufacturing and high performance green building construction. NIST could see its core science and technology budget double by 2017. NIST has also cut the number of labs it runs to 6 from 10. NIST labs now include engineering, physical measurement, information technology, material measurement, the Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology and the NIST Center for Neutron Research."
turtleshadow writes "Now that it's almost 2011, a question for anyone who's kept backups since before the Y2K non-event: Have you personally/professionally had to recover something from 10+ years ago? If so, please share the interesting 'hows,' especially if you had to do multiple media transfers and file formats to get data into a usable file format on a modern hardware platform of your choice. Native solutions are rated higher than emulation. Also, what are your plans for recovering in 2021? Street cred goes to the oldest, most technical and complex restores ... that are of course successful. I'm working the night shift Christmas/New Year's; I ask everybody still stirring and hardcore SysOPs."
astroengine writes "Following hot on the heels of a series of international UFO sighting disclosures, the New Zealand government has joined the party and made public 2,000 pages of UFO eyewitness accounts dating back to 1952. Helpfully, the NZ newspaper The Dominion Post has scanned the documents and has made them available online. Among the accounts of alien encounters and strange lights in the sky is one of New Zealand's most famous UFO mystery: the Kaikoura sighting. But was it aliens? Probably not, but it makes for an entertaining read."
jomama717 writes "In a post titled 'The Most Important Free Speech Issue of Our Time' this morning on The Huffington Post, Senator Al Franken lays down a powerful case for net neutrality, as well as a grim scenario if the current draft regulations being considered by the FCC are accepted. Quoting: 'The good news is that the Federal Communications Commission has the power to issue regulations that protect net neutrality. The bad news is that draft regulations written by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski don't do that at all. They're worse than nothing. That's why Tuesday is such an important day. The FCC will be meeting to discuss those regulations, and we must make sure that its members understand that allowing corporations to control the Internet is simply unacceptable. Although Chairman Genachowski's draft Order has not been made public, early reports make clear that it falls far short of protecting net neutrality.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Cablegate: The Game is a game where players can read, tag and summarize the recently released US Embassy Cables. Points are awarded for finding the most tags in a cable." I wish this game were extended to more news sources generally — automated scans are nice, but can't (yet) make all the connections humans can.
airfoobar writes "Yet another country wants to 'protect the children' by blocking all internet porn — not just child porn, all porn. The British gov will talk with ISPs next month to ask them to make porn blocking mandatory (and they appear more than happy to comply). As an effect, adults who want to access pornography through their internet connections will have to 'opt in.' Their rationale is that if ISPs have managed to block all child porn, they'll also be able to block all other porn as well."
That's why it was cancelled.
An anonymous reader writes "This year we've seen molten salt power plants start to pick up steam around the world, and now the technology is heating up stateside — California just approved its first molten salt energy plant. Designed by SolarReserve, the plant uses heliostats to focus thermal energy on a power tower filled with salt, which is able to reach very high temperatures (over 1000 degrees Fahrenheit) and can hold heat for an extraordinary length of time. Heat from this reserve of molten salt can then be pumped through a steam generator to provide on-demand energy long after the sun has set."
eldavojohn writes "Back in 2006 there was a lot of talk of testing String Theory. Well, today CERN has released a statement for the Compact Muon Solenoid Experiment. The short of it is simply that as far as they could tell, 'No experimental evidence for microscopic black holes has been found.' The long statement indicates that since the highly precise CMS detector found no spray of sub-atomic particles of normal matter while LHC smashed particles together, the hypothesis by String Theory that micro black holes would be formed and quickly evaporated in this experiment was incorrect. These tests have given the team confidence to say that they can exclude a 'variety of theoretical models' for the cases of black holes with a mass of 3.5-4.5 TeV (1012 electron volts). Not Even Wrong points us to the arxiv prepublication for those of you well versed in Greek. While you may not be able to run around claiming that String Theory is dead and disproved, evidently there are some adjustments that need to be made."
DangerousBeauty writes "Yahoo has a Canadian Press story up about new changes to the periodic table of elements concerning the weights of specific elements — it seems that the weights fluctuate based on where they are found in nature. Quoting: '"People are probably comfortable with having a single value for the atomic weight, but that is not the reality for our natural world," says University of Calgary associate professor Michael Wieser.' He is is secretary of the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry's Commission on Isotopic Abundances and Weights."
Zothecula writes "Because battery technology hasn't developed as quickly as the electronic devices they power, a greater and greater percentage of the volume of these devices is taken up by the batteries needed to keep them running. Now a team of researchers working at the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies has created the world's smallest battery. 'It consists of a bulk lithium cobalt cathode three millimeters long, an ionic liquid electrolyte, and has as its anode a single tin oxide (Sn02) nanowire 10 nanometers long and 100 nanometers in diameter.' (Abstract in Science.) Although the tiny battery won't be powering next year's mobile phones, it has already provided insights into how batteries work and should enable the development of smaller and more efficient batteries in the future."
destinyland writes "Fujitsu has built a device that can simultaneously harvest energy from either light or heat. They've reduced production costs by using the same cheap organic substrate for both conversion processes, while also doubling the potential amount of energy that can be collected. 'Previously, dual harvesting of energy could only be done by combining two different devices,' the article notes — and the device's solar converter can even draw energy from indoor lighting as well as direct sunlight. Fujitsu predicts the device will be especially useful for powering medical sensors, since the flexible substrate can be included in monitors which conform to the shape of the human body."
An anonymous reader writes "Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine, applying a state-of-the-art imaging system to brain-tissue samples from mice, have been able to quickly and accurately locate and count the myriad connections between nerve cells in unprecedented detail, as well as to capture and catalog those connections' surprising variety. A typical healthy human brain contains about 200 billion nerve cells, or neurons, linked to one another via hundreds of trillions of tiny contacts called synapses. It is at these synapses that an electrical impulse traveling along one neuron is relayed to another, either enhancing or inhibiting the likelihood that the second nerve will fire an impulse of its own. One neuron may make as many as tens of thousands of synaptic contacts with other neurons, said Stephen Smith, PhD, professor of molecular and cellular physiology and senior author of a paper describing the study, to be published Nov. 18 in Neuron."