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Hardware

Quadcopter Drone Packs First All-Linux Autopilot 31

Posted by Soulskill
from the flying-penguins dept.
DeviceGuru writes: Erle Robotics has launched what is claimed to be the first drone to run both a Pixhawk APM autopilot and ROS directly on Linux. Over the last year Erle Robotics and 3DRobotics have collaborated on developing an open source, all-Linux BeagleBone Black-based autopilot for drones using the popular 3DR APM architecture, but without using Nuttx RTOS for the real-time bits. In addition to being used on a new 'Erle-copter' quadcopter drone, the new all-Linux 'Erle-brain' APM will ship in both a two-winged UAV and a four-wheeled robotic vehicle, due next spring.
Transportation

"Infrared Curtain" Brings Touchscreen Technology To Cheap Cars 123

Posted by samzenpus
from the go-ahead-and-touch dept.
An anonymous reader writes with news about an affordable way to integrate touch screen technology in any car. "Although touchscreen controls are appearing in the dashboards of an increasing number of vehicles, they're still not something that one generally associates with economy cars. That may be about to change, however, as Continental has announced an "infrared curtain" system that could allow for inexpensive multi-touch functionality in any automobile. The infrared curtain consists of a square frame with a series of LEDs along two adjacent sides, and a series of photodiodes along the other two. Each LED emits a beam of infrared light, which is picked up and converted into an electrical signal by the photodiode located in the corresponding spot on the opposite side of the frame."
Transportation

Who's To Blame For Rules That Block Tesla Sales In Most US States? 141

Posted by timothy
from the did-you-get-a-look-at-the-license-plate? dept.
cartechboy writes The common assumption among Tesla fans seems to be that state auto-dealer lobbyists are working with Republican legislators to enact laws banning direct sales of Tesla's electric cars to retail buyers. Is it true? The New York Times published an article with some data points that assesses the supposition. While the article mainly focuses on the conflict between Uber and the Republican party, some quotes could be easily applied to Tesla. For instance, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Preibus said, "It should be consumers, not government bureaucrats or legislators, that deicde what companies get our business." The author of the article, Josh Barro, wrote that 22 states permit direct sales of automobiles by Tesla to retail buyers, and of those the majority--14 of them-- voted for President Obama. He suggested that Democratic California, Illinois, and New York "have freer markets in auto retailing than Texas," which is presently Republican. When looking at a five-year-old article by Nate Silver that looked at political donations by car dealers, fully 88 percent of those donations went to Republican candidates, and just 12 percent to Democrats. That possibly suggests a propensity among Republican state legislators to support the interests for car dealers over those of electric-car buyers. Is the small bit of evidence enough to make a case? Good background on the current system of dealership sinecure can be found in this short 2009 Competition Advocacy Paper from the U.S. Department of Justice, which delves into the history and effects of the dealers-only system which still prevails.
Science

Graphene: Fast, Strong, Cheap, and Impossible To Use 187

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-my-space-elevator dept.
An anonymous reader writes: We keep hearing about the revolutionary properties of graphene, an atom-thick sheet of carbon whose physical characteristics hold a great deal of promise — if we can figure out good ways to produce it and use it. The New Yorker has a lengthy profile of graphene and its discoverer, Andre Geim, as well as one of the physicists leading a big chunk of the bleeding-edge graphene research, James Tour.

Quoting: "[S]cientists are still trying to devise a cost-effective way to produce graphene at scale. Companies like Samsung use a method pioneered at the University of Texas, in which they heat copper foil to eighteen hundred degrees Fahrenheit in a low vacuum, and introduce methane gas, which causes graphene to "grow" as an atom-thick sheet on both sides of the copper—much as frost crystals "grow" on a windowpane. They then use acids to etch away the copper. The resulting graphene is invisible to the naked eye and too fragile to touch with anything but instruments designed for microelectronics. The process is slow, exacting, and too expensive for all but the largest companies to afford. ... Nearly every scientist I spoke with suggested that graphene lends itself especially well to hype."
Earth

Peru Indignant After Greenpeace Damages Ancient Nazca Site 465

Posted by timothy
from the vanity-project dept.
HughPickens.com writes The NYT reports that Peruvian authorities say Greenpeace activists have damaged the fragile, and restricted, landscape near the Nazca lines, ancient man-made designs etched in the Peruvian desert when they placed a large sign that promoted renewable energy near a set of lines that form the shape of a giant hummingbird. The sign was meant to draw the attention of world leaders, reporters and others who were in Lima, the Peruvian capital, for a United Nations summit meeting aimed at reaching an agreement to address climate change. Greenpeace issued a statement apologizing for the stunt at the archaeological site and its international executive director, Kumi Naidoo, flew to Lima to apologize for scarring one of Peru's most treasured national symbols. "We are not ready to accept apologies from anybody," says Luis Jaime Castillo, the vice minister for cultural heritage. "Let them apologize after they repair the damage."
Space

Deflating Claims That ESA Craft Has Spotted Dark Matter 85

Posted by timothy
from the dim-matter-is-much-easier-to-find dept.
Yesterday, we posted news that data from the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton spacecraft had been interpreted as a possible sign of dark matter; researchers noted that a spike in X-ray emissions from two different celestial objects, the Andromeda galaxy and the Perseus galaxy cluster, matched just what they "were expecting with dark matter — that is, concentrated and intense in the center of objects and weaker and diffuse on the edges." StartsWithABang writes with a skeptical rejoinder: There seems to be a formula for this very specific extraordinary claim: point your high-energy telescope at the center of a galaxy or cluster of galaxies, discover an X-ray or gamma ray signal that you can't account for through conventional, known astrophysics, and claim you've detected dark matter! Only, these results never pan out; they've turned out either to be due to conventional sources or simply non-detections every time. There's a claim going around the news based on this paper recently that we've really done it this time, and yet that's not even physically possible, as our astrophysical constraints already rule out a particle with this property as being the dark matter!
AT&T

'Revolving Door' Spins Between AT&T, Government 61

Posted by Soulskill
from the sensible-paranoia dept.
An anonymous reader sends this quote from the Center for Public Integrity: That AT&T just won an eight-figure contract to provide the federal government's General Services Administration with new mobile devices isn't itself particularly notable. What is: Casey Coleman, an AT&T executive responsible for "delivering IT and professional services to federal government customers," oversaw the GSA's information technology division and its $600 million IT budget as recently as January. ... While there’s no evidence anything illegal took place, the public still should be aware of, and potentially worried about, Coleman’s spin through the revolving door between government and companies that profit from government, said Michael Smallberg, an investigator at the nonpartisan watchdog group Project on Government Oversight. ... Federal government employees leaving public service for lucrative private sector jobs is commonplace. The Project on Government Oversight has called on the federal government to — among other actions — ban political appointees and some senior-level staffers from seeking employment with contractors that “significantly benefited” from policies they helped formulate during their tenure in government.
Data Storage

Liquid Cooling On the Rise As Data Centers Crunch Bigger Data 25

Posted by samzenpus
from the it's-getting-hot-in-here dept.
1sockchuck writes The use of liquid cooling will accelerate in the next five years, according to experts in high performance computing, who cite the data-crunching requirements of scientific research, cloud computing, bitcoin and "big data" analytics. "In the HPC world, everything will move to liquid cooling," said Paul Arts, technical director of Eurotech. But there's still plenty of resistance from data center operators wary of bringing liquid near servers, and cost is also an issue. Liquid cooling can offer significant savings over the life of a project, but the up-front installation cost can be higher than those for air-cooled systems. Immersion cooling has gotten a surprise boost from the rise of bitcoin, including a large bitcoin mine inside a Hong Kong high-rise.
AI

AI Expert: AI Won't Exterminate Us -- It Will Empower Us 417

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-the-tee-vee-said dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Oren Etzioni has been an artificial intelligence researcher for over 20 years, and he's currently CEO of the Allen Institute for AI. When he heard the dire warnings recently from both Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, he decided it's time to have an intelligent discussion about AI. He says, "The popular dystopian vision of AI is wrong for one simple reason: it equates intelligence with autonomy. That is, it assumes a smart computer will create its own goals, and have its own will, and will use its faster processing abilities and deep databases to beat humans at their own game. ... To say that AI will start doing what it wants for its own purposes is like saying a calculator will start making its own calculations." Etzioni adds, "If unjustified fears lead us to constrain AI, we could lose out on advances that could greatly benefit humanity — and even save lives. Allowing fear to guide us is not intelligent."
Businesses

Ask Slashdot: Can a Felon Work In IT? 720

Posted by samzenpus
from the orange-is-not-the-new-big-blue dept.
First time accepted submitter Lesrahpem writes I'm a felon with several prior misdemeanor convictions from an immature time in my life. I've since cleaned up my act, and I want to go back into the IT sector. I keep running into potential employers who tell me they'd like to hire me but can't because of my past record (expunging won't work, I'm in Ohio). Does anyone have any suggestions for me? Should I just give up and change careers?"
Science

45-Year Physics Mystery Shows a Path To Quantum Transistors 56

Posted by Soulskill
from the hiding-under-heisenberg dept.
New submitter cyberspittle sends this research report from the University of Michigan: An odd, iridescent material that's puzzled physicists for decades turns out to be an exotic state of matter that could open a new path to quantum computers and other next-generation electronics. ... The researchers provide the first direct evidence that samarium hexaboride, abbreviated SmB6, is a topological insulator (abstract). Topological insulators are, to physicists, an exciting class of solids that conduct electricity like a metal across their surface, but block the flow of current like rubber through their interior. They behave in this two-faced way despite that their chemical composition is the same throughout. ... This deeper understanding of samarium hexaboride raises the possibility that engineers might one day route the flow of electric current in quantum computers like they do on silicon in conventional electronics.
Government

NSF Accused of Misuse of Funds In Giant Ecological Project 116

Posted by Soulskill
from the $15000-for-porpoise-sweaters dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The National Science Foundation (NSF) and a contractor have been accused by both an audit and by Congress of a significant misuse of funds in a major ecological monitoring project costing almost a half a billion dollars. From the article: "With a construction budget of $433.7 million, NEON is planned to consist of 106 sites across the United States. Arrays of sensors at each site will monitor climate change and human impacts for 30 years, building an unprecedented continental-scale data set. Although some initially doubted its merits, the allure of big-data ecology eventually won over most scientists.

But a 2011 audit of the project's proposed construction budget stalled three times when, according to the independent Defense Contract Audit Agency, NEON's accounting proved so poor that the review could not be completed. Eventually, DCAA issued an adverse ruling, concluding that nearly 36% of NEON's budget proposal was questionable or undocumented.

When the NSF green-lit the project, the agency's inspector-general ordered the audit released on 24 November, which found unallowable expenses including a $25,000 winter holiday party, $11,000 to provide coffee for employees, $3,000 for board-of-directors dinners that included alcohol, $3,000 for t-shirts and other clothes, $83,000 for "business development" and $112,000 for lobbying."

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