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+ - The Origin of Life And The Hidden Role of Quantum Criticality

Submitted by KentuckyFC
KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "One of the great puzzles of biology is how the molecular machinery of life is so finely coordinated. Even the simplest cells are complex three dimensional biochemical factories in which a dazzling array of machines pump, push, copy, and compute in a dance of extraordinarily detailed complexity. Indeed, it is hard to imagine how the ordinary processes of electron transport allow this complexity to emerge given the losses that arise in much simpler circuits. Now a group of researchers led by Stuart Kauffmann have discovered that the electronic properties of biomolecules are entirely different to those of ordinary conductors. It turns out that most biomolecules exist in an exotic state called quantum criticality that sits on the knife edge between conduction and insulation. In other words, biomolecules belong to an entirely new class of conductor that is not bound by the ordinary rules of electron transport. Of course, organic molecules can be ordinary conductors or insulators and the team have found a few biomolecules that fall into these categories. But evolution seems to have mainly selected biomolecules that are quantum critical, implying that that this property must confer some evolutionary advantage. Exactly what this could be isn't yet clear but it must play an important role in the machinery of life and its origin."

+ - Lockheed Martin Claims Sustainable Fusion Is Within Its Grasp-> 1

Submitted by SternisheFan
SternisheFan (2529412) writes "Imagine a source of electrical power that uses water for fuel, produces byproducts that are totally safe and releases no air pollution. Then imagine that once it's up and running, it'll be so portable that an entire power plant could fit into the cargo hold of an airplane. Now, imagine that it'll be running in prototype form in five years and operating commercially in ten.

The fusion is powered by a combination of two isotopes of Hydrogen, Deuterium and Tritium, both of which occur in nature and which can be extracted from water. "Our studies show that a 100 MW system would only burn less than 20 kg of fuel in an entire year of operation," a Lockheed Martin spokesperson told eWEEK. "Tritium fuel is continually bred within the reactor wall and fed back into the reactor along with deuterium gas to sustain the reactions."
In other words, the fusion reactor creates most of its own fuel as part of its operation. The Deuterium gas is simply a normal hydrogen atom with an extra neutron, creating what is sometimes called "heavy hydrogen." Deuterium can be extracted from the hydrogen obtained from electrolysis of water. This may sound complicated, but it's a process that has been routinely performed in college physics projects.
While the fusion reactor does create a radioactive byproduct, it's recycled for use in the reactor itself. There is no radioactive waste problem such as exists with nuclear fission power plants. "The waste footprint is orders of magnitude less than coal plants which require huge landfills to contain the toxic ash and sludge wastes," the spokesperson said in an email.
"A typical coal plant generates over 100,000 tons of ash and sludge containing toxic metals and chemicals each year. The first generation of fusion reactors will run on Deuterium-Tritium fuel, but successive generations would use fuels that could eliminate the radioactivity altogether," she said.
Currently Lockheed Martin is in the process of testing a magnetic confinement bottle, where the Skunk Works team has apparently made significant progress. In terms of how a fusion reactor would be created, the magnetic bottle is the primary hurdle.
If that's accomplished successfully most of the science and engineering is known. However, that doesn't mean that building the prototype fusion reactor is a done deal. Lockheed Martin is looking for industry partners to help develop the Compact Fusion reactor into a real product.
The goal is to create a fusion reactor that can generate heat to use in existing power plants, where the reactor would replace existing fossil fuel combustion. This means that existing power generation and distribution infrastructure would be retained, which will dramatically reduce the cost of implementation and dramatically speed up deployment.
The existence of cheap, portable power will transform the world in many ways. A statement from the company envisions ships and aircraft with unlimited range, spacecraft that could reduce the travel time to Mars to less than a month.
Perhaps most important to the most people, it could bring vast amounts of power to anywhere on earth, providing among other things economical water desalination to developing regions of the globe, which are not only poor, but short of clean water, by removing energy scarcity as an insurmountable problem.
If Lockheed Martin can pull this off, and given the reputation of the Skunk Works for routinely doing the impossible, I suspect it will, the results will be transformative.
While it doesn't mean free energy, it does mean that the cost of nearly unlimited energy is very low, and with unlimited energy, there's no end to what can be accomplished. To say that the Skunk Works is on the verge of changing the world is an understatement. This development could well define the future."

Link to Original Source

+ - New Zealand spied on nearly two dozen Pacific countries->

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "New documents from Edward Snowden indicate New Zealand undertook "full take" interception of communications from Pacific nations and forwarded the data to the NSA.

The data, collected by New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bureau, was then fed into the NSA's XKeyscore search engine to allow analysts to trawl for intelligence.

The New Zealand link helped flesh out the NSA's ambitions to intercept communications globally."

Link to Original Source

+ - 'The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress' Coming to the Big Screen 2

Submitted by HughPickens.com
HughPickens.com (3830033) writes "Hollywood Reporter reports that Twentieth Century Fox recently picked up the movie rights to "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress," based on the classic sci-fi book by Robert A. Heinlein and will retitled the movie as 'Uprising'. Heinlein's 1966 sci-fi novel centers on a lunar colony's revolt against rule from Earth and the book popularized the acronym TANSTAAFL (There ain't no such thing as a free lunch), a central, libertarian theme. The novel was nominated for the 1966 Nebula award (honoring the best sci-fi and fantasy work in the U.S.) and won the Hugo Award for best science fiction novel in 1967. An adaptation has been attempted twice before — by DreamWorks, which had a script by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, and by Phoenix Pictures, with Harry Potter producer David Heyman attached — but both languished and the rights reverted to Heinlein's estate. Brian Singer, who previously directed X-Men: Days of Future Past, will adopt the screenplay and reportedly direct. Several of Heinlein's novels have been adapted for the big and small screen, including the 1953 film Project Moonbase, the 1994 TV miniseries Red Planet, the 1994 film The Puppet Masters, and — very loosely — the 1997 film Starship Troopers."

+ - Study: Refactoring Doesn't Improve Code Quality->

Submitted by itwbennett
itwbennett (1594911) writes "A team of researchers in Sri Lanka set out to test whether common refactoring techniques resulted in measurable improvements in software quality, both externally (e.g., Is the code more maintainable?) and internally (e.g., Number of lines of code). Here's the tl;dr version of their findings: Refactoring doesn’t make code easier to analyze or change; it doesn't make code run faster; and it doesn't doesn’t result in lower resource utilization. But it may make code more maintainable."
Link to Original Source

+ - FREAK Attack Threatens SSL Clients->

Submitted by msm1267
msm1267 (2804139) writes "For the nth time in the last couple of years, security experts are warning about a new Internet-scale vulnerability, this time in some popular SSL clients. The flaw allows an attacker to force clients to downgrade to weakened ciphers and break their supposedly encrypted communications through a man-in-the-middle attack.

Researchers recently discovered that some SSL clients, including OpenSSL, will accept weak RSA keys–known as export-grade keys–without asking for those keys. Export-grade refers to 512-bit RSA keys, the key strength that was approved by the United States government for export overseas. This was an artifact from decades ago and it was thought that most servers and clients had long ago abandoned such weak ciphers.

The vulnerability affects a variety of clients, most notably Apple’s Safari browser. The bug was discovered by a large group of researchers from Microsoft Research and the French National Institute for Research in Computer Science and Control, and they found that given a server that supports export-grade ciphers and a client that accepts those weak keys, an attacker with a man-in-the-middle position could force a client to downgrade to the weak keys. He could then take the key and factor it, which researchers were able to do in about seven and a half hours, using Amazon EC2. And because it’s resource-intensive to generate RSA keys, servers will generate one and re-use it indefinitely."

Link to Original Source

+ - Which classic OOP compiled language: Objective-C or C++?

Submitted by Qbertino
Qbertino (265505) writes "I've been trying to pick up a classic OOP oriented compiled language since the early 90ies and have never gotten around to it. C++ always was on my radar but I'm a little torn to-and-fro with Objective-C. Objective-C is the obvious choice if you also want to make money deving for Mac OS X, but for the stuff I want to do both languages would suffice on all platforms. I do want to start out on x86 Linux though and also use it as my main development platform. Note: The fight is only between these two. Yes, I know quite a few other PLs, but I want to get into a widespread compiled language that has good ties into FOSS and both Objective-C and C++ fit that bill.
I'm leaning towards C++ but what do you recommend? How do these two PLs compare to each other and how easy is cross-plattform development in either? (GUI free, 'headless' applications). Thanks for your opinion."

+ - Google Prepares To Enter Wireless Market As An MVNO->

Submitted by jfruh
jfruh (300774) writes "Google is getting into the wireless connectivity business, but doesn't mean you'll be able to use them as your wireless connectivity provider any time soon. The company isn't building its own cell network, but will rather be a "mobile virtual network operator" offering services over existing networks. Google says it won't be a full-service mobile network in competition with existing carriers; instead, the MVNO will offer a platform through which it can experiment with new services for Android smartphones."
Link to Original Source

+ - Feds admit Stingray can disrupt bystanders' communications

Submitted by linuxwrangler
linuxwrangler (582055) writes "The government has fought hard to keep details about use and effects of the controversial Stingray device secret. But this Wired article points to recently released documents in which the government admits that the device can cause collatoral damage to other network users. The controversy has heated to the point that Florida senator Bill Nelson has made combative statments that such devices will inevitably force lawmakers to come up with new ways to protect privacy — a comment that is even more remarkable considering that the Stingray is produced by Harris Corporation which is headquartered in Nelson's home state."

+ - Isis and Al-Qaeda terrorists using eBay, Reddit and porn to send coded messages ->

Submitted by concertina226
concertina226 (2447056) writes "Islamic State (Isis) and Al-Qaeda terrorists have been turning to Reddit, eBay and pornography to send coded messages to their followers, according to an author with sources inside Mossad.

Mossad operatives now routinely monitor social bookmarking website Reddit, where messages can be hidden easily due to the plethora of subreddit sections and millions of posts of comments in each section of the website."

Link to Original Source

+ - Dropping the TSA: A Growing Trend->

Submitted by tiberus
tiberus (258517) writes "Amid a growing number of customer service complaints and delays, over a dozen airports have dropped TSA screeners in favor of cheaper and friendlier private screeners.

Tired of long lines at TSA airport checkpoints? Today, the Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB) began a transition to private security screeners rather than Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners in a change that promises more efficient security measures.

"

Link to Original Source

+ - ISIS threatens life of Twitter founder after thousands of account suspensions->

Submitted by Patrick O'Neill
Patrick O'Neill (3863175) writes "After a wave of account bannings that marks Twitter's most aggressive move ever against ISIS, new images circulated from militants shows founder Jack Dorsey in crosshairs with the caption "Twitter, you started this war." The famously tech-savy ISIS has met a number of defeats on American-built social media recently with sites like Twitter and YouTube banning the group's efforts in unprecedented numbers."
Link to Original Source

+ - A step closer to explaining high-temperature superconductivity?->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "For years some physicists have been hoping to crack the mystery of high-temperature superconductivity—the ability of some complex materials to carry electricity without resistance at temperatures high above absolute zero—by simulating crystals with patterns of laser light and individual atoms. Now, a team has taken—almost—the next-to-last step in such "optical lattice" simulation by reproducing the pattern of magnetism seen in high-temperature superconductors from which the resistance-free flow of electricity emerges."
Link to Original Source

+ - Pharming Attack Targets Home Router DNS Settings->

Submitted by msm1267
msm1267 (2804139) writes "Pharming attacks are generally network-based intrusions where the ultimate goal is to redirect a victim’s web traffic to a hacker-controlled webserver, generally through a malicious modification of DNS settings. Some of these attacks, however, are starting to move to the web and have their beginnings with a spam or phishing email.

Proofpoint yesterday reported on the latest iteration of this attack, also based in Brazil. The campaign was carried out during a five-week period starting in December when Proofpoint spotted phishing messages, fewer than 100, sent to customers of one of the country’s largest telecommunications companies."

Link to Original Source

+ - How Does One Verify Hard Drive Firmware? 1

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "In light of recent revelations from Kaspersky Labs about the Equation Group and persistent hard drive malware, I was curious about how easy it might be to verify my own system's drives to see if they were infected. I have no real reason to think they would be, but I was dismayed by the total lack of tools to independently verify such a thing. For instance, Seagate's firmware download pages provide files with no external hash, something Linux distributions do for all of their packages. Neither do they seem to provide a utility to read off the current firmware from a drive and verify its integrity.

Are there any utilities to do such a thing? Why don't these companies provide such a thing to users? Has anyone compiled and posted a public list of known-good firmware hashes for the major hard drive vendors and models? This seems to be a critical hole in PC security.

I did contact Seagate support asking for hashes of their latest firmware; I got a response stating that '...If you download the firmware directly from our website there is no risk on the file be tampered with." [their phrasing, not mine]. Methinks somebody hasn't been keeping up with world events lately."

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