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Earth

Researchers Pooh-Pooh Algae-Based Biofuel 238

Posted by timothy
from the feed-it-pooh-pooh-undies dept.
Julie188 writes "Researchers from the University of Virginia have found that current algae biofuel production methods consume more energy, have higher greenhouse gas emissions and use more water than other biofuel sources, such as switchgrass, canola and corn. The researchers suggest these problems can be overcome by situating algae production ponds behind wastewater treatment facilities to capture phosphorous and nitrogen — essential algae nutrients that otherwise need to come from petroleum."
Security

Ethics of Releasing Non-Malicious Linux Malware? 600

Posted by kdawson
from the what-would-schneier-do dept.
buchner.johannes writes "I was fed up with the general consensus that Linux is oh-so-secure and has no malware. After a week of work, I finished a package of malware for Unix/Linux. Its whole purpose is to help white-hat hackers point out that a Linux system can be turned into a botnet client by simply downloading BOINC and attaching it to a user account to help scientific projects. The malware does not exploit any security holes, only loose security configurations and mindless execution of unverified downloads. I tested it to be injected by a PHP script (even circumventing safe mode), so that the Web server runs it; I even got a proxy server that injects it into shell scripts and makefiles in tarballs on the fly, and adds onto Windows executables for execution in Wine. If executed by the user, the malware can persist itself in cron, bashrc and other files. The aim of the exercise was to provide a payload so security people can 'pwn' systems to show security holes, without doing harm (such as deleting files or disrupting normal operation). But now I am unsure of whether it is ethically OK to release this toolkit, which, by ripping out the BOINC payload and putting in something really evil, could be turned into proper Linux malware. On the one hand, the way it persists itself in autostart is really nasty, and that is not really a security hole that can be fixed. On the other hand, such a script can be written by anyone else too, and it would be useful to show people why you need SELinux on a server, and why verifying the source of downloads (checksums through trusted channels) is necessary. Technically, it is a nice piece, but should I release it? I don't want to turn the Linux desktop into Windows, hence I'm slightly leaning towards not releasing it. What does your ethics say about releasing such grayware?"
Science

Programmable Quantum Computer Created 132

Posted by Soulskill
from the four-out-of-five-ain't-bad dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A team at NIST (the National Institute of Standards and Technology) used berylium ions, lasers and electrodes to develop a quantum system that performed 160 randomly chosen routines. Other quantum systems to date have only been able to perform single, prescribed tasks. Other researchers say the system could be scaled up. 'The researchers ran each program 900 times. On average, the quantum computer operated accurately 79 percent of the time, the team reported in their paper.'"
NASA

Air Force & NASA Fire Off Green Rocket 157

Posted by kdawson
from the one-of-these-days-alice dept.
coondoggie writes "NASA and the Air Force said today they had successfully launched a 9-ft. rocket 1,300 feet into the sky, powered by aluminum powder and water ice. This combination of fuel elements, referred to as ALICE, has the potential to replace some liquid or solid propellants. The technology is being developed at Purdue University and Pennsylvania State University. Aside from its environmental benefiits, ALICE has the advantage that it could be manufactured in far-away places, such as the moon or Mars, instead of being transported to distant horizons at great cost, researchers said."
Image

13-Year-Old Trades iPod For a Walkman For a Week 354

Posted by samzenpus
from the don't-tell-him-about-records dept.
BBC Magazine convinced 13-year-old Scott Campbell to trade in his iPod for a Walkman for a week and see what he thought. Scott thinks the iPod wins when it comes to sound quality, color, weight, and the shuffle feature. The Walkman, however, offers two headphone sockets, making it much easier to listen to music with a friend. My favorite part of the review is, "It took me three days to figure out that there was another side to the tape. That was not the only naive mistake that I made; I mistook the metal/normal switch on the Walkman for a genre-specific equalizer, but later I discovered that it was in fact used to switch between two different types of cassette."
Image

Paro the Therapeutic Robot Baby Seal 52

Posted by samzenpus
from the we're-gonna-need-a-bigger-club dept.
Mike writes "Paro is a therapeutic baby seal robot that is exploring new dimensions in animal therapy. Created to act as a companion for hospital patients and the elderly, the adorable baby harp seal bot aims to increase relaxation and decrease stress. Paro can sense and respond to its immediate environment through five integrated sensors that detect touch, light, sound, temperature, and posture, and it is even capable of learning and responding to a name."
Earth

Quantum Mechanics Involved In Photosynthesis 137

Posted by samzenpus
from the spooky-cycle dept.
Kristina at Science News writes "We all learn about photosynthesis in school: sunlight in, plant food out. Not well understood is how this process achieves its initial and uniquely high efficiency in capturing the energy of a photon. Quantum mechanics may be at work in the electron transfer process inside chloroplast, giving electrons the chance to consider many paths at once before choosing the best one."
Security

Obama, McCain Campaigns Both Hacked, Files Compromised 255

Posted by timothy
from the nogoodniks-abound dept.
dunezone writes "As the election ends, news is coming out from both campaigns on what happened behind closed doors. During the summer, the Obama campaign had their systems hacked, but so did McCain — and not by each other, but by a third party. '... both the FBI and the Secret Service came to the campaign with an ominous warning: "You have a problem way bigger than what you understand," an agent told Obama's team. "You have been compromised, and a serious amount of files have been loaded off your system." The following day, Obama campaign chief David Plouffe heard from White House chief of staff Josh Bolten, to the same effect: "You have a real problem ... and you have to deal with it." The Feds told Obama's aides in late August that the McCain campaign's computer system had been similarly compromised.'" Also from the article: "Officials at the FBI and the White House told the Obama campaign that they believed a foreign entity or organization sought to gather information on the evolution of both camps' policy positions — information that might be useful in negotiations with a future administration."
Transportation

Simple Device Claimed To Boost Fuel Efficiency By Up To 20% 674

Posted by Soulskill
from the innovation-is-a-real-gas dept.
Ponca City, We love you writes "Temple University physics professor Rongjia Tao has developed a simple device that could dramatically improve fuel efficiency in automobiles by as much as 20 percent. The device, attached to the fuel line of a car's engine near the fuel injector, creates an electric field that thins fuel, reducing its viscosity so that smaller droplets are injected into the engine. Because combustion starts at the droplet surface, smaller droplets lead to cleaner and more efficient combustion. Six months of road testing in a diesel-powered Mercedes-Benz automobile showed an increase from 32 miles per gallon to 38 mpg, a 20 percent boost, and a 12-15 percent gain in city driving. 'We expect the device will have wide applications on all types of internal combustion engines, present ones and future ones,' Tao wrote in the study published in Energy & Fuels. 'This discovery promises to significantly improve fuel efficiency in all types of internal combustion engine powered vehicles and at the same time will have far-reaching effects in reducing pollution of our environment,' says Larry F. Lemanski, Senior Vice President for Research and Strategic Initiatives at Temple."
Programming

California Can't Perform Pay Cut Because of COBOL 1139

Posted by kdawson
from the handwaving-only-gets-you-so-far dept.
beezzie writes "Last week, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger ordered a pay cut, to minimum wage of $6.55/hr, for 200,000 state workers — because a state budget hadn't been approved yet. The state controller, who has opposed the pay cut on principle and legal grounds, now says the pay cut isn't even feasible because the state's payroll systems are so antiquated. He says it would take six months to go to minimum wage, and nine months more to restore salaries once a budget is passed. The system is based on COBOL, according to the Sacramento Bee, and the state hasn't yet found the funds or resources, in ten years of trying, to upgrade it." The article quotes a consultant on how hard it is to find COBOL programmers; he says you usually have to draw them out of retirement. Problem is, if there were any such folks on the employment rolls in California, Gov. Schwarzenegger fired them all last week, too.
Robotics

Scandinavian Scientists Designing Robotic Snakes 129

Posted by samzenpus
from the on-a-robot-plane dept.
Cowards Anonymous writes "The Sintef Group, a research company based in Trondheim, Norway, announced that it's designing a robot based on snakes. The 1.5-meter long robots, which are made of aluminum, are being designed to inspect and clean complicated industrial pipe systems that are typically narrow and inaccessible to humans. The intelligent robots have multiple joints to enable them to twist vertically and climb up through pipe systems to locate leaks in water systems, inspect oil and gas pipelines and clean ventilation systems."

Somebody ought to cross ball point pens with coat hangers so that the pens will multiply instead of disappear.

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