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Submission + - Solar night (

Dthief writes: Something new is headed for the Southwest desert: solar power plants that can make electricity whether or not the sun is shining.

The Solana plant will be able to meet winter heating and lighting needs by putting electricity on the grid early in the morning—before the sun is shining—and help satisfy summer cooling demand by producing power after sundown. The plant, which can power up to 70,000 houses, has signed a 30-year agreement to sell electricity to utility company Arizona Public Service.

Mark Mehos, a solar program manager for the National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, Colo., said such molten salt storage systems add about 20% to the construction cost of solar plants but more than make up for it by boosting a plant's flexibility and productivity.

Electricity from solar plants is expensive, especially at a time when natural-gas prices have plunged, making gas-generated electricity cheap by comparison. Utilities, which are under state mandates to buy more clean power, say solar power may look more economical in the future if fossil fuel prices rise or if a tax is imposed on carbon emissions by power plants.


Submission + - New Zealand Government Opens UFO Files (

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.

Submission + - Retailers Dread Phone-Wielding Shoppers (

Ponca City writes: "The WSJ reports that until recently, retailers could reasonably assume that if they just lured shoppers to stores with enticing specials, the customers could be coaxed into buying more profitable stuff too, but now marketers must contend with shoppers who can use their smartphones inside stores to check whether the specials are really so special. "The retailer's advantage has been eroded," says Greg Girard adding that that roughly 45% of customers with smartphones had used them to perform due diligence on a store's prices. "The four walls of the store have become porous." Although store executives publicly welcome a price-transparent world, retail experts don't expect all chains to measure up to the harsh judgment of mobile price comparisons and some will need to find new ways to survive. "Only a couple of retailers can play the lowest-price game," says Noam Paransky. "This is going to accelerate the demise of retailers who do not have either competitive pricing" or a standout store experience."

Submission + - Single software licence shared 774,651 times (

nk497 writes: A single licence for Avast security software has been used by 774,651 people after it went viral on a file-sharing site. Avast noticed that a license for its paid-for security software, sold to a 14-user firm in Arizona, was being distributed online. Rather than shut down the piracy, the company decided to see how far the software would spread — it's since popped up in 200 countries, including the Vatican City. Now, the company is turning it into a marketing opportunity, with a pop-up encouraging users of the pirated copy to download a legal copy of the free or paid-for version. Avast isn't sure how many pirates have gone legal, but said some have made the switch.
Hardware Hacking

Homemade Robotic Xylophone Plays Holiday Melodies 70

compumike writes "Just in time to add a bit of geeky holiday cheer to your office, this video demonstrates how to build a robotic xylophone featuring handmade solenoids and aluminum bars, and shows it playing several classic holiday tunes. New songs can be programmed in with C macros, and this project could even be extended to perhaps play a melody when a new e-mail arrived or a software build has finished compiling!"

Submission + - Fedex Misplaces Radioactive Rods (

Hugh Pickens writes: "Fox News reports that a shipment of radioactive rods used in medical equipment has vanished while being sent by Fedex from North Dakota to Tennessee. Based on tracking information, FedEx is focusing its search in the Tennessee area but as a normal precaution the company alerted all of its stations "in the event that it got waylaid and went to another station by accident." Dr. Marc Siegel says if someone opens the container it could pose some serious health risks. "I don't believe it has the degree of radiation that, if it were opened, your skin would suddenly slop off. But the concern would be, if this got opened inadvertently and someone didn't know what it was and then was repeatedly exposed to it over several days, it could cause a problem with radiation poisoning," say Siegel. "The people that use this equipment in a hospital use protective shielding with it." The lesson is that active medical material must always be transported in a way that ensures that the general public cannot get access to it. "Medical devices should not be FedEx'ed. They should be sent under a special service," adds Siegel."

Submission + - Extra-Galactic Planet Discovered in Milky Way (

astroengine writes: "Between six to nine billion years ago, the Milky Way collided with another galaxy. As you'd expect, this caused quite a mess; stars dust and gas being ripped from the intergalactic interloper. In fact, to this day, the dust hasn't quite settled and astronomers have spotted an odd-looking exoplanet orbiting a metal poor star 2,000 light-years from Earth. Through a careful process of elimination, the extrasolar planet (known as HIP 13044b) actually works out to be an extragalactic planet, a surviving relic of the massive collision eons ago."

Submission + - LHC Scientists Create and Capture Antimatter (

Velcroman1 writes: Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider have created antimatter in the form of antihydrogen, demonstrating how it's possible to capture and release it. The development could help researchers devise laboratory experiments to learn more about this strange substance, which mostly disappeared from the universe shortly after the Big Bang 14 billion years ago.Trapping any form of antimatter is difficult, because as soon as it meets normal matter – the stuff Earth and everything on it is made out of – the two annihilate each other in powerful explosions. "We are getting close to the point at which we can do some classes of experiments on the properties of antihydrogen," said Joel Fajans, a University of California, Berkeley professor of physics, and LBNL faculty scientist. "Since no one has been able to make these types of measurements on antimatter atoms at all, it's a good start."

Submission + - 'Space-time cloak' could conceal events ( 1

DeadBugs writes: New materials with the ability to manipulate the speed of light could enable the creation of a "space-time cloak" capable of masking events or even creating an illusion of "Star Trek"-style transportation, according to scientists in London.

Submission + - The Story Of My As Yet Unverified Impact Crater. 3

tetrahedrassface writes: When I was very young my dad took me on a trip to his parents farm. He wanted to show me 'The Crater'. We walked a long way through second generation hardwoods and finally stood on the rim of a hole that has no equal in this area. As I grew up I became more interested in 'The Crater", and would always tell friends about it. It is roughly 1,200 feet across, and 120 feet deep, and has a strange vibe about it. When you walk up to it, you feel like something really big happened here. Either the mother of all caves is down there, or a large object smashed into this place a long, long time ago. I bought aerial photo's when I was twelve and later send images from GIS to a geologist at a local university and he pretty much laughed me out of his office, saying that it was a sinkhole. He did wish me luck however. It may be sinkhole. Who knows?

Last week I borrowed a metal detector and went poking around, and have found the strangest shrapnel pieces I have ever seen. They are composed of a metal that reacts strongly to acids. The largest piece so far reacted with tap water and dishwashing detergent. My second trip today yielded lots of strange new pieces of metal, and hopefully one day the truth either way will be known. Backyard science is so much fun and who knows, ff it is indeed a cave maybe Cerberus resides there.

Submission + - Destroy Earth From the Comfort of Your Computer (

zrbyte writes: There have been numerous discussions on /. regarding the matter of a large asteroid hitting the Earth, its consequences and how to avoid such a catastrophe. Now, researchers from the University of Arizona and Imperial College London have produced a software that lets you have a free swing at the Earth by the impactor of your choice. They have a nice web interface that makes creating doomsday scenarios a snap.

Just type in a few variables such as diameter, density, and velocity and Impact: Earth! will send a comet or asteroid hurtling toward our planet. Lest you be unsatisfied with a simulation of a massive rock barreling down on us, the Web site also provides data on the aftermath, including the size of the crater, the extent of the fireball, and even the height of the tsunami wave, should the object crash into the ocean.

Details on the calculations can be found in a paper published by the researchers.

Submission + - Chip allows blind people to see (

crabel writes: 3 blind people got implanted with a retinal chip that allowed them to see shapes and objects within days of the procedure.
"One of the patients surprised researchers by identifying and locating objects on a table; he was also able to walk around a room unaided, approach specific people, tell the time from a clock face, and describe seven different shades of gray in front of him."


Submission + - typewriter hacked to play Zork, responds to typing

UgLyPuNk writes: Typewriters that can type by themselves are one thing. Typewriters that can type by themselves and play Zork are totally different – the stuff that dreams are made of (at least the dreams of little girls who spent hours in front of a Commodore 64 telling the machine to GO NORTH and such).

Adding features does not necessarily increase functionality -- it just makes the manuals thicker.