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Government

French Nuclear Industry In Turmoil As Manufacturer Buckles 1

Posted by samzenpus
from the bad-times dept.
mdsolar writes with bad news for France and its nuclear industry. "France's nuclear industry is in turmoil after the country's main reactor manufacturer, Areva, reported a loss for 2014 of 4.8 billion euros ($5.3 billion) — more than its entire market value. The government of France, the world's most nuclear dependent country, has a 29% stake in Areva, which is among the biggest global nuclear technology companies. The loss puts its future — and that of France as a leader in nuclear technology — at risk. Energy and Environment Minister Segolene Royal said Wednesday she asked Areva and utility giant Electricite de France to work together on finding solutions, amid reports of a possible merger or other link-up. The government said in a statement that it's working closely with Areva to restructure and secure financing, and would 'take its responsibility as a shareholder' in future decisions about its direction. Areva reported Wednesday 1 billion euros in losses on three major nuclear projects in Finland and France, among other hits. Areva has lost money for years, in part linked to delays on those projects and to a global pullback from nuclear energy since the 2011 Fukushima accident."
Biotech

NASA Ames Reproduces the Building Blocks of Life In Laboratory 38

Posted by samzenpus
from the build-it-yourself dept.
hypnosec writes "Scientists at NASA's Ames Research Center have reproduced non-biologically the three basic components of life found in both DNA and RNA — uracil, cytosine, and thymine. For their experiment scientists deposited an ice sample containing pyrimidine — a ring-shaped molecule made up of carbon and nitrogen — on a cold substrate in a chamber with space-like conditions such as very high vacuum, extremely low temperatures, and irradiated the sample with high-energy ultraviolet photons from a hydrogen lamp. Researchers discovered that such an arrangement produces these essential ingredients of life. "We have demonstrated for the first time that we can make uracil, cytosine, and thymine, all three components of RNA and DNA, non-biologically in a laboratory under conditions found in space," said Michel Nuevo, research scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California. "We are showing that these laboratory processes, which simulate conditions in outer space, can make several fundamental building blocks used by living organisms on Earth."
Transportation

Would You Need a License To Drive a Self-Driving Car? 176

Posted by samzenpus
from the easy-driver dept.
agent elevator writes Not as strange a question as it seems, writes Mark Harris at IEEE Spectrum : "Self-driving cars promise a future where you can watch television, sip cocktails, or snooze all the way home. But what happens when something goes wrong? Today's drivers have not been taught how to cope with runaway acceleration, unexpected braking, or a car that wants to steer into a wall." The California DMV is considering something that would be similar to requirements for robocar test-driver training." Hallie Siegel points out this article arguing that we need to be careful about how many rules we make for self-driving cars before they become common. Governments and lawmakers across the world are debating how to best regulate autonomous cars, both for testing, and for operation. Robocar expert Brad Templeton argues that that there is a danger that regulations might be drafted long before the shape of the first commercial deployments of the technology take place.
Space

Massive Exoplanet Evolved In Extreme 4-Star System 32

Posted by samzenpus
from the four-is-better-than-one dept.
astroengine writes "For only the second time, an exoplanet living with an expansive family of four stars has been revealed. The exoplanet, which is a huge gaseous world 10 times the mass of Jupiter, was previously known to occupy a 3-star system, but a fourth star (a red dwarf) has now been found, revealing quadruple star systems possessing planets are more common than we thought. "About four percent of solar-type stars are in quadruple systems, which is up from previous estimates because observational techniques are steadily improving," said co-author Andrei Tokovinin of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. The whole 4-star family is collectively known as 30 Ari, located some 136 light-years from Earth — in our interstellar backyard. The exoplanet orbits the primary star of the system once every 335 days. The primary star has a new-found binary partner (which the exoplanet does not orbit) and this pair are locked in an orbital dance with a secondary binary, separated by a distance of 1,670 astronomical unit (AU), where 1 AU is the average distance between the Earth and sun.
Government

White House Threatens Veto Over EPA "Secret Science" Bills 214

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-sir-I-don't-like-it dept.
sciencehabit writes The U.S. House of Representatives could vote as early as this week to approve two controversial, Republican-backed bills that would change how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses science and scientific advice to inform its policies. Many Democrats, scientific organizations, and environmental groups are pushing back, calling the bills thinly veiled attempts to weaken future regulations and favor industry. White House advisers announced that they will recommend that President Barack Obama veto the bills if they reach his desk in their current form.
Japan

Paul Allen Helps Find Sunken Japanese WWII Battleship Musashi Off Philippines 80

Posted by samzenpus
from the davy-jones'-locker dept.
mpicpp writes with news about the discovery of a sunken Japanese battleship by Paul Allen and a team of researchers. Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul Allen and his research team have found a massive Japanese World War II battleship off the Philippines near where it sank more than 70 years ago, his representatives said Wednesday. The apparent discovery of the wreckage of the Musashi, one of the largest battleships in history, comes as the world marks the 70th anniversary of the war's end. Allen and the team aboard his superyacht M/Y Octopus found the ship on Sunday, more than eight years after their search began, Allen's publicity agency Edelman said in a statement. Detailed images captured by a high-definition camera mounted on the underwater probe confirmed the wreckage as that of the Musashi, it said. Japanese experts said they were eager to study the images to try to confirm the ship's identity. Allen's team found the battleship in the Sibuyan Sea, using an autonomous underwater vehicle in its third dive after narrowing down the search area using detailed undersea topographical data and other locator devices, the statement said. "The Musashi is truly an engineering marvel and as an engineer at heart, I have a deep appreciation for the technology and effort that went into its construction," Allen said.
Games

New Wolfenstein Game Announced: The Old Blood 49

Posted by samzenpus
from the mein-leben dept.
jones_supa writes Last year, Wolfenstein: The New Order was well received, and showed that old school shooters still can do extremely well in the current market and actually be a lot of fun. Now, Bethesda Softworks is already announcing a standalone prequel to The New Order, called Wolfenstein: The Old Blood. It's back to the roots for B.J. Blazkowicz, and you embark on a perilous journey "deep within Bavaria", with the goal of infiltrating the Castle Wolfenstein. Just like last years' game, The Old Blood has been developed by Swedish company MachineGames on the same platform including id Tech 5 engine. The release date is May 5th and the game will be available for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.
Patents

SpaceX's Challenge Against Blue Origins' Patent Fails To Take Off 53

Posted by samzenpus
from the take-them-to-court dept.
speedplane writes As was previously discussed on Slashdot, back in September SpaceX challenged a patent owned by Blue Origin. The technology concerned landing rockets at sea. Yesterday, the judges in the case issued their opinion stating that they are unable to initiate review of the patent on the grounds brought by SpaceX. Although at first glance this would appear to be a Blue Origin win, looking closer, the judges explained that Blue Origin's patent lacks sufficient disclosure, effectively stating that the patent is invalid, but not on the specific grounds brought by SpaceX: "Because claim 14 lacks adequate structural support for some of the means-plus-function limitations, it is not amenable to construction. And without ascertaining the breadth of claim 14, we cannot undertake the necessary factual inquiry for evaluating obviousness with respect to differences between the claimed subject matter and the prior art." If SpaceX wants to move forward against Blue Origin, this opinion bodes well for them, but they will need to take their case in front of a different court.

+ - Book Review: Lauren Ipsum

Submitted by MassDosage
MassDosage (1967508) writes "Lauren Ipsum (A Story About Computer Science and Other Improbable Things) Book Review by Mass Dosage

As the full title to Lauren Ipsum (A story about Computer Science and Other Improbable Things) indicates, this is a book about Computer Science but what’s surprising about it is that it manages to be about Computer Science without actually ever directly referring to the subject or even to computers at all. It is in fact a fictional story about a young girl called Lauren who gets lost after wandering into a forest near her house after an argument with her mother. She stumbles into a world populated with all kinds of strange creatures and colourful characters some of whom she befriends in order to figure out how to get back to her home. The “figuring out” part of the plot is where things get interesting as she has many attempts at solving this problem with different characters giving her often contradictory advice and Lauren then has to decide what exactly she’s trying to do and which of the various possible solutions is the best. This involves a fair amount of trial and error, learning from certain mistakes and trying different approaches. If this is starting to sound familiar to those who have written software then that’s the whole point. Lauren Ipsum is cunningly littered with references to Computer Science and in particular to things like algorithms, logic puzzles and many other of the theoretical underpinnings of the subject.

In the course of her adventures Lauren encounters characters like Xor the chameleon, Hugh Rustic the shop owner, a flock of round Robins and a Wandering Salesman. Anyone who knows a bit about computer science will be aware of the topics that are being alluded to here. This is also evident in some of the places she visits — a forest made up of red and black trees, the Island of Byzantium and a Garden of Forking Paths. All these insider references are obviously more enjoyable if you know the subject but it doesn’t really matter if you don’t get them as the story itself is separate from all the in-jokes. It’s also almost certainly the intention of the authors to stimulate people to look up some of the things they refer to and thus learn more about computer science. Lauren Ipsum can thus be read on two levels — one as a straightforward adventure story and the other as a “find and research the hidden references” book. The title of the book is itself a play on words of “Lorem Ipsum” which I’ll leave you to read up on on your own.

The chapter I enjoyed the most was one that covered building up a solution to a problem by breaking it down into smaller pieces and then combining these to come up with the final answer. In the book Lauren first learns how to draw a line and then that she can then draw and connect four of these to make a square. Even better is the discussion of the seemingly simple task of how to draw a circle which demonstrates that there are different ways of doing this, each having their own pros and cons. The solutions can be easily described as a set of steps and the question of how to control the size of the circle can be specified separately from the steps themselves. This is done without referring to any of the technical terms directly (one of the first chapters in the book is all about avoiding jargon) however what is actually being described will be instantly recognisable to anyone who has written some code — namely algorithms,algorithmic complexity, variables and parameter passing. This is quite a different way of illustrating programming concepts instead of the usual manner which involves lots of theory and code examples. Lauren Ipsum’s approach offers a much lower learning curve with simple story driven metaphors that can then be applied practically later.

The target audience of the book is probably children from around the age of 8 and up with the intention being to spark an interest in computers without the intimidation and possible connotations of boredom that a textbook might evoke. The story is entertaining but relatively simple and most of the more serious subject matter is just touched on in passing. There is an Appendix at the end which covers a few of the topics in more technical and mathematical detail but there is plenty that isn’t covered and it is up to the reader whether they want to find out more in their own way.

I found Lauren Ipsum an entertaining read, even though some of the computer science references are a bit forced. I ended up looking up a few things I wasn’t entirely sure about and learnt something new in the process and I can imagine this being even more the case for someone new to the subject. Even if the reader isn’t an aspiring geek-to-be there should be enough in the story here for them to enjoy and maybe help convince them that Computer Science can actually be fun or at the very least give them a taste for why problem solving is interesting and useful.

Full disclosure: I was given a copy of this book free of charge by the publisher for review purposes. They placed no restrictions on what I could say and left me to be as critical as I wanted so the above review is my own honest opinion."
Government

New Zealand Spied On Nearly Two Dozen Pacific Countries 109

Posted by samzenpus
from the keep-your-eyes-on-your-own-paper dept.
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.
Cellphones

Microsoft Convinced That Windows 10 Will Be Its Smartphone Breakthrough 333

Posted by samzenpus
from the for-sure-this-time dept.
jfruh (300774) writes "At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, handset manufacturers are making all the right noises about support for Windows 10, which will run on both ARM- and Intel-based phones and provide an experience very much like the desktop. But much of the same buzz surrounded Windows 8 and Windows 7 Phone. In fact, Microsoft has tried and repeatedly failed to take the mobile space by storm."
Businesses

Demand For Linux Skills Rising This Year 83

Posted by samzenpus
from the popular-kids dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes This year is shaping up as a really good one for Linux, at least on the jobs front. According to a new report (PDF) from The Linux Foundation and Dice, nearly all surveyed hiring managers want to recruit Linux professionals within the next six months, with 44 percent of them indicating they're more likely to hire a candidate with Linux certification over one who does not. Forty-two percent of hiring managers say that experience in OpenStack and CloudStack will have a major impact on their hiring decisions, while 23 percent report security is a sought-after area of expertise and 19 percent are looking for Linux-skilled people with Software-Defined Networking skills. Ninety-seven percent of hiring managers report they will bring on Linux talent relative to other skills areas in the next six months.
Yahoo!

Marissa Mayer On Turning Around Yahoo 167

Posted by samzenpus
from the steering-the-ship dept.
An anonymous reader writes For the 20th anniversary of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer discusses how she's trying to reinvent the company. In a wide-ranging interview, Mayer shares her vision for fixing the company's past mistakes, including a major investment in mobile and a new ad platform. Yet she's been dogged by critics who see her as an imperious micromanager, who criticize her $1.1 billion purchase of Tumblr, and who fault her for moving too slowly. The company's executives explain that the business could only return to health after she first halted Yahoo's brain drain and went big on mobile. As one Yahoo employee summarized Mayer's thinking: "First people, then apps."
Google

Google Prepares To Enter Wireless Market As an MVNO 43

Posted by samzenpus
from the trying-something-different dept.
jfruh writes Google is getting into the wireless connectivity business, but that 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.
Science

Photo First: Light Captured As Both Particle and Wave 125

Posted by samzenpus
from the suitable-for-framing dept.
mpicpp sends word that scientists have succeeded in capturing the first-ever snapshot of the dual behavior of light. "It's one of those enduring Zen koans of science that we've all grown up with: Light behaves as both a particle and a wave—at the same time. Einstein taught us that, so we're all generally on board, but to actually understand what it means would require several Ph.D.s and a thorough understanding of quantum physics. What's more, scientists have never been able to devise an experiment that documents light behaving as both a wave and a particle simultaneously. Until now. That's the contention of a team of Swiss and American researchers, who say they've succeeded in capturing the first-ever snapshot of light's dual behavior. Using an advanced electron microscope – one of only two on the planet – at the EPFL labs in Switzerland, the team has generated a kind of quantum photograph of light behaving as both a particle and a wave. The experiment involves firing laser light at a microscopic metallic nanowire, causing light to travel — as a wave — back and forth along the wire. When waves traveling in opposite directions meet, they form a "standing wave" that emits light itself — as particles. By shooting a stream of electrons close to the nanowire, the researchers were able to capture an image that simultaneously demonstrates both the wave-nature and particle-nature of light. 'This experiment demonstrates that, for the first time ever, we can film quantum mechanics — and its paradoxical nature — directly,' says lead researcher Fabrizio Carbone of EPFL, on the lab's project page. The study is to be officially published this week in the journal Nature Communications."

To be a kind of moral Unix, he touched the hem of Nature's shift. -- Shelley

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