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Submission Aliens Have a Tough Time Perceiving Human Communications and Tech->

szczys writes: The screen on that new cellphone has amazing pixel density, color vibrance, and refresh rate. The high-end headphones you just picked up do an amazing job reproducing sound. These devices that make up UI for our modern technology interface extremely well with Humans but are going to be awful communication modes for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. Sure, we haven't made contact with alien life yet. Even if they did pick up our broadcasts or space probes the relatively narrow-range of audio (narrow and low frequency), visual (slow refresh rate), and data transmission methods are likely to make no sense to non-human entities. The Voyager Golden Record took a fascinating approach to making some data available to new civilizations; it's interesting to think of other ways we might communicate with beings of fundamentally different biology.
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Submission Cold Fusion Rears Ugly Head with Claims of Deuterium Powered Homes->

szczys writes: Ah, who can forget the cold-fusion fiasco of the early 1990's? Promises of room-temperature fusion machines in every home providing nearly-free energy for all. Relive those glory days of hype with this report of Deuterium-Based Home Reactors. Elliot Williams does a good job of deflating the sensationalism by pointing out all of the "breakthroughs", their lack of having any other labs successfully verify the experiments, and the fact that many of the same players from the news stories in the 90s are once again wrapped up in this one.
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Submission Sensor Network makes life easier for Japan's aging rice farmers->

szczys writes: The average age of Japan's rice farmers is 65-70 years old. The work is difficult and even small changes to the way things are done can have a profound impact on these lives. The flooded paddies where the rice is grown must maintain a consistent water level which means farmers must regularly traverse the terraced fields to check many different paddies. A simple sensor board is changing this, letting farmers check their fields by phone instead of in person.

This might not sound like much, but reducing the number of times someone needs to walk the fields is has a big effect on the man hours spent on each crop. The system, called TechRice, is inexpensive and the nodes recharge batteries from a solar cell. The data is aggregated on the Internet and can be presented as a webpage, a text-message interface, or any other reporting scheme imaginable by utilizing the API of the Open Source software. This is a testament to the power we have as small groups of engineers to improve the world.

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Submission No Sex Please, We're Robots->

An anonymous reader writes: Apparently there is actually an international conference on robot sex. This post talks about a recent paper likening robosex to prostitution and the Pepper robot that has a user's agreement to not have sex with it. HaD's summary. We used to say if you can't hack it, you don't own it. Now maybe it is if you can't ***k it, you don't own it.
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Submission Quantum Computing Kills Encryption->

szczys writes: Quantum computers are going to happen and in the near future too: 10-30 years away. When the quantum computing revolution does take hold, almost all of our currently known encryption techniques will be void. The doom and gloom of this isn't that encryption will be non-existant, one would assume that better computers will bring with them better encryption algorithms. What is chilling about this revelation is that our data is already being harvested and archived in various ways. What you think is encrypted safely today may become an open book tomorrow. Elliot Williams makes a great point:

Anyone storing your (or your government’s) data now will likely be able to read it when today’s toddler is enrolling in college.

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Submission Guy Invents Safe Ocean Travel and is Snubbed for the Effort-> 5

szczys writes: Here's an interesting fact: when at sea you can't establish your longitude without a reliable clock. You can figure out latitude with a sextant, but not longitude. Early clocks used pendulums that don't work on a rocking boat. So in the 1700's the British government offered up £20,000 for a reliable clock that would work at sea. John Harrison designed a really accurate ocean-worthy clock after 31 years of effort and was snubbed for the prize which would be £2.8 Million at today's value. After fighting for the payout for another 36 years he did finally get it at the ripe old age of 80. The methods he used to build this maritime chronometer were core to every wrist and pocket watch through the first third of the 20th Century.
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Submission Tank Hack Ensured Farmland Didn't Thwarted the Invasion of Europe ->

szczys writes: Ingenuity reigns supreme when trying to overcome obstacles standing in your way. So was the case during the Allied invasion of Europe during WWII. Land features in the Normandy bocage region were especially difficult for tanks to navigate. The obstacles were earthen dikes topped with mature trees originally put in place to contain livestock. The solution was to reuse materials from the Axis' own anti-tank measures to build a tank attachment to cut through the obstacles. The Allies were able to take the Axis by surprise as it was assumed the armored divisions wouldn't be able to break through this area.
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Submission Ethics in Engineering: Volkswagen's Diesel Fiasco->

szczys writes: By now you've heard that VW has been accused of doctoring the software in their small desiel models to sidestep emissions standards. The thing that hasn't been talked about is engineering ethics. An algorithm in the code detects when the vehicle is under test conditions and causes it to perform differently. This couldn't have been accomplished by just one person. Brian Benchoff looks at the conditions leading up to the scandal and discusses the engineering ethics involved. Automotive engineers are held to a higher standard because mistakes and cut corners can kill people. This kind of suspected deceit goes well beyond concerns of environmental damage. Willing ethics violations challenge our trust of the engineering as a whole.
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Submission This is What a Real Bomb Looks Like-> 2

szczys writes: You see them all the time in movies and TV shows, but is that what an actual bomb looks like? Probably not... here's what a real bomb looks like.

This story stems from a millionaire gone bust from gambling addiction who decided to extort riches back from the casino. He built a bomb and got it into the building, then ransomed the organization for $3 million. The FBI documented the mechanisms in great detail — including the 8 independent trigger systems that made it impossible for them to disarm the thing. The design was so nefarious it's still used today as a training tool.

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Submission Turns out the Periodic Table is a perfect Quantum Truth Table->

szczys writes: Here's a chance to actually apply some of that Quantum Mechanics theory to something you'll understand. Will Sweatman walks through the four quantum numbers and how they are represented. It's just an abstract set of simple rules until you start trying all combinations. The resulting truth table — the set of every iteration — justifies the elements and their locations on the periodic table.
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Comment Re:No... (Score 3, Informative) 165

Problem not solved. Sure you can arrest and charge someone for breaking the rules but the vast majority of these cases are people not knowing any better. If these drones are interfering with full-sized aircraft, penalties don't prevent the danger presented by naive operators. This is an educational problem -- people need to know there are places you're not allowed to fly and that it's important to stay out of those with their hobby equipment.

Comment Re:Won't work (Score 1) 2

Moving forward many drones will already have GPS. Bluetooth is really easy to add (on the manufacturing side), and you use the operator's cellphone to connect to the Internet. So the drone knows what it's specifications and location are. The user can put in if they have a special license (like an AMA license) and the app will tell them if there are any restrictions, temporary or otherwise. The whole point is that the vast majority of people causing problems are doing it because they don't know any better. Bigger drones with larger ranges are getting cheaper all the time, so educating people about how these can be dangerous and how to follow simple safety rules (stay away from airports, watch out for police issued temporary no-fly zones) is paramount to keeping the hobby open and friendly.

Submission Only Self-Awareness Can Keep Drones Out of Do Not Fly Zones-> 2

szczys writes: Chris Anderson is on the bleeding edge of the drone world having founded 3D Robotics (drone manufacturer) and DIY Drones (enthusiast site). He takes on the issues of people flying them where the ought not and concludes that making drones self aware is the best solution.

This isn't the 'robots are trying to kill you" type of self awareness. Instead, it considers drone type, operator, and location, to establish if all those factors equate to a safe flight area. This is an important issue — in the last few months there have been several stories of drones in places they should not have been. This included incidents like disrupting the efforts of airborne firefighting and interfering with a police manhunt.

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Submission The Handheld Analog Computer that made the Atomic Bomb->

szczys writes: When the physicists and mathematicians of the Manhattan Project began their work they needed to establish which substance was most likely to sustain vigorous fission. This is not trivial math and the solution of course is to use an advanced computer. If only they had one available. The best computer of the time was a targeting calculation machine that was out of service while being moved from one installation to another. The unlikely fill-in was a simple yet ingenious analog computer called the FERMIAC. When rolled along a piece of paper it calculated neutron collisions with simple markings — doing its small part to forever change the world without a battery, transistor, or tube.
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Theory is gray, but the golden tree of life is green. -- Goethe