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Penny-Sized Nuclear Batteries Developed 444

pickens writes "Nuclear batteries that produce energy from the decay of radioisotopes are an attractive proposition for many applications because the isotopes that power them can provide a useful amount of current for hundreds of years at power densities a million times as high as standard batteries. Nuclear batteries have been used for military and aerospace applications for years, their large size has limited their general usage. But now a research team at the University of Missouri has developed a nuclear battery the size of a penny that could be used to power micro- and nano-electromechanical systems. The researchers' innovation is not only in the battery's size, but also that the batteries use a liquid semiconductor rather than a solid semiconductor. 'The critical part of using a radioactive battery is that when you harvest the energy, part of the radiation energy can damage the lattice structure of the solid semiconductor,' says Jae Wan Kwon. 'By using a liquid semiconductor, we believe we can minimize that problem.' The batteries are safe under normal operating conditions. 'People hear the word "nuclear" and think of something very dangerous,' says Kwon. 'However, nuclear power sources have already been safely powering a variety of devices, such as pacemakers, space satellites, and underwater systems.'"

Scientists Erase Specific Memories In Mice 320

Ostracus writes "It sounds like science fiction, but scientists say it might one day be possible to erase undesirable memories from the brain, selectively and safely. After exposing mice to emotionally powerful stimuli, such as a mild shock to their paws, the scientists then observed how well or poorly the animals subsequently recalled the particular trauma as their brain's expression of CaMKII was manipulated up and down. When the brain was made to overproduce CaMKII at the exact moment the mouse was prodded to retrieve the traumatic memory, the memory wasn't just blocked, it appeared to be fully erased."

Firefox Add-On To Track Your Location Via Wi-Fi 181

Barence writes "Mozilla Labs has unveiled a new Add-on that allows Firefox to pinpoint your location based on Wi-Fi signals. The feature, called Geode, is a prototype for the location-tracking technology that will be built into the forthcoming Firefox 3.1. Geode is designed to work with websites that rely on knowing your location, such as mapping and geotagging services. The prospect of Firefox having the ability to track your location raises obvious privacy fears. Mozilla insists users will remain in complete control. 'With Geode, when a website requests your location a notification bar will ask how much information you want to give that site: your exact location, your neighbourhood, your city, or nothing at all,' the Mozilla Labs blog claims."

Would a National Biometric Authentication Scheme Work? 178

Ian Lamont writes "The chair of Yale's CS department and Connecticut's former consumer protection commissioner are calling for the creation of a robust biometric authentication system on a national scale. They say the system would safeguard privacy and people's personal data far more effectively than paper-based IDs. They also reference the troubled Real ID program, saying that the debate has centered around forms of ID rather than the central issue of authentication. The authors further suggest that the debate has led to confusion between anonymity and privacy: 'Outside our homes, we have always lived in a public space where our open acts are no longer private. Anonymity has not changed that, but has provided an illusion of privacy and security. ... In public space, we engage in open acts where we have no expectation of privacy, as well as private acts that cannot take place within our homes and therefore require authenticating identity to carve a sphere of privacy.' The authors do not provide any suggestions for specific biometric technologies, nor do they discuss the role of the government in such a system. What do you think of a national or international biometrics-based authentication scheme? Is it feasible? How would it work? What safeguards need to be put in place?"

We're living in a golden age. All you need is gold. -- D.W. Robertson.