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United Kingdom

British Spaceplane Skylon Could Revolutionize Space Travel ( 226

MarkWhittington writes: The problem of lowering the cost of sending people and cargo into low Earth orbit has vexed engineers since the dawn of the space age. Currently, the only way to go into space is on top of multistage rockets which toss off pieces of themselves as they ascend higher into the heavens. The Conversation touted a British project, called Skylon, which many believe will help to address the problem of costly space travel. According to IEEE Spectrum, both BAE Systems and the British government have infused Skylon with $120 million in investment.
United States

US Law Can't Keep Up With Technology -- and Why That's a Good Thing ( 187 writes: In the 1910s, the number of cars in the US exploded from 200,000 to 2.5 million. The newfangled machines scared horses and ran over pedestrians, but by the time government could pass the very first traffic law, it was too late to stop them. Now Kevin Matley writes in Newsweek that thanks to political gridlock in the US, lawmakers respond to innovations with all the speed of continental drift. New technologies spread almost instantly and take hold with almost no legal oversight. According to Matley, this is terrific for tech startups, especially those aimed at demolishing creaky old norms—like taxis, or flight paths over crowded airspace, or money. "Drone aircraft are suddenly filling the sky, and a whole multibillion-dollar industry of drone making and drone services has taken hold," says Matley. "If the FAA had been either farsighted or fast moving, at the first sign of drones it might've outlawed them or confined them to someplace like Oklahoma where they can't get in the way of anything too important. But now the FAA is forced to accommodate drones, not the other way around." Bitcoin is another example of a technology that's too late to stop. "But have you heard the word bitcoin uttered once in any of the presidential debates? Government doesn't even understand bitcoin, and that's been really good for it." Uber and Airbnb show how to execute this outrun-the-government strategy. By the time cities understood what those companies were doing, it was too late to block or seriously limit them.

'Zeno Effect' Verified: Atoms Won't Move While You Watch ( 168

An anonymous reader writes: One of the oddest predictions of quantum theory – that a system can't change while you're watching it – has been confirmed in an experiment by Cornell physicists. Graduate students Yogesh Patil and Srivatsan Chakram created and cooled a gas of about a billion Rubidium atoms inside a vacuum chamber and suspended the mass between laser beams (abstract).

In that state the atoms arrange in an orderly lattice just as they would in a crystalline solid. But at such low temperatures the atoms can "tunnel" from place to place in the lattice. The famous Heisenberg uncertainty principle says that position and velocity of a particle are related and cannot be simultaneously measured precisely.

The researchers observed the atoms under a microscope by illuminating them with a separate imaging laser. A light microscope can't see individual atoms, but the imaging laser causes them to fluoresce, and the microscope captured the flashes of light. When the imaging laser was off, or turned on only dimly, the atoms tunneled freely. But as the imaging beam was made brighter and measurements made more frequently, the tunneling reduced dramatically.


Bad Programming Habits We Secretly Love ( 497

snydeq writes: Breaking the rules can bring a little thrill — and sometimes produce better, more efficient code. From the article: 'The rules are more often guidelines or stylistic suggestions, not hard-and-fast rules that must be obeyed or code death will follow. Sure, your code might be ridiculed, possibly even publicly, but the fact that you're bucking conventions adds a little bit of the thrill to subverting, even inadvertently, what amounts more often than not to the social mores of pleasant code. To make matters more complex, sometimes it's better to break the rules. (Shhhh!) The code comes out cleaner. It may even be faster and simpler.' What bad programming habits can't you (or won't you) break?

Former GM and BMW Executive Warns Apple: Your Car Will Be a "Gigantic Money Pit" 535

An anonymous reader writes: With rumors that Apple is not only moving ahead on its electric car initiative, but trying to accelerate its development, a former GM and BMW exec is giving a few words of warning. Bob Lutz appeared on CNBC and expressed his doubts that Apple has a fighting chance to make any impact on the auto industry. "And when it comes to actually making cars," Lutz said, "there is no reason to assume that Apple, with no experience, will suddenly do a better job than General Motors, Ford, Volkswagen, Toyota or Hyundai. So I think this is going to be a gigantic money pit, but then it doesn't matter. I mean Apple has an embarrassment of riches, they don't know where to put the cash anymore. So if they burn 30 or 40 billion dollars in the car business, no one's going to notice."

Researchers Say S. African Bones Are From Previously Unknown Human Relative 77

Ancient, but so far undated, remains found in a South African cave (more than 1500 pieces of bone and teeth) have been declared by the team which discovered them to represent a previously unknown kind of human relative, which they have dubbed Homo naledi. New submitter chapman writes: The human-like bones discovered in the Rising Star cave, 50km from Johannesburg, may belong to a new species of "long-legged," "pinheaded," and "gangly" human relative. Apparently the chamber in the cave where the discovery was made is so inaccessible (only 8 inches wide) that the team brought in a group of lightly-built female researchers in order to excavate the bones. Science Mag, too, describes the find as well as the controversy about the unusual publicity surrounding the exploration. The Guardian's article notes that the identification of the bones as belonging to a new species is disputed by some anthropologists, who say that based on the evidence presented so far, the bones may simply be examples of the previouly named Homo erectus.
The Internet

.Onion Gets a Boost From IETF, IANA: Now It's a Special-Use Domain 37

An anonymous reader writes: As tweeted by Jacob Appelbaum, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority today listed .onion as a special-use domain, and the IETF approved a Draft RFC for the domain describing its intended uses. As described on the Facebook Over Tor page, "Jointly, these actions enable '.onion' as special-use, top-level domain name for which SSL certificates may be issued in accordance with the Certificate-Authority & Browser Forum 'Ballot 144' — which was passed in February this year. ... Together, this assures the validity and future availability of SSL certificates in order to assert and protect the ownership of Onion sites throughout the whole of the Tor network."

Amazon Reportedly Aiming For the Low End With a Loss-Leader $50 Tablet 111

Amazon has been dogged with criticism for its high-end, somewhat oddball phone, but done rather better with its high-end Fire tablets, and has mostly defined the market for e-ink book-reading devices with its long-lived Kindle series. Now, according to a report in the WSJ echoed by Fortune (and by Ars Technica and many others), the company is said to be working on a tablet aimed at the low end of the market, with a 6-inch screen, a mono speaker, and a tiny pricetag -- which could be as low as $50. "At the bottom end of the range at least, the devices won’t be priced to make a profit," writes Fortune. "The dirt-cheap price tag is intended to maximise the reach of its e-book and Amazon Prime video streaming content."

Mozilla, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, and Others Form 'Alliance For Open Media' 99

BrianFagioli tips news that Mozilla, Microsoft, Google, Cisco, Intel, Amazon, and Netflix are teaming up to create the Alliance for Open Media, "an open-source project that will develop next-generation media formats, codecs and technologies in the public interest." Several of these companies have been working on this problem alone: Mozilla started Daala, Google has VP9 and VP10, and Cisco just recently announced Thor. Amazon and Netflix, of course, are major suppliers of online video streaming, so they have a vested interested in royalty-free codecs. They're inviting others to join them — the more technology and patents they get on their side, the less likely they'll run into the issues that Microsoft's VC-1 and Google's VP8 struggled with. "The Alliance will operate under W3C patent rules and release code under an Apache 2.0 license. This means all Alliance participants are waiving royalties both for the codec implementation and for any patents on the codec itself."
Your Rights Online

Analysis Reveals Almost No Real Women On Ashley Madison 450

gurps_npc writes: Ashley Madison claimed to have about 31 million men and 5.5 million woman enrolled. Those odds are not good for the men, 6:1. But unfortunately, most of those 'women' were fake. This researcher analyzed the data and found only 12,000 actual, real women using Ashley Madison. That means for every 7750 men, there were 3 women. There are reports that Ashley Madison paid people to create fake female profiles. Their website admits that 'some of the users may be there for "entertainment purposes."' The article itself is well written, including a description of the analysis. A charitable person would say that Ashley Madison was selling a fantasy, not reality. But a realist would say Ashley Madison is just a thief stealing money from lonely, unhappy men.

One picture is worth 128K words.