pickens writes "The NY Times reports that the Jason panel, an independent group of scientists advising the federal government on issues of science and technology, has concluded that the program to refurbish aging nuclear arms is sufficient to guarantee their destructiveness for decades to come, obviating a need for a costly new generation of more reliable warheads, as proposed by former President Bush. Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona and other Republicans have argued that concerns are growing over the reliability of the US's aging nuclear stockpile, and that the possible need for new designs means the nation should retain the right to conduct underground tests of new nuclear weapons. The existing warheads were originally designed for relatively short lifetimes and frequent replacement with better models, but such modernization ended after the US quit testing nuclear arms in 1992. All weapons that remain in the arsenal must now undergo a refurbishment process, known as life extension. The Jason panel found no evidence that the accumulated changes from aging and refurbishment posed any threat to weapon destructiveness, and that the 'lifetimes of today's nuclear warheads could be extended for decades, with no anticipated loss of confidence.' But the panel added that federal indifference could undermine the nuclear refurbishment program (as this report from last May illustrates). Quoting the report (PDF): 'The study team is concerned that this expertise is threatened by lack of program stability, perceived lack of mission importance and degradation of the work environment.'"
An anonymous reader writes "It's great that unelected bureaucrats in California are clamoring to save energy, but when they target your big-screen TVs for elimination, consumers and manufacturers are apt to declare war. CEDIA and the CEA are up in arms over this. Audioholics has an interesting response that involves setting the TVs in 'SCAM' mode to meet the energy criteria technically without having to add additional cost or increase costs to consumers. 'In this mode, the display brightness/contrast settings would be set a few clicks to the right of zero, audio would be disabled and backlighting would be set to minimum. The power consumption should be measured in this mode much like an A/V receiver power consumption is measured with one channel driven at full rated power and the other channels at 1/8th power.' This is an example of an impending train wreck of unintended consequences, and many are grabbing the popcorn and pulling up chairs to watch."
An anonymous reader writes "Back in July, Microsoft announced it was making .NET available under its Community Promise, which in theory allowed free software developers to use the technology without fear of patent lawsuits. Not surprisingly, many free software geeks were unconvinced by the promise (after all, what's a promise compared to an actual open licence?), but now Microsoft has taken things to the next level by releasing the .NET Micro Framework under the Apache 2.0 licence. Yes, you read that correctly: a sizeable chunk of .NET is about to go open source."
theodp writes "A CS student blogger named Carolyn offers an interesting take on why learning from PowerPoint lectures is frustrating. Unlike an old-school chalk talk, professors who use PowerPoint tend to present topics very quickly, leaving little time to digest the visuals or to take learning-reinforcing notes. Also, profs who use the ready-made PowerPoint lectures that ship with many textbooks tend to come across as, shall we say, less than connected with their material. Then there are professors who just don't know how to use PowerPoint, a problem that is by no means limited to college classes."
CNETNate writes "With its own file server for uploaded Hollywood blockbusters, a 10Mbps Internet connection to Earth, and around a hundred IBM ThinkPad notebooks, the consumer technology aboard the $150 billion International Space Station is impressive. It's the responsibility of just two guys to maintain the uptime of the Space Station's IT, and they have given CNET an in-depth interview to explain what tech's aboard, how it works, and whether Windows viruses are a threat to the astronauts. In a related feature, the Space Station's internal network (which operates over bandwidth of just 1Mbps) and its connected array of Lenovo notebooks is explained, along with the tech we could see in the future."
snydeq writes "InfoWorld's Dan Tynan surveys six 'transformational' tech-panacea sales pitches that have left egg on at least some IT department faces. Billed with legendary promises, each of the six technologies — five old, one new — has earned the dubious distinction of being the hype king of its respective era, falling far short of legendary promises. Consultant greed, analyst oversight, dirty vendor tricks — 'the one thing you can count on in the land of IT is a slick vendor presentation and a whole lot of hype. Eras shift, technologies change, but the sales pitch always sounds eerily familiar. In virtually every decade there's at least one transformational technology that promises to revolutionize the enterprise, slash operational costs, reduce capital expenditures, align your IT initiatives with your core business practices, boost employee productivity, and leave your breath clean and minty fresh.' Today, cloud computing, virtualization, and tablet PCs are vying for the hype crown." What other horrible hype stories do some of our seasoned vets have?
Naznarreb writes "R. Clayton Miller has an extremely impressive GUI concept he's calling 10/GUI (video; written description here). Essentially, it combines the high-bandwidth input possibilities of multi-touch interfaces with the ease and immediacy of a mouse. The video is quite interesting, and, for me at least, pretty jaw dropping. This is a dramatic re-imagining of the current mouse/screen schema, one that I think has significant potential."
BuzzSkyline writes "Physicists have found that there is an ultimate limit to the speed of calculations, regardless of any improvements in technology. According to the researchers who found the computation limit, the bound 'poses an absolute law of nature, just like the speed of light.' While many experts expect technological limits to kick in eventually, engineers always seem to find ways around such roadblocks. If the physicists are right, though, no technology could ever beat the ultimate limit they've calculated — which is about 10^16 times faster than today's fastest machines. At the current Moore's Law pace, computational speeds will hit the wall in 75 to 80 years. A paper describing the analysis, which relies on thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, and information theory, appeared in a recent issue of Physical Review Letters (abstract here)."
Hugh Pickens writes: "The New Scientist reports that with a hat tip to Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon , physicist John Hunter has outlined the design of a gigantic gun that could slash the cost of putting cargo into orbit. At the Space Investment Summit in Boston last week, Hunter described the design for a 1.1-kilometer-long gun that he says could launch 450-kilogram payloads at 6 kilometers per second. A small rocket engine would then boost the projectile into low-Earth orbit. The gun would cost $500 million to build, says Hunter, but individual launch costs would be lower than current methods. 'We think it's at least a factor of 10 cheaper than anything else,' Hunter says. The gun is based on the SHARP (Super High Altitude Research Project) light gas gun Hunter helped to build in the 1990s while at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California. With a barrel 47 meters long, it used compressed hydrogen gas to fire projectiles weighing a few kilograms at speeds of up to 3 kilometers per second."
I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been caught violating someone's copyright again. This time, presidential services made 400 unauthorized copies of a DVD when only 50 had been made by the publisher. Mr. Sarkozy, of course, is the one pushing the HADOPI law, which would disconnect the Internet service of an alleged pirate after three allegations of infringement. This isn't the first time he's been connected to copyright violations, either. His party had to pay some €30K for using a song without authorization. If he were he subject to his own law, Mr. Sarkozy would be subject to having his Net disconnected the next time he pirates something."
mmmscience writes "The newly-discovered exoplanet COROT-7b has an unusual form of precipitation: rocks. Because it orbits so close to its sun, the temperature on its sun-facing side is around 4220 degrees Fahrenheit. That's hot enough for rocks to vaporize — not unlike water evaporating on Earth. And, like Earth, when the vapor cools in the upper atmosphere, it forms clouds and begins to rain. But instead of water, COROT-7b gets a shower of pebbles."
An anonymous reader notes that R. Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion Car is being restored by the company Crosthwaite and Gardiner. Only three of the vehicles were produced in the 1930s and only one survives. "Synchronofile.com has been granted the great honor of announcing the restoration of the Dymaxion Car — because our readers are now invited to help in the project. Can you identify the manufacturer for the component shown at the link?"
Hugh Pickens writes "BBC reports that scientists are mapping the gravitational corridors created from the complex interplay of attractive forces between planets and moons that can be used to cut the cost of journeys in space. 'Basically the idea is there are low energy pathways winding between planets and moons that would slash the amount of fuel needed to explore the solar system,' says Professor Shane Ross from Virginia Tech. 'These are free-fall pathways in space around and between gravitational bodies. Instead of falling down, like you do on Earth, you fall along these tubes.' The pathways connect Lagrange points where gravitational forces balance out. Depicted by computer graphics, the pathways look like strands of spaghetti that wrap around planetary bodies and snake between them. 'If you're in a parking orbit round the Earth, and one of them intersects your trajectory, you just need enough fuel to change your velocity and now you're on a new trajectory that is free,' says Ross. 'You could travel between the moons of Jupiter essentially for free. All you need is a little bit of fuel to do course corrections.' The Genesis spacecraft used gravitational pathways that allowed the amount of fuel carried by the probe to be cut 10-fold, but the trade off is time. While it would take a few months to get around the Jovian moon system using gravitational currents (PDF), attempting to get a free ride from Earth to Mars on the currents might take thousands of years."
SillySnake sends in a report from the Telegraph on draft plans in China to restrict exports of rare earths. "Beijing is drawing up plans to prohibit or restrict exports of rare earth metals that are produced only in China and play a vital role in cutting edge technology, from hybrid cars and catalytic converters, to superconductors, and precision-guided weapons. A draft report by China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has called for a total ban on foreign shipments of terbium, dysprosium, yttrium, thulium, and lutetium. Other metals such as neodymium, europium, cerium, and lanthanum will be restricted to a combined export quota of 35,000 tonnes a year, far below global needs."
An anonymous reader writes "Sun Microsystems might have had a chance if the Oracle merger had gone through quickly, but between the DoJ taking its time and the European Commission, which seems to get off on abusing American firms, just plain dragging its feet, that won't happen now. As Sun twists in the wind, unable to defend itself, and Oracle is unable to do anything until the deal closes, IBM is pretty much tearing Sun to shreds. By the time this deal closes, there won't be much left for Oracle. This is not how a Silicon Valley legend should end."