RocketAcademy writes "A group of New Mexico legislators is warning that the $200-million Spaceport America 'could become a ghost town, with tumbleweeds crossing the runways' if trial lawyers succeed in blocking critical liability legislation. The warning came in a letter to the Albuquerque Journal [subscription or free trial may be required]. Virgin Galactic has signed a lease to become the spaceport's anchor tenant, but may pull out if New Mexico is unable to provide liability protection for manufacturers and part suppliers, similar to legislation already passed by Texas, Colorado, Florida, and Virginia. The proposed legislation is also similar to liability protection which New Mexico offers to the ski industry. An eclectic group of business and civic interests has formed the Save Our Spaceport Coalition to support passage of the liability reform legislation, which is being fought by the New Mexico Trial Lawyers Association."
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New submitter MouseTheLuckyDog writes "The patent office is reviewing its policy on software patents and is asking for feedback (PDF). Groklaw reports that the USPTO will be hosting a pair of roundtable sessions in February, during which the public will have the ability to attend and put forth their viewpoints. From the article: 'It's obvious the USPTO realizes there is serious unhappiness among software developers, and they'd like to improve things. Software developers are the folks most immediately and directly affected by the software patents the USPTO issues, and it's getting to the point that no one can code anything without potentially getting sued. I don't wish to be cynical, though, as that's a useless thing. So maybe we should look at it as an opportunity to at least be heard. It's progress that they even thought about having a dialogue with developers, if you look at it that way.' If you can make it to Silicon Valley on February 12 or New York City on February 27, go and make your voice heard."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Building and operating a supercomputer at more than three miles above sea level poses some unique problems, the designers of the recently installed Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) Correlator discovered. The ALMA computer serves as the brains behind the ALMA astronomical telescope, a partnership between Europe, North American, and South American agencies. It's the largest such project in existence. Based high in the Andes mountains in northern Chile, the telescope includes an array of 66 dish-shaped antennas in two groups. The telescope correlator's 134 million processors continually combine and compare faint celestial signals received by the antennas in the ALMA array, which are separated by up to 16 kilometers, enabling the antennas to work together as a single, enormous telescope, according to Space Daily. The extreme high altitude makes it nearly impossible to maintain on-site support staff for significant lengths of time, with ALMA reporting that human intervention will be kept to an absolute minimum. Data acquired via the array is archived at a lower-altitude support site. The altitude also limited the construction crew's ability to actually build the thing, requiring 20 weeks of human effort just to unpack and install it."
An anonymous reader writes "A new study explains why girls do better at school, even when their scores on standardized tests remain low. Researchers from University of Georgia and Columbia University say the variation in school grades between boys and girls may be because girls have a better attitude toward learning than boys. One of the study's lead authors, Christopher Cornwell, said, 'The skill that matters the most in regards to how teachers graded their students is what we refer to as "approaches toward learning." You can think of "approaches to learning" as a rough measure of what a child's attitude toward school is: It includes six items that rate the child's attentiveness, task persistence, eagerness to learn, learning independence, flexibility and organization. I think that anybody who's a parent of boys and girls can tell you that girls are more of all of that.' Cornwell went on about what effect this has had now that education has become more pervasive: 'We seem to have gotten to a point in the popular consciousness where people are recognizing the story in these data: Men are falling behind relative to women. Economists have looked at this from a number of different angles, but it's in educational assessments that you make your mark for the labor market. Men's rate of college going has slowed in recent years whereas women's has not, but if you roll the story back far enough, to the 60s and 70s, women were going to college in much fewer numbers. It's at a point now where you've got women earning upward of 60 percent of the bachelors' degrees awarded every year.'"
An anonymous reader writes "The next major release of the Fedora Project's GNU/Linux distribution (named Spherical Cow) was originally scheduled for November 16th. However, an ambitious set of new features has resulted in the project slipping way past its scheduled release. It had fallen three weeks behind before even producing an alpha release and nine weeks behind by the time the beta release was produced. A major redesign in the distribution installer seems to have resulted in the largest percentage of bugs blocking its release. The set-back marks the first time since 2005 in which there was only one major Fedora release during a calendar year instead of two. Currently, the distribution is scheduled for release on January 15th."
Saké, and you're back home in Austin, Texas. Since Texas, like Japan, grows lots of rice, you obviously need to start the Texas Saké Company to produce Rising Star and Whooping Crane Sakés, which you sell online and through a number of Texas restaurants and retailers. But whatever we can say in print pales beside a two-part brewery tour conducted by Toji Yoed himself, accompanied by Timothy Lord and his trusty camcorder. Yes, there's a transcription. But the video tour itself is better, even though it regretfully does not include the delightful aroma of Saké being made. (Someday, perhaps, Slashdot Studios will be equipped for Smell-O-Vision, but that's at least a few years off.)
SchrodingerZ writes "Seen from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile; scientists have detected a gas giant planet focusing material from a gas cloud toward a main star. The star, HD 142527, is a young 2 million years old, and is 450 light-years from Earth. The system has 'A disk of spinning dust and gas left over from its formation... and from this material, planets are being created.' The planetesimals are drawing material from the dust cloud inward, effectively fueling the expansion of the parent star, currently twice the size of our own Sun. 'Theoretical simulations have predicted such bridges between outer and inner portions of disks surrounding stars, but none have been directly observed until now.' Simon Casassus, lead scientist at the University of Chile, said, 'Currently, the only mechanism known to produce such gap-crossing dense molecular flows, with residual carbon monoxide gas more diffusely spread out inside the gap, is planetary formation.' While the planets currently are not visible, their presence is very noticeable. More examination of the dust cloud is needed to precisely pinpoint the planet(s)."
New submitter tian2992 writes "The new terms for the Android SDK now include phrases such as 'you may not: (a) copy (except for backup purposes), modify, adapt, redistribute, decompile, reverse engineer, disassemble, or create derivative works of the SDK or any part of the SDK' among other non-Free-software-friendly terms, as noted by FSF Europe's Torsten Grote. Replicant, a free fork of Android, announced the release of Replicant SDK 4.0 based on the latest sources of the Android SDK without the new terms."
silentbrad writes in with a story about a Sony patent that would block the playing of second-hand games. "... the patent application was filed on 9 December 2012 by Sony Computer Entertainment Japan, and will work by linking individual game discs to a user's account without requiring a network connection meaning any future attempt to use this disc on another user's console won't work. The patent explains that games will come with contactless tags that will be read by your console in much the same way as modern bank cards. When a disc is first used, the disc ID and player ID will be stored on the tag. Every time the disc is used in future, the tag will check if the two ID's match up and, if not, then the disc won't work. The document goes on to explain that such a device is part of Sony's ongoing efforts to deter second-hand games sales, and is a far simpler solution than always-on DRM or passwords. It's worth noting that Sony has not confirmed the existence of the device, and the patent doesn't state what machine it will be used in, with later paragraphs also mentioning accessories and peripherals. ... There's also the issue of what happens should your console break and need replacing, or if you have more than one console. Will the games be linked to your PSN account, meaning they can still be used, or the console, meaning an entire new library of titles would need to be purchased?"
First time accepted submitter mromanuk writes in with a story about scientists at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich who have created an atomic gas that goes below absolute zero. "It may sound less likely than hell freezing over, but physicists have created an atomic gas with a sub-absolute-zero temperature for the first time. Their technique opens the door to generating negative-Kelvin materials and new quantum devices, and it could even help to solve a cosmological mystery."
astroengine writes "Using elevation data from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, software engineer Kevin Gill was inspired to create a virtual version of the red planet with a difference. 'I had been doing similar models of Earth and have seen attempts by others of showing life on Mars, so I figured I'd give it a go,' Gill told Discovery News. 'It was a good way to learn about the planet, be creative and improve the software I was rendering it in.' He included oceans, lakes, clouds and a biosphere — a view of a hypothetical ancient Mars that looks wonderfully like home."
An anonymous reader writes a court has dismissed Apple's allegations that Amazon's use of the "app store" phrase constituted false advertising. "Apple's efforts to protect its intellectual property sometimes result in lawsuits that leave even the most ardent of Apple fans scratching their heads. One such suit was Apple's March 2011 lawsuit against Amazon over the retailer's use of the phrase 'app store' as used in its Amazon Appstore for Android. "
iComp points out an interesting project in Derbyshire, northern England. "Bioboffins at the Health and Safety Laboratory in Derbyshire, UK, have developed a robot that can projectile vomit on command as a tool for studying the spread of the highly infectious norovirus. Reuters reports that the hyperemetic droid has been dubbed 'Vomiting Larry' by its creator, researcher Catherine Makison, who describes it as a 'humanoid simulated vomiting system.' The goal of said vomiting system is to study the reach and dispersion of human vomitus, which is one of the primary ways that diseases such as norovirus can spread. Norovirus is a fairly common viral infection that is sometimes known as the 'winter vomiting bug' due to its increased prevalence in the colder months. Outbreaks are generally triggered when humans ingest contaminated food or water, but can continue when subsequent people come in contact with surfaces that have been contaminated by the initial patient's effluvium."
linuxwrangler writes "Two teens are behind bars after hatching a plan that involved drugging milkshakes they gave to the parents of one of the kids. The parents were suspicious after waking groggy the next day, and used a home drug-test on one of the remaining drinks. The teens came up with the plan in order to avoid their 10pm Internet curfew."
astroengine writes "A rare Martian meteorite recently found in Morocco contains minerals with 10 times more water than previously discovered Mars meteorites, a finding that raises new questions about when and how long the planet most like Earth in the solar system had conditions suitable for life. The meteorite, known as Northwest Africa (NWA) 7034, is the second-oldest of 110 named stones originating from Mars that have been retrieved on Earth. Purchased from a Moroccan meteorite dealer in 2011, the black, baseball-sized stone, which weighs less than 1 pound, is 2.1 billion years old, meaning it formed during what is known as the early Amazonian era in Mars' geologic history. 'It's from a time on Mars that we actually don't know much about,' geologist Carl Agee, with the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, told Discovery News."