Lasrick writes "The Bulletin has an interesting article about the likelihood of terrorists obtaining nuclear material. 'Since 1993, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has logged roughly 2,000 cases of illicit or unauthorized trafficking of nuclear and radioactive material. Thirty illicit radioactive trafficking incidents were reported in the former Soviet region alone from 2009 to 2011. As Obama said in December, "Make no mistake, if [terrorists] get [nuclear material], they will use it."'"
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coondoggie writes "The Federal Communications Commission said it wants to make up to 195 megahertz of additional spectrum in the 5 GHz band available to unlicensed wireless devices with the idea that such a move would enable Wi-Fi equipment that can offer faster speeds of one gigabit per second or more, increase overall capacity, and reduce congestion. 'Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure devices today operate in 555 megahertz of spectrum in the 5 GHz band, and are used for short range, high speed wireless connections including Wi-Fi enabled local area networks and fixed outdoor broadband transceivers used by wireless Internet service providers to connect smart phones, tablets and laptops to the broadband network,' the FCC stated."
NeverVotedBush writes in with the latest installment of the Dreamliner: Boeing 787 saga. "A probe into the overheating of a lithium ion battery in an All Nippon Airways Boeing 787 that made an emergency landing found it was improperly wired, Japan's Transport Ministry said Wednesday. The Transport Safety Board said in a report that the battery for the aircraft's auxiliary power unit was incorrectly connected to the main battery that overheated, although a protective valve would have prevented power from the auxiliary unit from causing damage. Flickering of the plane's tail and wing lights after it landed and the fact the main battery was switched off led the investigators to conclude there was an abnormal current traveling from the auxiliary power unit due to miswiring."
As many expected, Sony has officially announced the PS4 at the Sony PlayStation Meeting today. The new PlayStation will have an X86 processor, "state of the art" GPU, 8 GB of high-speed unified memory, and a hard drive for local storage. The PS4 will allow gamers to share their gameplay stream and even remotely take control of friend's games. Along with the PS4, Sony has unveiled a new DualShock 4 controller which features a built-in touchpad at the center of the controller, and a built-in microphone jack.
Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that while online college classes are already common, on the whole, the record is not encouraging because there are two big problems with online teaching. First, student attrition rates — around 90 percent for some huge online courses — appear to be a problem even in small-scale online courses when compared with traditional face-to-face classes. Second, courses delivered solely online may be fine for highly skilled, highly motivated people, but they are inappropriate for struggling students who make up a significant portion of college enrollment and who need close contact with instructors to succeed. Research has shown that community college students who enroll in online courses are significantly more likely to fail or withdraw than those in traditional classes, which means that they spend hard-earned tuition dollars and get nothing in return. Worse still, low-performing students who may be just barely hanging on in traditional classes tend to fall even further behind in online courses. 'Colleges need to improve online courses before they deploy them widely,' says the Times. 'Moreover, schools with high numbers of students needing remedial education should consider requiring at least some students to demonstrate success in traditional classes before allowing them to take online courses.' Interestingly, research found that students in hybrid classes — those that blended online instruction with a face-to-face component — performed as well academically as those in traditional classes. But hybrid courses are rare, and teaching professors how to manage them is costly and time-consuming. 'The online revolution offers intriguing opportunities for broadening access to education. But, so far, the evidence shows that poorly designed courses can seriously shortchange the most vulnerable students.'"
Several readers sent word of a new addition to the 3-D printing industry. Most 3-D printers are roughly the size of regular printers, and require design files on the computer to guide the extruder. Now there's a much smaller and much simpler alternative: the 3Doodler pen, which lets you draw 3-D objects by hand. The people making the pen set up a Kickstarter project yesterday with a $30,000 goal. They reached that within hours, and now have pledges exceeding $800,000. "The 3Doodler pen is 180mm by 24mm. The pen weighs less than 200 grams or 7 ounces (the weight of a typical apple), although the exact weight will depend on the final shell specifications once in production. And we are using a universal power supply, so provided you have the correct adapter for your country, 3Doodler will work just fine on 110v or 240v. ... While the plastic extruded from 3Doodler is safe to touch once it has left the pen, the pen itself has a metal tip that can get as hot as 270C." The pen uses the same ABS/PLA plastic as most 3-D printers, and they're planning to host stencil designs on their website so that users have patterns to sketch from.
On January 26th, unlocking a cell phone that is under contract became illegal in the U.S. Just before that went into effect, a petition was started at whitehouse.gov to have the Librarian of Congress revisit that decision. "It reduces consumer choice, and decreases the resale value of devices that consumers have paid for in full. The Librarian noted that carriers are offering more unlocked phones at present, but the great majority of phones sold are still locked." The 30 days time limit on the petition is almost up, and it's about 11,000 signatures shy of the amount necessary to ensure a response from the Obama administration (100,000 total, recently increased from 25,000). The creator of the petition received a Cease & Desist letter from Motorola in 2005 for selling software that would allow users to unlock their phones, and he thinks it's only a matter of time before such legal threats begin again. This is part of a larger battle to protect the way consumers can use their devices. While it's still legal for people to root their phones, the Librarian of Congress failed to expand that legal protection to tablets, even though the devices are incredibly similar. The Librarian's decision (PDF) needs further review, and if the White House petition doesn't get enough signatures by February 23, such a review may not happen.
An anonymous reader writes "Whether or not you're an owner of Microsoft's Xbox 360, chances are you find the Kinect accessory intriguing, since you don't even need the company's console to use it. That's why there's so much excitement surrounding the console's successor, codenamed Durango: it will feature Kinect 2.0, the specifications for which allegedly leaked today. The new device will reportedly be able to track players with a height of one meter, feature a mode for both seated and standing players, detect hand states (such as open or closed), as well as extra and rotated joints. As for improved features, it will be able to supposedly track six rather than two active players, occluded joints, and sideways poses. This will all be possible thanks to an increased field of vision, 1920×1080 color stream, 512×424 depth stream, an added infrared stream, USB 3.0, and 60ms latency."
An anonymous reader writes "Recently, I had found out (through my log files) that my wireless router was subject to a Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) brute force PIN attack. After looking on the Internet and discovering that there are indeed many vulnerabilities to WPS, I disabled it. After a few days, I noticed that I kept intermittently getting disconnected at around the same time every day (indicative of a WPA deauthentication handshake capture attempt). I also noticed that an evil twin has been set up in an effort to get me to connect to it. Through Wi-Fi monitoring software, I have noticed that certain MAC addresses are connected to multiple WEP and WPA2 access points in my neighborhood. I believe that I (and my neighbors) may be dealing with an advanced Wi-Fi leech. What can I do in this situation? Should I bother purchasing a directional antenna, figuring out exactly where the clients are situated, and knocking on their door? Is this something the local police can help me with?"
The Bad Astronomer writes "A team of astronomers has announced the discovery of the smallest exoplanet orbiting a Sun-like star yet found: Kepler-37b, which has a diameter of only 3865 kilometers — smaller than Mercury, and only a little bigger than our own Moon. It was found using the transit method; as it orbits its star, it periodically blocks a bit of the starlight, revealing its presence (abstract). Interestingly, the planet has been known for some time, but only new advances in asteroseismology (studying oscillations in the star itself) have allowed the star's size to be accurately found, which in turn yielded a far better determination of the planet's diminutive size. Also, the asteroseismology research was not funded by NASA, but instead crowd funded by a non-profit, which raised money by letting people adopt Kepler target stars."
kkleiner writes "Planetary Resources last year boldly claimed that they would build a futuristic business out of mining space asteroids. To that end, the firm recently completed the Arkyd-100 satellite prototype. The satellite will use its telescope to look for suitable near-Earth asteroids from low-Earth orbit. Later expeditions will rocket out to prospective real estate, do spectral analysis, and if the asteroid contains valuable resources, lay claim with a beacon."
coondoggie writes "Communications and effective system control are still big challenges unmanned aircraft developers are facing if they want unfettered access to U.S. airspace. Those were just a couple of the conclusions described in a recent Government Accountability Office report on the status of unmanned aircraft (PDF) and the national airspace. The bottom line for now seems to be that while research and development efforts are under way to mitigate obstacles to safe and routine integration of unmanned aircraft into the national airspace, these efforts cannot be completed and validated without safety, reliability, and performance standards, which have not yet been developed because of data limitations." The FAA and others seem mostly concerned about the drones hitting things if their GPS and ground communications are both disrupted.
Nerval's Lobster writes "If you live in Hawaii, congratulations: according to a new study (PDF) by researchers at the University of Vermont, you live in the happiest state in the union — at least as far as Twitter sentiment is concerned. (Hat tip to The Atlantic for posting about the research.) The researchers — affiliated with the University's Department of Mathematics & Statistics, Complex Systems Center, Computational Story Lab, and Advanced Computing Core — collected 10 million geo-tagged Tweets from 373 urban areas across the United States in 2011 and ran them through a system designed to tag each on a scale from 1 (sad) to 9 (happy). According to the study, the five happiest states include Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Utah and Vermont; the five saddest are Louisiana, Mississippi, Maryland, Delaware and Georgia. In general, the West and Northeast seemed much happier than the Mid-Atlantic and South—with the exception of Florida, which shaded 'happier' than many of the surrounding states. While the researchers admitted their study's limitations, there are certainly a lot of opportunities for refining the model: for example, if Hawaii's status as a vacation state affects its rate of 'happy' Tweets, or if incorporating languages other than English into the dataset would affect the ultimate results."