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Submission + - Risk Aversion as a Barrier to Space Exploration (riehlworldview.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Writing in Popular Mechanics, Rand Simberg argues that space exploration and risk-aversion don't mix.

Everyone has noted that the bottom line of the report is that NASA doesn't have enough money to both go beyond low Earth orbit (LEO) and continue the other politically mandated missions. But it's worth noting a couple other aspects of the summary: From the very beginning of the document, there are two disturbing statements. First: "Human safety can never be absolutely assured, but throughout this report, it is treated as a sine qua non. It is not discussed in extensive detail because any concepts falling short in human safety have simply been eliminated from consideration." Second, in its list of fundamental questions: "On what should the next heavy-lift launch vehicle be based?" Both of these statements (though more subtly in the case of the second) are about risk, and NASA's costly and extreme aversion to it ever since Apollo. Recall the famous words of Gene Kranz (that he never actually said, despite the fact that he used it as a title for his autobiography) from the movie Apollo 13: "Failure is not an option." The problem with that is, as some have responded, that success gets very expensive. This is the cost of risk aversion.

It does seem that the early, less risk-averse NASA accomplished a lot more. But can our political system today tolerate things that don't work the first time?


Submission + - Blur and Radiohead join forces to battle Governmen

TheWin32Guy writes: "The telegraph.co.uk reports: "Blur and Radiohead are among a host of bands calling on the Government to abandon proposals to cut off the internet connections of people who illegally download music. "

From the article:

Ed O'Brien, the Radiohead guitarist, said: "My generation grew up with the point of view that you pay for your music. Every generation has a different method. "

"File sharing is like a sampler, like taping your mate's music. You go, 'I like that, I'll go and buy the album'. Or, âyou know what, I'll go and see them live'. What's going on is a huge paradigm shift."

Nick Mason, drummer with Pink Floyd, said: "The last thing we want to be doing is going to war with our fan base. File sharing means a new generation of fans for us.""

Submission + - Hire Randall Munroe For a Custom xkcd Strip (breadpig.com)

Alexis Ohanian writes: "Xkcd is releasing its book next week. As part of the September fundraisers to build an xkcd school through Room to Read, Randall Munroe will auction off commissioned comic strips in at parties in New York City and Silicon Valley in September. (Tickets through the party are being sold through a dutch-style auction a la Google IPO, so you state your price). Also to be auctioned off: lunch with Randall."

Submission + - IBM Claim patents promote open source (theregister.co.uk)

squizzar writes: "I'm a bit confused by the reasoning in the Register Article here, apparently open source is "entirely based on relaxed or non-existent copyright restrictions", which is news to me. I thought that the whole mechanism by which open source code was protected and kept open was to use the strength of copyright laws.

I don't think they are being helped by IBM making statements such as: "without patent protection, the incentives to innovate in the field of software are significantly reduced. Patent protection has promoted the free sharing of source code on a patentee's terms — which has fueled the explosive growth of open source software development." As far as I understand it most open source software licenses specifically prohibit their use with code that has patented elements. Surely their argument better applies to an IP vendor, who is able to sell their code without losing control over it. Either way it seems both IBM and The Register are muddying the waters a bit here..."

Submission + - An Early Look At Ragnar Tornquist's The Secret Wor (eurogamer.net)

An anonymous reader writes: At the recent Penny Arcade Expo, Funcom revealed a ton of new information on The Secret World, an MMO being designed by Ragnar Tornquist that's aiming to buck several of the genre's common trends. Tornquist also spoke later about several of the game's features and some of the design philosophy that they're working with. The game does not have a traditional class or leveling system. Instead, players gather the powers they want to use and align themselves with various factions of their choosing. "We want you to feel part of a world where the conspiracies are so dense and the politics is so thick that, when you join the secret society as a novice at the very beginning, it's this vast organization, and you'll have no idea how it works initially." PvP will be largely segregated from PvE, and new players will be able to contribute in fights that involve more experienced players. Funcom released some concept art and in-game screenshots for The Secret World to go along with a new cinematic trailer.

Submission + - Motorola unveils Open Source Android phone and Soc (ostatic.com)

ruphus13 writes: "Motorola announced their Android handsets today, along with a 'socially aware' application layer called MotoBlur. The Motorola Cliq is expected in a few weeks. From the post, "Dr. Sanjay K. Jha, Co-CEO of Motorola and CEO of the company's Mobile Devices division, unveiled Motorola's Android platform play. Motorola is going to be placing large bets on the open source operating system over the coming years, but is coming out of the gate with just two Android phones...It will arrive before the holidays. Key to both of the phones, and key to Motorola's overall Android strategy is a new interface and application layer called MotoBlur. It's focused on "a single stream" for social networking features, software updates, messages, syncing, e-mails, videos, photos, and more...The Cliq phone has a 5-megapixel camera, slide-out keyboard, 24 frame-per-second video capabilities, GPS, a headphone jack, an advanced browser from Google, integrated Exchange service, and Google roaming services including Google voice search, access to maps, Google calendar, and more. It also provides one-click access to Android Market and the thousands of Android applications there."

Submission + - Microsoft limits Zune HD to the U.S.

Mark writes: Microsoft says it currently has no plans to bring the Zune HD outside of the US, Ars Technica says. 'For the time being the Zune HD device will remain US only,' a Microsoft spokesperson told Ars. That's the official word, despite reports from April 2009 indicating that this year's Zune platfrom update would be an international one. It looks as if Microsoft wants to start completely from scratch with the Zune HD; Redmond used the US as a testing ground for the Zune, and it looks as if it wants to do the same with the Zune HD. Microsoft is again entering a saturated market, just this time it's doing it with a device available in two sizes, instead of one. The Zune didn't get very far in terms of the number of markets, nor in the number of sales.
The Internet

Submission + - 3 Days Left in Canadian Copyright Consultation

An anonymous reader writes: With only three days left in the Canadian copyright consultation, it looks like users are getting hit by demands for new levies, lawsuits, and locks. The music and movie groups are calling for a DMCA+ model that includes three-strikes and you're out, while copyright collectives want new taxes on iPods. Now Bell Canada has told a Canadian government copyright consultation that the recording industry should be suing its subscribers. Time for Canadians to have their say before it's too late.

Submission + - NASA Scientists Levitate Mice (yahoo.com) 1

sterlingda writes: "Scientists working on behalf of NASA built a device to simulate variable levels of gravity. It consists of a superconducting magnet that generates a field powerful enough to levitate the water inside living animals. Experiments are being run to test how they respond to microgravity, both physically and psychologically."
Hardware Hacking

Engineering Students Build Robotic Foosball Players 59

Andre writes "As their final-year project, an eight-man team of fourth-year electrical and computer-engineering students at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada, constructed a robot-controlled, motor-and-actuator foosball table capable of playing against human opponents in a two-on-two fashion; one mechanical player controls two defensive rods (goalies and full-backs) and the other controls two offensive rods (half-backs and forwards). They considered the computers 'medium-skilled' players in that they were very competitive against beginners and fairly competitive against intermediates."

Quebec Says 'Non' To English-Only Video Games 554

daveofdoom writes "The French-Canadian government of Quebec is saying 'non' to English-only video games if French versions are available. 'It's causing a lot of consternation among retailers and gamers alike, who fear the rules will lead to delays in video games arriving in the province, and may not accomplish what the law intends, which is to promote and protect the French language.' This is a ridiculous rule, as game companies can simply stop creating French versions of games to bypass the restriction."

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