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Comment Technically nothing is really renewable (Score 2) 626

Stars and supernovas aren't quite a renewable resource, except possibly through initiating a new "big bang" and rebooting the universe. The universe ultimately uses energy and moves to increased entropy. New stars are formed, but the pool of matter and energy to form them from is limited; some is lost over time (think of loss to black holes, for example... no real way to recover matter once it reaches that state.)

If renewable energy doesn't exist, then the whole premise that any civilization--human or otherwise--could be powered entirely by renewable energy is moot.

Comment Ashburn (Score 4, Informative) 59

Also most of Ashburn is fairly new construction compared to other locations nearby and most of its power lines are buried... that probably contributes to it keeping power on when older communities in Fairfax and Maryland don't. I suspect also the choice of location may have something to do with proximity to others. UUNET (or whatever they are these days), AOL, Verizon, etc., etc.

Comment Small scale short term not long term (Score 1) 98

I could see this working as a short term investment, rather than a long term holding. For example, there was an "ultimate collector series" millenium falcon they made (which was huge, much bigger than the set my son plays with) that sold for about $500. If I'd thought about it, I'd have realized it would sell out and that only a couple of years later, it would be worth $1800-2000, for about a 200% to 300% profit. It's not major income, but a small, short term thing that could have generated some hobby funds or something.

Comment Really two varieties of Lego (Score 4, Insightful) 425

Not all legos are equal, they have sort of diverged into two types: the traditional brick type (and in that I include even the specialized pieces, as long as they fit together in the traditional stud/brick mechanism) and the Technic/Mindstorms type, which use pieces more like girders that fit together with special connectors. The brick type has moved more in the licensing/set model direction, and those I sort of agree that the creativity seems to be missing these days. But I have to admit I'm glad they came up with a decent lego millenium falcon, which was absolutely perfect for my son for Christmas a year ago.

On the other hand, the Technic/Mindstorms type still focuses a lot on creativity, with alternate directions for different models included, and lots of resources available for idea books and programming and such. If you look on the Lego education site, they seemed to almost have moved in the opposite/more creative direction, with resources for bodging together Mindstorms electronic components with a metal frame & RC servo-based robotics construction system (vertex? Tetrix? I forget what it was called) that another company makes.

Bottom line, if you want to emphasize creativity, go Technic early, then maybe branch off to mindstorms.

Submission + - Souped-up Immune Cells Force Leukemia into Remission

parallel_prankster writes: Augmented immune cells have made an impressive impact on the survival of people with leukemia. Thirteen people with a form of the cancer called multiple myeloma were treated with genetically engineered T-cells, and all improved. Cancers often develop because T-cells have lost their ability to target tumour cells, which they normally destroy. To retune that targeting, a team led by Aaron Rapoport at the University of Maryland in Baltimore engineered T-cell genes that coded for a receptor on the cell's surface. They extracted T-cells from each person, then inserted the engineered genes into these cells and re-injected them. The souped-up cells were better able to recognise proteins called NY-ESO-1 and LAGE-1, found on myeloma cells but not healthy ones. All 13 people also had the standard treatment for multiple myeloma, which boosts white blood cell count.
Three months after the injection, 10 of the 13 were in remission or very close to it – a 77 per cent response rate – and the others showed drastic reduction in their cancer. Standard treatment alone gives a response rate of between 33 and 69 per cent. The original paper is available here . The work is encouraging, but a trial that does not include the standard therapy is needed, says Holger Auner, a myeloma specialist at Imperial College London.

Submission + - CIA Venture Fund Invests In Near-Field Communications (

jfruh writes: "In-Q-Tel, the dorkily named venture capital arm of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, is investing in Tyfone, a small developer of mobile banking, identity management and near-field communication systems. "We believe that Tyfone's technology has the potential to address a wide range of complex government and commercial secure identity challenges," In-Q-Tel's vice president said. Feel free to speculate wildly about possible espionage applications."

Submission + - Water-Activated Seat-Belt Release Could Prevent Drowning Deaths (

kc67 writes: Unfortunately, around 400 U.S. motorists die each year from drowning when their vehicle plunges into water. To help eliminate the chances of being restrained in a submerged car, a new seat belt mechanism has been designed to make sure that occupants can extract themselves quickly and safely when underwater.

The Escape Belt looks like the traditional female latch that plugs into a car’s buckle. When water hits the interior, a salt pill inside the latch dissolves, causing a hammer to release the male section of the belt to free the occupant. It’s the same technology used by airlines in self-inflating life jackets, and while you’ll still need to open the door, popping the seat belt won’t be an issue.

Fijen TMLS, the Dutch manufacturer that created the product, says that the cartridge needs replacement every few years, but that the system is robust enough that it won’t activate from a spilled Fresca. The mechanism costs a little under $40 for each unit and the company is pursuing automotive supplier partnerships to bring it to market.


Submission + - Has the mythical unicorn of materials science finally been found? (

gbrumfiel writes: "For years, physicists have been on the hunt for a material so weird, it might as well be what unicorn horns are made of. Topological insulators are special types of material that conduct electricity, but only on their outermost surface. If they exist, and that's a real IF, then they would play host to all sorts of bizarre phenomenon: virtual particles that are their own anti-particles, strange quantum effects, dogs and cats living together, that sort of thing. Now three independent teams think they've finally found the stuff that the dreams of theoretical physicists are made of: samarium hexaboride."

Comment Dangerous practice (Score 4, Interesting) 733

One other fact nobody has mentioned is that by flying this over people, PETA is also violating several provisions of the code of conduct established b the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) intended to help keep the public safe. Model helicopters in the $4K range are no-joke dangerous if they hit someone. This sort of activity (especially using a helicopter to harass people) puts at risk the rights of geeks everywhere to build and fly model aircraft, by encouraging legislators and bureaucrats to pass new laws and regulations.

AMA code

If any of the PETA people doing this are AMA members, I hope they have their memberships revoked...

Submission + - Brute force resistant storage?

C3ntaur writes: "Hey Cipherheads and Cryptogeeks,

I have decided to get serious about off site backups. Naturally, I don't want my data to be readable by prying eyes, so I'm encrypting it. I've done some research, and it's obvious that passwords suck. If my encrypted data is not physically in my possession — it could be in the cloud, at a friend's house, in a safe deposit box, or whatever — then all an attacker needs is enough time to crack it. Worse, the time during which an attack might be detected is only however long it takes to make a copy. After obtaining that copy they can spend all the time they need to crack it.

According to Wikipedia, "As of 2011, commercial products are available that claim the ability to test up to 2,800,000,000 passwords per second...Such a device can crack a 10 letter single-case password in one day." Passwords really suck.

OK, so I need to use a much stronger key to protect the encrypted data. This is not difficult, a few hundred randomly-generated characters is more than enough. But it's also more than I can commit to memory so I have to store THAT somewhere safe, too. Did I mention the application is an off site backup? The idea being, of course, that if the primary copy of my data is destroyed I have something I can recover from. So I need to store the key somewhere that's not likely to be involved in any event that takes out my primary data. Something that fits in my wallet, perhaps, so it's in my physical control. But wallets can be stolen, and if Evil Attacker is reading this he'll know just where to look for my key file.

So I believe (and apparently so do many others in the industry) that a good solution has two factors: something I have (the key file) combined with something I know (a... password). If I store my key file on something that's password protected then I have two-factor protection.

But passwords suck. What I really need is a key file storage device that can resist a brute force attack. I've heard of smart cards and USB devices that use built-in hardware encryption and will wipe their keys after some number of failed attempts. I imagine even they can be defeated in a sufficiently-equipped lab, but really, I'm not that important or interesting.

Are these devices all they're hyped up to be? What other solutions should I consider?"

Submission + - Getting Small UAVs to Imitate Human Pilots Flying through Dense Forests (

diabolicalrobot writes: "The Robotics Institute at CMU has been developing systems to learn from humans. Using a Machine Learning class of techniques called Imitation Learning our group has developed AI software for a small commercially available off-the-shelf ARdrone to autonomously fly through the dense trees for over 3.4 km in experimental runs. We are also developing methods to do longer range planning with such purely vision-guided UAVs. Such technology has a lot of potential impact for surveillance, search and rescue and allowing UAVs to safely share airspace with manned airspace."

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