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Space

Big Dipper "Star" Actually a Sextuplet System 88

Theosis sends word that an astronomer at the University of Rochester and his colleagues have made the surprise discovery that Alcor, one of the brightest stars in the Big Dipper, is actually two stars; and it is apparently gravitationally bound to the four-star Mizar system, making the whole group a sextuplet. This would make the Mizar-Alcor sextuplet the second-nearest such system known. The discovery is especially surprising because Alcor is one of the most studied stars in the sky. The Mizar-Alcor system has been involved in many "firsts" in the history of astronomy: "Benedetto Castelli, Galileo's protege and collaborator, first observed with a telescope that Mizar was not a single star in 1617, and Galileo observed it a week after hearing about this from Castelli, and noted it in his notebooks... Those two stars, called Mizar A and Mizar B, together with Alcor, in 1857 became the first binary stars ever photographed through a telescope. In 1890, Mizar A was discovered to itself be a binary, being the first binary to be discovered using spectroscopy. In 1908, spectroscopy revealed that Mizar B was also a pair of stars, making the group the first-known quintuple star system."
Science

Programmable Quantum Computer Created 132

An anonymous reader writes "A team at NIST (the National Institute of Standards and Technology) used berylium ions, lasers and electrodes to develop a quantum system that performed 160 randomly chosen routines. Other quantum systems to date have only been able to perform single, prescribed tasks. Other researchers say the system could be scaled up. 'The researchers ran each program 900 times. On average, the quantum computer operated accurately 79 percent of the time, the team reported in their paper.'"
Input Devices

The Mice That Didn't Make It 202

Harry writes "For every blockbuster of the mouse world (such as Microsoft and Logitech's big sellers) there have been countless mice that flopped, or never made it to market. Mice shaped like pyramids; mice shaped like Mickey; mice that doubled as numeric keypads or phones. Even one that sat on your steering wheel. I've rounded up some evocative patent drawings on twenty notable examples."
Cellphones

How Apple's App Review Is Sabotaging the iPhone 509

snydeq writes to recommend Peter Wayner's inside look at the frustration iPhone developers face from Apple when attempting to distribute their apps through the iPhone App Store. Wayner's long piece is an extended analogy comparing Apple to the worst of Soviet-era bureaucracy. "Determined simply to dump an HTML version of his book into UIWebView and offer two versions through the App Store, Wayner endures four months of inexplicable silences, mixed messages, and almost whimsical rejections from Apple — the kind of frustration and uncertainty Wayner believes is fast transforming Apple's regulated marketplace into a hotbed of bottom-feeding mediocrity. 'Developers are afraid to risk serious development time on the platform as long as anonymous gatekeepers are able to delay projects by weeks and months with some seemingly random flick of a finger,' Wayner writes of his experience. 'It's one thing to delay a homebrew project like mine, but it's another thing to shut down a team of developers burning real cash. Apple should be worried when real programmers shrug off the rejections by saying, "It's just a hobby."'"
Space

Sunspots Return 276

We're emerging from the longest, deepest sunspot drought since 1913 (we discussed its depths here) with the appearance of a robust group of sunspots over the weekend. Recently we discussed a possible explanation for the prolonged minimum. The Fox News article quotes observer Michael Buxton of Ocean Beach, Calif.: "This is the best sunspot I've seen in two years." jamie found a NASA site where you can generate a movie of the recent sunspot's movement — try selecting the first image type and bumping the resolution to 1024. The magnetic field lines are clearly visible.
Programming

How To Get Out of Developer's Block? 601

Midnight Thunder writes "I have spent the past six months working on a software project, and while I can come up with ideas, I just can't seem to sit down in front of the computer to code. I sit there and I just can't concentrate. I don't know whether this is akin to writer's block, but it feels like it. Have any other Slashdotters run into this and if so how did you get out of it? It is bothering me since the project has ground to a halt and I really want to get started again. I am the sole developer on the project, if that makes a difference."
PC Games (Games)

America's Army 3 Has Rough Launch, Development Team Canned 150

incognito84 writes "The development team responsible for the creation of the freeware game America's Army 3 has been canned, days after the launch of the highly flawed game, which was distributed mostly via Steam. 'The anonymous America's Army 3 developers in touch with Kotaku unsurprisingly didn't sound too pleased with the current situation, venting that "a lot of good people [worked] insanely long hours on this game that was butchered by outside sources.' The game's launch was plagued by massive server authentication issues which inhibited most players from playing it even two days afterward. One of the developers made a post on the official forums saying they were 'effectively stabbed in the back,' and that much of the funding was filtered to the bureaucracy. A patch has been released to address some of the game's issues."
Privacy

FCC Reserves the Right To Search Your Home, Any Time 589

mikesd81 writes "Wired.com reports that you may not know it, but if you have a wireless router, a cordless phone, remote car-door opener, baby monitor or cellphone in your house, the FCC claims the right to enter your home without a warrant at any time of the day or night in order to inspect it. FCC spokesman David Fiske says 'Anything using RF energy — we have the right to inspect it to make sure it is not causing interference.' The FCC claims it derives its warrantless search power from the Communications Act of 1934, though the constitutionality of the claim has gone untested in the courts. 'It is a major stretch beyond case law to assert that authority with respect to a private home, which is at the heart of the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable search and seizure,' says Electronic Frontier Foundation lawyer Lee Tien. 'When it is a private home and when you are talking about an over-powered Wi-Fi antenna — the idea they could just go in is honestly quite bizarre.'"
Security

Windows 7 Users Warned Over Filename Security Risk 613

nandemoari writes "Would-be Windows 7 users have been warned to change a default setting which could leave them vulnerable to attack via bogus files. As a result, Microsoft is taking flak for failing to correct a problem found in previous editions of Windows. The issue involves the way Windows Explorer displays filenames. In all editions of Windows after Windows 98, the default setting hides the filename extension (which identifies what type of file it is). This means that a Word file titled 'partyinvite.doc' will show up in Windows Explorer as simply 'partyinvite'. The only exception to this rule is if Windows does not recognize the file type. The reason for this setting is that it makes for a less cluttered look and avoids filling the screen with redundant detail. However, a flaw in the way it works leaves it liable to exploitation by hackers. They can take an executable file (which can do much more damage to a computer when opened) and disguise it by calling it 'partyinvite.doc.exe.'"

"Apple Tax" Report Backfires On Microsoft 993

Ian Lamont writes "A Microsoft-sponsored report that describes a hidden "Apple tax" has fallen flat among the technology press. Roger Kay's report (PDF) compares various PC and Mac configurations, and claims an all-Apple household's costs would add up to an extra $3,367 over five years. Tech columnists and bloggers have slammed the comparisons and claims made in the report — even Mac-baiter John C. Dvorak calls it propaganda. However, some Mac fans still see a pro-Microsoft press conspiracy. Even if the comparisons are questionable, Kay's report and the accompanying television ads have clearly struck a nerve among the Mac faithful." Meanwhile, Linux users everywhere are scratching their heads.
Image

Japanese Astronaut Tests Stink-Free Underwear Screenshot-sm 69

Throw away your soap, detergent, and personal hygiene, the Japanese have invented odor-free underwear. Koichi Wakata, a Japanese astronaut living in the International Space Station, is testing the underwear created by textile experts at Japan Women's University in Tokyo. The shorts are designed to kill bacteria, absorb water, insulate the body and dry quickly. They also are flame-resistant, and anti-static. "The other astronauts become very sweaty, but he doesn't have any sweat. He didn't need to hang his clothes to dry. He can wear his trunks (underwear) more than a week," said Koji Yanagawa, an official with the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency.
Transportation

Should Taxpayers Back Cars Only the Rich Can Afford? 752

theodp writes "The NY Times questions the $400M in low-interest federal loans requested by Tesla Motors as part of the $25B loan package for the auto industry passed by Congress last year. 'The program is intended to encourage automakers to improve fuel efficiency, but should it be used for a purpose like this, as the 2008 Bailout of Very, Very High-Net-Worth Individuals Who Invested in Tesla Motors Act?' Tesla says it is assembling about 15 cars a week and has delivered about 80 of its $109,000 base-price Roadsters to date, many of which have gone to the Valley's billionaires and centimillionaires who are Tesla investors as well as early customers. We discussed the company's financial difficulties last month."
DRM

Doom9 Researchers Break BD+ 345

An anonymous reader writes "BD+, the Blu-ray copy protection system that was supposed to last 10 years, has now been solidly broken by a group of doom9 researchers. Earlier, BD+ had been broken by the commercial company SlySoft." Someone from SlySoft posts a hint early in the thread, but then backs off for fear of getting fired. The break is announced on page 15.

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