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Submission + - Astronomers find two Earth-sized planets orbiting (discovermagazine.com)

The Bad Astronomer writes: "In a cosmic two-fer, astronomers have found two planets about the same size as Earth orbiting the same star. The planets, dubbed Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f, are 11,100 and 13,200 km across, respectively, compared to 12,750 for Earth. Both orbit very close to their star and are far hotter than Earth, but are the smallest two exoplanets ever confirmed orbiting another Sun-like star. Interestingly, three other planets were found in this alien solar system, all of which orbit the star closer than Mercury orbits the Sun. This is yet another milestone in the search for an Earth-like planet orbiting in the habitable zone of a Sun-like star."

Submission + - Hubble pic of a 30 octillion ton baby's tantrum (hubblesite.org) 2

The Bad Astronomer writes: "In what is one of the most staggeringly beautiful Hubble pictures ever taken, a newly-born massive star is blasting four separate jets of material into its surrounding cocoon, carving out cavities in the material over two light years long. But only three of the jets appear to have matter still inside them, and the central star is off-center. This may be a gorgeous picture, but the science behind it is equally as compelling."

Submission + - Internet Inventors Warn Against SOPA and PIPA (eff.org)

Peter Eckersley writes: "This morning, a group of 83 prominent Internet engineers — including Vint Cerf, Paul Vixie, and many other pioneers who designed, specified, built, and debugged the network — sent a letter to the US Congress warning about the disastrous consequences that SOPA and PIPA, the two Internet blacklist censorship bills, would have for the reliability and security of the network. Unfortunately, these bills are perilously close to passing. EFF also has some suggestions on how Slashdot readers can take action against the bills."

Comment Quoth the "raven" (Score 4, Informative) 59

The reason I use quotation marks for "amateur" is that a lot of people think amateur means beginner, or not very good at what they're doing. In astronomy the meaning is harder to pin down; a lot of amateurs are doing amazing work. David Levy (of Shoemaker Levy 9) is sometimes referred to as an amateur, meaning not professional. But even then, what does it mean? Unpaid? He gets paid. Untrained? That's silly; he's a great astronomer. So I put the word in quotation marks as a way to poke gentle fun at the way people perceive the word.

Submission + - "Amateur" astronomer snaps pic of planet-forming d (discovermagazine.com)

The Bad Astronomer writes: "Rolf Olsen, an "amateur" astronomer in New Zealand, took an amazing photo of a disk of material around the star Beta Pictoris, the first time this has been seen outside of professional observatories. Incredibly, he snagged it with just a 25 cm (10") telescope! A comparison with an earlier pic from a much larger observatory indicates he nailed it, making this a milestone for amateur astronomy."

Submission + - 15 years in jail for clicking "Like" (smh.com.au) 2

patiwat writes: "Thailand has warned Facebook users that they could face 3 to 15 years in jail for if they press ''share'' or ''like'' on images or articles considered unflattering to the Thai monarchy. And it doesn't just apply to Thai subjects: a US citizen was arrested and convicted while visiting Thailand for posting a link to an unauthorized biography of King Bhumibol on his blog. Convictions for virtual lese majeste have sky-rocketed in recent years as efforts to defend the widely revered royal family from criticism have ramped up."

Submission + - Senator Wants One Checked Bag to Fly for Free 1

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Congress hasn't been very popular lately, but a bill just introduced by Senator Mary Landrieu that would require every US airline to accept a single checked bag and a carry-on free of charge will surely have a lot of air travelers smiling. "When an airline advertises a flight, that is how much it should cost, plain and simple," said Landrieu. "Passengers have been nickeled and dimed for far too long and something has to be done about it. Air carriers should be required to provide a minimum standard of service to their passengers." Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano says if passengers could check one bag for free it could speed the screening process and reduce the screening cost of carry-ons nationwide by $260 million a year. As it stands now, every major carrier except Southwest and JetBlue charges a baggage fee for the first checked bag, with the fee ranging from $20 to as much as $35 each way. Expect the airlines to fight tooth and nail to defeat the bill. "Making choices and paying for services you use and value is common practice across industry because it is fair and equitable," says Nicholas E. Calio, President of the Air Transport Association. "The government imposing its judgment about competitive services will not improve wait times.""
The Internet

Submission + - US snapshot of broadband world finds disparity and (networkworld.com)

coondoggie writes: "Almost seven of 10 households in the United States subscribe to broadband service while 68% of American households used broadband Internet in 2010, up from 64% in 2009 and only 3% of households still rely on dial-up access to the Internet in 2010, down from 5 % in 2009. Those were but a few of the interesting facts found in a snapshot of broadband use in the US released this week by the Department of Commerce..."

Submission + - Lasers Used to Make Speaker Sound Visible (gizmag.com)

Zothecula writes: A key issue that plagues proper sound reproduction (and thus its perceived quality) is a phenomenon known as deconstructive interference. This occurs when audio signals overlap and cancel one another out, creating dead spots which, until recently, have been very difficult to track. Now, a team from Britain's National Physical Laboratory (NPL) has figured out a clever way to make speaker sound "visible" — and they do it with laser light.

Submission + - Delightful video of astronauts during a space stat (discovermagazine.com) 2

The Bad Astronomer writes: "On October 26, the International Space Station underwent a reboost, moving it into a higher orbit to compensate for atmospheric drag. During the firing, the astronauts onboard had a little fun with the physics of acceleration. This video is destined to be shown in high school physics classes for years."

Submission + - The 12 Scams of Christmas (net-security.org)

Orome1 writes: 'Tis the season for us to spend more time online — shopping for gifts, looking for great holiday deals on new gadgets, e-planning family get-togethers and of course, using online or mobile banking to make sure we can afford it all. However, we should be on the lookout of the 12 scams of Christmas including mobile malware, phony Facebook promotions and contests, scareware, phishing scams, etc. Many people travel over the holidays, so it is no surprise that scammers have designed travel-related scams in the hopes of getting us to click on dangerous emails. New malware has recently been found that targets QR codes, a digital barcode that consumers might scan with their smartphone to find good deals on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, or just to learn about products they want to buy.

Submission + - How astronomers are observing asteroid 2005 YU55 (discovermagazine.com)

The Bad Astronomer writes: "The city-block-sized asteroid 2005 YU55 will pass about 320,000 km from Earth on Tuesday, and astronomers are already observing it. Using radio telescopes like radar guns, they can determine its distance, shape, size, and even rotation. Also, a new image was just released using the Goldstone radio 'scope in just this way."

Submission + - Strange video of dancing cloud explained by electr (discovermagazine.com)

The Bad Astronomer writes: "A few months ago I was sent a really weird video showing a cloud snapping around suddenly, far faster than wind could explain. I asked a meteorologist about it, who told me it was due to ice crystals re-aligning when the cloud's electric field discharged. It's pretty amazing to watch, and a great example of how many cool things happen right in front of us that we never notice."

Submission + - Robot walks like a human, requires no power (extremetech.com) 1

MrSeb writes: "Today’s groundbreaking entry into the Uncanny Valley is a pair of mechanical, robot legs that are propelled entirely by their own weight: they can walk with a human-like gait without motors or external control. Produced by some researchers at Nagoya Institute of Technology in Japan, all the legs require for perpetual motion (they walked 100,000 steps, 15km, over 13 hours last year) is a gentle push and a slight downwards slope. They then use same "principle of falling" that governs human walking, with the transfer of weight (and the slight pull of gravity), pulling the robot into consecutive steps."

Submission + - Vietnamese rhino goes extinct (mongabay.com) 1

roat35 writes: Poachers shot and killed the world's last Vietnamese rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus annamiticus) for its horn confirms a report from International Rhino Foundation (IRF) and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). A subspecies of the Javan rhino, the Vietnamese rhino was the last Javan rhino to survive on the Asian mainland and the second subspecies to vanish, following the extinction of the Indian Javan rhino (rhinoceros sondaicus inermis). The Javan rhino is the world's most imperiled rhino species with now only around 50 individuals surviving in a single park on its namesake island in Indonesia.

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