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Space

Submission + - Indian rocket blasts into space

Quacking Duck writes: Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) successfully launched it's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C7) rocket from the Srikharikota launch-pad. The rocket carried 4 satellites into space, 2 Indian and one each from Argentina and Indonesia. Interestingly, one of ISRO's payloads, Space Capsule Recovery Experiment (SRE-1), expected to return to Earth 13 days after launch, will be the first test of its re-entry mechanism. This is a step towards ISRO's ambitious goal of designing and building a cheap reusable launch vehicle. ISRO is also planning a manned mission to the moon, Chandrayan-1, which is expected to use a modified PSLV rocket which was used for this launch. This successful launch comes close on the heels of the failed July 2006 GSLV lauch which had ended in an expensive fireworks display over the Bay of Bengal. Another GSLV launch is planned for later this year.
Role Playing (Games)

Submission + - Second Life Sued For Stolen Virtual Property

Petey_Alchemist writes: "The press loves Second Life, the MMORPG with a twist. For years, Linden Labs — the founders and administrators of Second Life — averred that yes, you do own your land, and yes, you do own your intellectual property (animations, scripts, etc.) However, the terms also reserve the right for Linden Labs to ban you and reabsorb your assets on a whim.

This contradiction, as might be expected, has been the source of much in-world drama over the last few years. But now, Pennsylvania lawyer Mark Bragg is taking Linden Labs to court. Bragg alleges that the company committed a crime when, after he used an exploit to underbid on a land auction, Linden Labs not only invalidated his purchase, but also refused to refund the money. When he complained, they banned him, resold his land, took the $2000 U.S. worth of Linden Dollars he had in his account, and then continued to charge him property tax for the land he could no longer access.

Second Life Insider (which, editorially, takes an anti-Bragg stance) has the first story on actual filing, and includes a link to the full text of the complaint."
Power

Submission + - Long-lived ball lightning created in the lab.

EWAdams writes: New Scientist is reporting that the mysterious phenomenon of ball lighting has now been created in a Brazilian research lab. Long reported anecdotally but never explained or understood, scientists have devised numerous explanations, including mini black holes left over from the Big Bang, but (not surprisingly) have had a hard time producing working examples. The article goes on:
A more down-to-earth theory, proposed by John Abrahamson and James Dinniss at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, is that ball lightning forms when lightning strikes soil, turning any silica in the soil into pure silicon vapour. As the vapour cools, the silicon condenses into a floating aerosol bound into a ball by charges that gather on its surface, and it glows with the heat of silicon recombining with oxygen. To test this idea, a team led by Antônio Pavão and Gerson Paiva from the Federal University of Pernambuco in Brazil took wafers of silicon just 350 micrometres thick, placed them between two electrodes and zapped them with currents of up to 140 amps. Then over a couple of seconds, they moved the electrodes slightly apart, creating an electrical arc that vaporised the silicon. The arc spat out glowing fragments of silicon but also, sometimes, luminous orbs the size of ping-pong balls that persisted for up to 8 seconds. "The luminous balls seem to be alive," says Pavão. He says their fuzzy surfaces emitted little jets that seemed to jerk them forward or sideways, as well as smoke trails that formed spiral shapes, suggesting the balls were spinning. From their blue-white or orange-white colour, Pavão's team estimates that they have a temperature of roughly 2000 kelvin. The balls were able to melt plastic, and one even burned a hole in Paiva's jeans. These are by far the longest-lived glowing balls ever made in the lab. Earlier experiments using microwaves created luminous balls, but they disappeared milliseconds after the microwaves were switched off (New Scientist, 11 February 2006, p 16).
You can see a movie of the phemenon here.
Microsoft

Submission + - Microsoft worried OEM "craplets" will harm

elsilver writes: An article at the CBC indicates that Microsoft is worried that the assorted crap most OEM companies load onto a new machine may affect users' opinion of Vista. An unnamed executive is concerned that the user will conclude the instability of the non-MS-certified applications is Vista's fault. Is this a serious concern, or is MS trying to bully OEMs into only including Vista-certified apps? As for the OEMs, one "removed older DVD-writing software they found was incompatible and replaced it with Vista's own software." — do they get points for realizing it was both buggy AND redundant?
Privacy

Submission + - Spoke.com is selling your address book

chimpo13 writes: "Phil Yanov talks about how Spoke.com is stealing your soul. Spoke says that it launched it's free service in August and that they have added 3 million new names since August. How did they do that? It was easy! To get access to Spoke's "free" service, you must install the Spoke toolbar. The Spoke toolbar then copies all of the information from your address book into the Spoke database. It's at this point you should be able to smell the burning sulfur. Spoke can sell those names, titles, companies, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers (listed and unlisted), passwords and PIN numbers to direct marketing organizations."

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