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Comment Re:Orbit? Check - Moon Mission? Mars? (Score 4, Insightful) 156

The point, I think, is to get the government institutions (who are the ones who don't have to make money at things) OUT of the business of doing repetitious, potentially profitable things. Like putting satellites into orbit, doing ISS supply runs, and other generic things that are pretty much routine these days.

If they are barred from doing easy stuff, maybe they will take their budget where it is supposed to go: into exploration and the development of new things, things that the the private industry won't do because there is no profit there yet.


Submission + - SpaceX's Dragon module successfully re-enters. (

Zitchas writes: Following the news of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket with a Dragon module on-board, and its arrival on orbit, we now have the news that is has successfully re-entered the atmosphere and splashed down in the Pacific. As their website proudly claims, this is the first time a private corporation has recovered a spacecraft they orbited, joining the ranks of a few space nations and the EU space agency.

A great step forward for space travel. Hopefully everything continues to go well for them.

Comment 38% would go so long as they made it... (Score 1) 561

... and 7% think they already live there. In summary, out of 27844 respondents,26% would go on a one way trip so long as they had some chance of survival, and another 12% would go so long as they made it to Mars and died on impact. That makes 38% of the /. community who would gladly go on a one way trip to Mars. While not particularly representative of anything, it is interesting to see so many willing to go there, permanently. Hopefully the day will come when we have our opportunity. Oh, and I thought the Mars trilogy was awesome. That being said, the first part, where they are actually going to and starting up things there was the best part. For the first large portion of the book we actually have all the technology they use there. We just need some way to get it all assembled and used to take people there and help them survive. If it was not for the economics aspect, we would likely already be there.

Comment Re:Worth checking out, but not spectacular... (Score 1) 326

I'm not griping about features I wish it had, I'm just pointing out that a lot of the features they (or others) are claiming as new additions are, in fact, things that Alpha Centauri had about a decade ago. And I'll point out that it was, by and large, made by the same creator...

And yes, it would change the tone. I want another AC. Actually, I'd be happy with the old AC, with updated engine. (something that runs on modern systems, uses millions of colours, and supports modern screen resolutions. Maybe expand it to support having the whole slew of factions active simultaneously, too. (and bigger maps)

Comment Worth checking out, but not spectacular... (Score 1) 326

Well, it's nice that they're issuing a new Civilization game, but I'm still hoping they'll include more of the stuff they used in Alpha Centauri. That being said, some of the things they mention here *are* from Alpha Centauri, so there's hope yet. (for those unaware, Alpha Centauri was produced by Sid Meirs and Firaxis (among others) around 2000. Or at least, that was when they issued the last official patch.

For instance, ranged combat: Alpha Centauri had an artillery system built in, and the computer AI used it fairly effectively. Including artillery duels, bombardment, etc. Ship to shore combat was automatically a bombardment.

Modability: All the files for creating your own scenarios were there, easy to modify, written in plain english, and usually with explanations. And the game had a built in map editor. Which includes modifying factions, creating new ones, etc.

In fact, that leads directly to the one feature I really want to see in Civ V: Customized units. Not mods, but the ability, in game, to create new units by combining technology. For example, you've figured out how to make iron armor. Great. But you only know how to make longbows? So you now have iron-plated archers. Or whatever. That was one thing in Alpha Centauri that made the game truly unique: Tech developments gave you aspects of units, not the units themselves. As in they gave you a new type of weapon, a new type of armor, a new special ability, a new reactor (aka more hitpoints), new chassis (determines whether it's land, water, or air, and how fast it is, how often it needs to return to a city, etc)... Then the player puts them together to create the unit they want, the system figures out how much it costs, and there you go.

It led to some funny possibilities, like when you have really high powered cities, that you can create terraformers (equiv to engineers) that have tougher armor/hitpoints than most combat units. (although they still got a non-combat penalty) Or whatever one's heart desires, really. Not planning on going anywhere, but need defence? Then put together some sentinels with top of the line armor and hp, but leave them with the bare minimum for weaponry and chasis, and maybe give them one of the defensive special abilities. Or planning on doing some exploration? Throw together some rovers with high speed equipment, and deep radar (see 2 squares instead of 1), but leave off the weapons and armor. Almost anything is possible, really. And it adds so much variety to the game, so much re-playability.

The other thing I'm looking forward to seeing is the automation control. Can you activate an automated "governor" for a city? Can you tell that governor to only build stuff towards a specific end (say, research, or population expansion). Can you forbid the governor from building certain types of units (or any unit, for that matter)? On the same vein, can you give specific limits to engineer's automation? (for example, only allow them to build certain types of terrain improvement?

These are all things that they had in Alpha Centauri back in 2000, but have been almost entirely absent to all the Civ games produced since then. Otherwise, I'll probably just keep playing AC. Sure the graphics are bad (by 2010 standards, anyway), but it's the gameplay that matters.

Comment Re:i'd count... (Score 1) 430

By default on the iMac keyboard, F14 and F15 are screen brightness controls. F17 reduce volume, F18 increases, F19 mute/unmute, and F20 is eject. I think on the newer macbooks there's controls for the keyboard back-illumination. Not sure if those count as F keys or not.

Scientists To Breed the Auroch From Extinction 277

ImNotARealPerson writes "Scientists in Italy are hoping to breed back from extinction the mighty auroch, a bovine species which has been extinct since 1627. The auroch weighed 2,200 pounds (1000kg) and its shoulders stood at 6'6". The beasts once roamed most of Asia and northern Africa. The animal was depicted in cave paintings and Julius Caesar described it as being a little less in size than an elephant. A member of the Consortium for Experimental Biotechnology suggests that 99% of the auroch's DNA can be recreated from genetic material found in surviving bone material. Wikipedia mentions that researchers in Poland are working on the same problem."

Zombie Pigs First, Hibernating Soldiers Next 193

ColdWetDog writes "Wired is running a story on DARPA's effort to stave off battlefield casualties by turning injured soldiers into zombies by injecting them with a cocktail of one chemical or another (details to be announced). From the article, 'Dr. Fossum predicts that each soldier will carry a syringe into combat zones or remote areas, and medic teams will be equipped with several. A single injection will minimize metabolic needs, de-animating injured troops by shutting down brain and heart function. Once treatment can be carried out, they'll be "re-animated" and — hopefully — as good as new.' If it doesn't pan out we can at least get zombie bacon and spam."

Submission + - Solar Sail Test Next Year (

olsmeister writes: About a year from now, if all goes well, a box about the size of a loaf of bread will pop out of a rocket some 500 miles above the Earth. There in the vacuum it will unfurl four triangular sails as shiny as moonlight and only barely more substantial. Then it will slowly rise on a sunbeam and move across the stars.

LightSail-1, as it is dubbed, will not make it to Neverland. At best the device will sail a few hours and gain a few miles in altitude. But those hours will mark a milestone for a dream that is almost as old as the rocket age itself, and as romantic: to navigate the cosmos on winds of starlight the way sailors for thousands of years have navigated the ocean on the winds of the Earth.

Submission + - Is the traditional keypad heading for extinction?

andylim writes: Despite touchscreen phones being very popular, there are still plenty of handsets that feature traditional keypads. According to though the traditional keypad is heading for extinction and will eventually be completely replaced with full Qwerty or touchscreen alternatives. Why? Because it simply doesn't offer a good enough experience when it comes to using newfangled features. Do you agree? Is the traditional keypad as doomed as VHS?

Submission + - Roomba Pac-Man (

elstonj writes: The vacuum, long an instrument for chasing cats, has now been turned against its own. What better use for automatic home appliances than to have them chase each other in classic video game style?

"We've seen mixtures of Roomba and Pac-Man before, but nothing like this. A team of developers have hacked five floor-cleaning bots to create a sort of OCD version of the game, with the Pac-Man bot sucking up little white rectangles whilst being chased by robot incarnations of Inky, Pinky, Blinky, and Clyde. But, when the Pac-Man vacuum finds a power pellet those ghostly rovers turn blue and start fleeing. The tech is supposed to be a demonstration of the developers' Unmanned Aerial System suite, designed for guidance of airborne vehicles, but we're too busy geeking out to care about potential real-world applications of this tech."

Video Overview:
Project details:

Comment Re:The Moon (Score 2, Insightful) 703

So? I know it sounds a tad harsh, but who cares? I'm pretty sure that, if there were calls for volunteers for a one-way trip to Mars, they would most likely get thousands of applicants for EACH SPOT on the team. I'd certainly apply.

That being said, a serious manned mission to Mars would need a fairly large crew, and one with different training than modern space missions. These days, we're usually sending up highly trained specialists for specific experiments and suchlike. On a Mars expedition, while there would be some specialists, we would need a lot more people who could handle a large range of work conditions. And we would need trades people. Welders, construction people, etc.

Personally, I think that will be the sign that space is really starting to open up, and actually be useful: When we're sending electricians, welders, and other trades people into space because we need people actually capable of *building* and *repairing* things there, not just assembling them or replacing them, or doing experiments

Submission + - Firefox Prompts to Disable Microsoft .NET Addon

ZosX writes: "Around 11:45 PM (Eastern time for those that care), I was prompted by Firefox that it had disabled the addons that Microsoft includes with .NET. Specifically the .NET Framework Assistant and the Windows Presentation Foundation. Citing that the "following addons have been known to cause stability or security issues with Firefox." Thanks mozilla team for hitting the kill switch and hopefully this will get Microsoft to release a patch sooner for the millions of poor souls that are too unfortunate to be aware of faster, more secure alternatives to their precious Internet Explorer. (Is it possible to troll for IE apologists on slashdot?)"

Submission + - Meteorite hits SUV (

someyob writes: First of all, no one was hurt. With that out of the way, (a) do we need more proof SUVs are too big, and/or (b) is this a message of some kind?

Comment Re:Why restrict this to the blind? (Score 1) 131

Exactly. The possibilities of this are endless, and it could be a major step down the path towards true cybernetic integration (or the Mind/Machine Interface, as some think of it). Starting out with applying it to the blind and otherwise visually impaired serves two important points:

1) Public perception. There is bound to eventually be an outcry in some sectors about the sanctity of human beings and how machines shouldn't be wired into people and vice versa, machines reading our minds, etc. If the technology has a working application of serious humane benefit, which the gov't is actually pursuing, this negates this to large extent.

2) Technological progression. If the gov't and others are putting money into it, it will most likely progress faster and more reliably than if it has to depend on commercial sources who understandably want to make money off it. And if it stops looking like it will make money... There goes the project into obscurity.

There have been numerous articles on Slashdot and various science sites on how the human brain can adapt to other forms of "senses". The vibrating belt that always indicated North, the possibility of humans learning to echonavigate, and many, many others. While the tongue is maybe not the most convenient way of integrating with our neural system, it is at least demonstrating the possibility. Once the technology starts to mature, deeper and more invasive integration starts to become possible. While I doubt we'd get to the point of being like the Matrix, how about something more like Harper from Andromeda? A network jack of some kind in one's neck, and thus a direct link in to appropriately configured equipment.

And on that note, while I'd find it immensely cool and useful to be able to access, manipulate, and process data via a direct cable feed, I'd hate to have a wireless connection. Imagine being able to drive-by hack somebody's head? Talk about the privacy issues with that...

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