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Space

Stellar Wormholes May Exist 94

seagirlreed writes "Pairs of stars could be connected via wormholes filled with 'phantom matter,' according to Kyrgyz researchers. If a wormhole exists within a star, the stellar body may exhibit measurable properties astronomers might detect. Although interesting, other scientists are skeptical, pointing out that this is highly speculative research."
Classic Games (Games)

Super Mario Bros. 3 Level Design Lessons 95

An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from Significant Bits about how the early level design in Super Mario Bros. 3 gradually introduced players to the game without needing something as blatant and obtrusive as a tutorial: "Super Mario Bros. 3 contains many obvious design lessons that are also present in other games, e.g., the gradual layering of complexity that allows players to master a specific mechanic. What surprised me during my playthrough, though, was how some of these lessons were completely optional. The game doesn't have any forced hand-holding, and it isn't afraid of the player simply exploring it at his own pace (even if it means circumventing chunks of the experience)."
Earth

Once-Darling Ethanol Losing Friends In High Places 586

theodp writes "It's now conceivable, says BusinessWeek's Ed Wallace, that the myth of ethanol as the salvation for America's energy problem is coming to an end. Curiously, the alternative fuel may be done in by an unlikely collection of foes. Fervidly pro-ethanol in the last decade of his political career, former VP Al Gore reversed course in late November and apologized for supporting ethanol, which apparently was more about ingratiating himself to farmers. A week later, Energy Secretary Steven Chu piled on, saying: 'The future of transportation fuels shouldn't involve ethanol.' And in December, a group of small-engine manufacturers, automakers, and boat manufacturers filed suit in the US Court of Appeals to vacate the EPA's October ruling that using a 15% blend of ethanol in fuel supplies would not harm 2007 and newer vehicles. Despite all of this, the newly-elected Congress has extended the 45 cent-per-gallon ethanol blending tax credit that was due to expire, a move that is expected to reduce revenue by $6.25 billion in 2011. 'The ethanol insanity,' longtime-critic Wallace laments, 'will continue until so many cars and motors are damaged by this fuel additive that the public outcry can no longer be ignored.'"
The Military

HULC Robotic Exoskeleton MK II Undergoing Tests 72

fergus07 writes "Lockheed Martin is putting an updated, ruggedized version of its HULC Robotic Exoskeleton through lab evaluation tests. The hydraulic 'power-suit,' which enables the wearer to carry up to 200 lbs and run at 10 mph, now boasts better protection from the elements, improved fitting and easier adjustment, increased run-time and new control software."
Government

'The Laws Are Written By Lobbyists,' Says Google's Schmidt 484

An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from The Atlantic: "'The average American doesn't realize how much of the laws are written by lobbyists' to protect incumbent interests, Google CEO Eric Schmidt told Atlantic editor James Bennet at the Washington Ideas Forum. 'It's shocking how the system actually works.' In a wide-ranging interview that spanned human nature, the future of machines, and how Google could have helped the stimulus, Schmidt said technology could 'completely change the way government works.' 'Washington is an incumbent protection machine,' Schmidt said. 'Technology is fundamentally disruptive.' Mobile phones and personal technology, for example, could be used to record the bills that members of Congress actually read and then determine what stimulus funds were successfully spent." We discussed a specific example of this from the cable industry back in August.
Media

MPEG LA Announces Permanent Royalty Moratorium For H264 262

vistapwns writes "MPEG LA has announced that free h264 content (vs. paid h264 content which will still have royalties) will be royalty free forever. With ubiquitous h264 support on mobile devices, personal computers and all other types of media devices, this assures that h264 will remain the de facto standard for video playback for the foreseeable future."
Education

Los Angeles Unveils $578 Million Public School 367

An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from an Associated Press report on next month's opening of the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools in Los Angeles: "With an eye-popping price tag of $578 million, it will mark the inauguration of the nation's most expensive public school ever. The K-12 complex to house 4,200 students has raised eyebrows across the country as the creme de la creme of 'Taj Mahal' schools, $100 million-plus campuses boasting both architectural panache and deluxe amenities. ... At RFK, the features include fine art murals and a marble memorial depicting the complex's namesake, a manicured public park, and a state-of-the-art swimming pool. 'There's no more of the old, windowless cinderblock schools of the '70s where kids felt, "Oh, back to jail,"' said Joe Agron, editor-in-chief of American School & University, a school construction journal. 'Districts want a showpiece for the community, a really impressive environment for learning.' ... Critics note that nearly 3,000 teachers have been laid off over the past two years, the academic year and programs have been slashed, the district faces a $640 million shortfall and some schools persistently rank among the nation's lowest performing."
Microsoft

Microsoft Claims 'We Love Open Source' 464

jbrodkin writes "Everyone in the Linux world remembers Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's famous comment in 2001 that Linux is a 'cancer' that threatened Microsoft's intellectual property. While Microsoft hasn't formally rescinded its declaration that Linux violates its patents, at least one Microsoft executive admits that the company's earlier battle stance was a mistake. Microsoft wants the world to understand, whatever its issues with Linux, it no longer has any gripe toward open source."

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