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The Internet

Intelligent Software Agents - Are We Ready? 100

Anti-Luddite writes In an article on the Internet Evolution site, analyst Tom Nolle discusses the potential of 'Intelligent Software Agent (ISA)' technology. He points to specific types such as 'search assistant ISAs,' which will inevitably flop before their potential is realized. He speaks favorably of the 'mobile ISA' which he says, 'involves dispatching mobile agents from one computer and delivering them to a remote computer for execution.' While hailing the potential of this new generation of agent technology, Nolle seems skeptical about our ability to prepare for and handle its emergence, particularly because of flaws in the agent research community."
Biotech

Submission + - Snortable Drug Keeps Monkeys Awake

sporkme writes: A DARPA-funded research project at UCLA has wrapped up a set of animal trials testing the effects of inhalation of the brain chemical orexin A, a deficiency of which is a characteristic of narcolepsy. From the article:

The monkeys were deprived of sleep for 30 to 36 hours and then given either orexin A or a saline placebo before taking standard cognitive tests. The monkeys given orexin A in a nasal spray scored about the same as alert monkeys, while the saline-control group was severely impaired. The study, published in the Dec. 26 edition of The Journal of Neuroscience, found orexin A not only restored monkeys' cognitive abilities but made their brains look "awake" in PET scans. Siegel said that orexin A is unique in that it only had an impact on sleepy monkeys, not alert ones, and that it is "specific in reversing the effects of sleepiness" without other impacts on the brain.
Researchers seem cautious to bill the treatment as a replacement for sleep, as it is not clear that adjusting brain chemistry could have the same physical benefits of real sleep in the long run. The drug is aimed at replacing amphetamines used by drowsy long-haul military pilots, but there would no doubt be large demand for such a remedy thanks to its apparent lack of side-effects.
Robotics

Robots That Bounce on Water 137

inghamb87 writes "The way water striders walk on water was discovered years ago. The insect uses its long legs to help evenly distribute its tiny body weight. The weight is distributed over a large area so that the fragile skin formed by surface tension supports the bug on the water. However, the ability of water striders to jump onto water without sinking has baffled scientists, until now." If nothing less, you need to see the picture: it's awesome.
Math

Submission + - 'We have broken speed of light'

sporkme writes: "Physicists from the University of Koblenz in Germany claim to have violated special relativity using quantum tunneling to move microwave photons more than three feet "instantaneously." This would mean that the particles exceeded the speed of light by traversing the space between two prisms at a speed higher than 186,000 miles per second.

The original New Scientist article is available to subscribers."

Change Google's Background Color To Save Energy? 519

i_like_spam writes "Recent commentary at Nature Climate Change describes an on-going debate about the energy savings associated with the background colors used by high-traffic websites such as Google and the NYTimes. A back of the envelope calculation has suggested energy savings of 750 Megawatt hours per year if Google switched their background from white to black. In response, a new version of Google called Blackle was created. However, other calculations by the Wall Street Journal suggest minimal energy savings."
Handhelds

Gadgets You Backpack Around the World With? 625

ryrw writes "I'm planning to spend a year backpacking around the world and the hardest question I have to answer is: What technology do I take with me? Aside from the obvious (digital camera, ipod, et. al.) what technological devices would you you take? Specifically, I wonder if I should bring my nice and shiny MacBook Pro. I can think of lots of uses for it (offloading pix, updating weblog, email, etc.), but I'm worried it will be lost or stolen along the way. Does anyone have experience with travel while toting technology?"
Censorship

In France, Only Journalists Can Film Violence 531

BostonBTS sends word that the French Constitutional Council has just made it illegal to film violence unless you are a professional journalist (or to distribute a video containing violence). The law was approved exactly 16 years after amateur videographer George Holliday filmed Los Angeles police officers beating Rodney King. The Council was tidying up a body of law about offenses against the public order, and wanted to ban "happy slapping." A charitable reading would be that the lawmakers stumbled into unintended consequences. Not according to Pascal Cohet, a spokesman for French online civil liberties group Odebi: "The broad drafting of the law so as to criminalize the activities of citizen journalists unrelated to the perpetrators of violent acts is no accident, but rather a deliberate decision by the authorities, said [Cohet]. He is concerned that the law, and others still being debated, will lead to the creation of a parallel judicial system controlling the publication of information on the Internet."
Toys

Tricked-Out Cars Trickling Down 233

Good sends us to an IBTimes article on the expanding trend for more options for electronic gadgetry — telematics — in cars. Manufacturers are including more high-tech options in more models, including low-end models, as component prices drop and as the car makers attempt to sell to a demographic that has grown up surrounded by personal electronics. According to a telematics analyst, Bluetooth hands-free modules for cell phones will be available on more than a third of car models sold in the US in 2007, and auxiliary jacks for iPods in nearly half. From the article: "One of the industry's more advanced systems will be Ford's Sync, which connects digital music players to the car's voice-control communications system and reads aloud cell-phone text messages and has 20 preset text-message responses... The flash memory-based system, controlled through voice commands and buttons on the steering wheel, is based on a Microsoft Corp. operating system for cars."
Linux Business

Helping Dell To Help Open Source 177

Glyn Moody writes "Dell's IdeaStorm is turning into a fiasco — for Dell, and for open source as well. Instead of just shouting at the company to sell pre-installed GNU/Linux systems, how about helping them find a way to do it? Here's a suggestion that I've posted on the IdeaStorm site: that Dell set up an independent business unit for GNU/Linux systems, just like The Innovator's Dilemma tells us to do when faced with a disruptive technology."
Space

Milky Way's Black Hole a Gamma Source? 100

eldavojohn writes "A paper recently accepted for publication (preprint here) proposes a sound explanation for the source of the gamma rays that permeate our galaxy. The Milky Way's central object Sagittarius A*, widely believed to be a supermassive black hole, is now suspected to be the source. To test this theory, two scientists created a computer model to track the protons, flung outward with energies up to 100 TeV by the intense magnetic fields near the event horizon, as they make a random walk through the plasma environment. It can take thousands of years for them to travel 10 light-years from the black hole, where they collide with lower-energy protons to form pions. These decay into gamma radiation emanating from a torus-shaped region around the central object."
Music

Major Broadcasters Hit With $12M Payola Fine 222

Gr8Apes writes with a just-breaking AP story reporting that the FCC is wrapping up a settlement in which four major broadcast companies would pay the government $12.5 million and provide 8,400 half-hour segments of free airtime for independent record labels and local artists. The finish line is near after a 3-year investigation. An indie promoter is quoted: "It's absolutely the most historic agreement that the independent community has had with radio. Without a doubt, nothing else comes close."
Privacy

A Network Sniffer On Steroids 129

QuantumCrypto writes "Errata has developed a new network sniffer, dubbed 'Ferret,' that looks for traffic using 25 protocols, including those for the popular instant message clients as well as DHCP, SNMP, DNS and HTTP. This means the sniffer will capture requests for network addresses, network management tools, Web sites queries, Web traffic and more. 'You don't realize how much you're making public, so I wrote a tool that tells you,' said Robert Graham, Errata's chief executive. Errata has released the source code to this version 1.0, 'feature-poor and buggy' tool on its site. Anyone with a wireless card will be able to run it, Graham said."
Data Storage

Submission + - Disk drive failures 15 times what vendors say

jcatcw writes: "A Carnegie Mellon University study indicates that customers are replacing disk drives more frequently than vendor estimates of mean time to failure (MTTF) would require.. The study examined large production systems, including high-performance computing sites and Internet services sites running SCSI, FC and SATA drives. The data sheets for the drives indicated MTTF between 1 and 1.5 million hours. That should mean annual failure rates of 0.88%, annual replacement rates were between 2% and 4%. The study also shows no evidence that Fibre Channel drives are any more reliable than SATA drives."
Hardware Hacking

Submission + - Reflectivity Reaches a New Low

sporkme writes: "A new nanocoating material developed by a team of researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has the lowest level of reflectivity ever seen, or not seen in this case. The amount of light reflected by the composite of silica nanorods and aluminum nitride is almost the same amount reflected by air. From the article:

Schubert and his coworkers have created a material with a refractive index of 1.05, which is extremely close to the refractive index of air and the lowest ever reported. Window glass, for comparison, has a refractive index of about 1.45.
. . .
Using a technique called oblique angle deposition, the researchers deposited silica nanorods at an angle of precisely 45 degrees on top of a thin film of aluminum nitride, which is a semiconducting material used in advanced light-emitting diodes (LEDs). From the side, the films look much like the cross section of a piece of lawn turf with the blades slightly flattened.
Suggested applications include increased efficiency in solar cells, more energy-efficient lighting and advances in quantum mechanics. No word yet on invisibility cloaks."

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