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Submission + - Why BART is Falling Apart writes: Matthias Gafni writes in the San Jose Mercury News that the engineers who built BART, the rapid transit system serving the San Francisco Bay Area that started operation in 1972, used principles developed for the aerospace industry rather than tried-and-true rail standards. And that's the trouble. "Back when BART was created, (the designers) were absolutely determined to establish a new product, and they intended to export it around the world," says Rod Diridon. "They may have gotten a little ahead of themselves using new technology. Although it worked, it was extremely complex for the time period, and they never did export the equipment because it was so difficult for other countries to install and maintain." The Space Age innovations have made it more challenging for the transit agency to maintain the BART system from the beginning. Plus, the aging system was designed to move 100,000 people per week and now carries 430,000 a day, so the loss of even a single car gets magnified with crowded commutes, delays and bus bridges. For example, rather than stick to the standard rail track width of 4 feet, 8.5 inches, BART engineers debuted a 5-foot, 6-inch width track, a gauge that remains to this day almost exclusive to the system. Industry experts say the unique track width necessitates custom-made wheel sets, brake assemblies and track repair vehicles.

Another problem is the dearth of readily available replacement parts for BART's one-of-a-kind systems. Maintenance crews often scavenge parts from old, out-of-service cars to avoid lengthy waits for orders to come in; sometimes mechanics are forced to manufacture the equipment themselves. "Imagine a computer produced in 1972," says David Hardt. "No one is supporting that old equipment any longer, but those same microprocessors are what we have controlling our logic systems." Right now BART needs 100 thyristors at a total cost of $100,000. BART engineers said it could take 22 weeks to ship them to the San Francisco Bay Area to replace in BART’s "C" cars, which make up the older cars in the fleet. Right now, the agency has none. Nick Josefowitz says it makes no sense to dwell on design decisions made a half-century ago. "I think we need to use what we have today and build off that, rather than fantasize what could have been done in the past. The BART system was state of the art when it was built, and now it's technologically obsolete and coming to the end of its useful life."

Submission + - Law Enforcement Investigators Seek Out Private DNA Databases (

An anonymous reader writes: Private companies are now receiving demands for genetic information in their DNA databases from law enforcement. and 23andme report a total of five requests from law agencies for the genetic material of six individuals in their growing databases of hundreds of thousands of individuals. For example, sent data belonging to a person being investigated for the murder and rape of an 18-year-old woman in Idaho Falls, Idaho. The other four court orders belonged to 23andme, which was able to persuade investigators to withdraw the requests. Even though these requests are considered rare, many experts in the field are concerned DNA turned over for medical, family history research or other highly personal reasons could be misused by investigators, and that this could be the start of a trend.

Submission + - Stunning: Ultra-HD View of the Sun; Timelapse Video of 2015 (

NW7US writes: This is a stunning timelapse view of the entire year, 2015, of the Sun in action, rotating once every 25 days. SDO's Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) captures a shot of the sun every 12 seconds in 10 different wavelengths. The images shown here are based on a wavelength of 171 angstroms, which is in the extreme ultraviolet range and shows solar material at around 600,000 Kelvin (about 1 million degrees F.) In this wavelength it is easy to see the sun's 25-day rotation.

During the course of the video, the sun subtly increases and decreases in apparent size. This is because the distance between the SDO spacecraft and the sun varies over time. The image is, however, remarkably consistent and stable despite the fact that SDO orbits Earth at 6,876 mph and the Earth orbits the sun at 67,062 miles per hour.

Scientists study these images to better understand the complex electromagnetic system causing the constant movement on the sun, which can ultimately have an effect closer to Earth, too: Flares and another type of solar explosion called coronal mass ejections can sometimes disrupt technology in space. Moreover, studying our closest star is one way of learning about other stars in the galaxy. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. built, operates, and manages the SDO spacecraft for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, D.C.

Full story:

Submission + - Romania Jails Ex-Minister Over Microsoft Licenses

rastos1 writes: Romania’s high court of cessation and justice on Thursday jailed the former telecommunications minister, Gabriel Sandu, for two years for money laundering, abuse of office and bribery involving the lease of Microsoft IT licenses for schools. Prosecutors said there was manifest corruption in the contract worth 105 million US dollars, which was to supply Microsoft Office licenses to schools and other public institutions between 2004 and 2009.

The anticorruption prosecutors said the four men got millions of euros in bribes from representatives of a company that was distributing Microsoft licenses. This firm was controlled by Claudiu Florica. He had got a 65 percent discount for the licenses from Microsoft, but the state paid full the full price. The price difference was used to pay various public sector officials.

Submission + - Researcher Measures Brain Reactions to Donald Trump (

An anonymous reader writes: Sam Barnett "has been strapping electrode caps on focus group participants and showing them primary season debates," reports CNN, and there's one clear conclusion. "Seeing Trumps face, hearing Trump's voice, lights up the brain." His data captured big surges in neural activity for hot-button topics like immigration, and revealed that while Marco Rubio actually triggered slightly more brain activity among men, Trump clearly produced the highest reactions among women and overall. "The focus group participants might have been excited by Trump. Or they might have been repulsed," reports CNN. "But one thing was for sure: they weren't bored." Barnett has also used electroencephalography (or EEG) to study advertising, and in the future he hopes to also apply it to other complex forms of brain stimulation like movies and even hedge fund investing.

Submission + - Tribeca Film Festival, Robert De Niro Pull Anti-Vaccination Film

theodp writes: USA Today reports that one day after defending the scheduled screening of a controversial documentary linking vaccinations to autism, Tribeca Film Festival co-founder Robert De Niro announced that the film is being pulled from the event. The film, Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe, was scheduled to debut April 24. It is directed by Andrew Wakefield, known to many as the father of the anti-vaccine movement. Wakefield authored a 1998 report on vaccinations and autism that was later retracted, He also had his medical license revoked. The decision to include the film in the festival resulted in outrage from many who are upset that the film's inclusion could offer legitimacy to a study debunked by leading scientists. "My intent in screening this film was to provide an opportunity for conversation around an issue that is deeply personal to me and my family," said De Niro, who has a child with autism. "But after reviewing it over the past few days with the Tribeca Film Festival team and others from the scientific community, we do not believe it contributes to or furthers the discussion I had hoped for."

Submission + - Yellowstone supervolcano eruptions were even bigger than originally thought (

schwit1 writes: A recent study published in the Geological Society of America Bulletin identifies an area of great volcanic activity along the Snake River Plain between Oregon and Yellowstone.

While scientists have long known that the supervolcano now under Yellowstone left a trail of mega-eruptions across the Pacific Northwest, an international research team has found evidence of only 12 distinct eruptions, contradicting earlier theories that the eruptions were more numerous and less extreme.

"The size and magnitude of this newly defined eruption is as large, if not larger, than better known eruptions at Yellowstone," said the study's lead author, Dr. Thomas Knott, in a University of Leicester press release, "and it is just the first in an emerging record of newly discovered super-eruptions during a period of intense magmatic activity between 8 and 12 million years ago."

Submission + - Small asteroid burns up over Atlantic Ocean

The Bad Astronomer writes: On Feb. 6, an asteroid roughly 6 meters across burned up over the Atlantic Ocean, exploding like a 10 kiloton bomb. Although this was the largest event since the Chelyabinsk superbolide in 2013 (which injured 1000+ people), there were no witnesses. It happened 1000 km off the coast of Brazil, and was reported by the military, though it's unclear how they detected it.

Comment Take it. (Score 1) 735

Seriously, take it. You aren't as important to your current employer as you think you are.

Oh, they will cajole and complain. But you will kick yourself for the years to come because you will wonder what would've happened if you had taken the job.

And, if you say, the management are really your friends, they'll understand eventually. Good management understands the value of keeping even leaving people happy - because after all, the employees might want to come back some day.

Comment Re:NFC (Score 1) 87

Nokia and Samsung have had NFC-compatible models years ago. They're in active use in countries like Austria and Germany. Also, Japan has had its own NFC-based infra in place for years, and most cell phone manufacturers offer payment-capable phones in there. Have done so for the past few years.

Google is hardly the first.

Comment Re:Moral authority (Score 1) 547

Kind of. But it still wouldn't demolish the connection between church and state - a power which is given by the fact that 80% of the population belongs to the same church.

Also, the more hardliners there are, the faster the exodus of the moderates will be.

Also, you can leave the church by submitting a form on the internet. Voting requires that you actually go somewhere and figure out who to vote for. Too much trouble.

Comment 10K broken (Score 3, Informative) 547

As of 14.00 EEST today, 10,000 persons (~0.2% of the population) have left the state church in three days. The pace seems to be somewhat accelerating even.

As far as PR catastrophes go, this is a fairly major one. The average tax paid by a church member is 300€/year, so this means annual losses of at least 3 M€.

Comment Re:A question for fellow Finns (please mod up!) (Score 1) 547

It is possible they were from a sect like the Jehova's witnesses or some such. I get regular visits too. If you tell them firmly you never want to see them again, they write your address down and never bother you again (until you move, they keep track of addresses, not people). If you chat amicably with them, they'll pop by for another visit in a few months or so.

Most of them are quite nice and fun to chat with, but some of them can be downright rude.

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