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Education

New York's Video-Game-Based Public School 214

An anonymous reader writes "In Manhattan this fall, a batch of lucky sixth-graders will start at Quest To Learn, the first public school in the US with a curriculum built around playing games. They'll play Spore and Civilization, board games such as Settlers of Catan, and learn 3D modeling in Maya and Google Earth as well. Each semester concludes with a two-week 'Boss Level.'"
Transportation

USNS Hoyt S. Vandenberg To Be Sunk For a Reef 169

caffiend666 writes "On Wednesday the USNS Hoyt S. Vandenberg is to be sunk in 140 feet of water off of Key West to become the world's second largest artificial reef. (The largest was created by sinking the aircraft carrier USS Oriskany off of Pensacola, Florida, in 2006.) The Vandenberg was built in 1943 (chronology) and commissioned the USS Gen. Harry Taylor. In 1963 the Air Force took it over and recommissioned it, naming it after the Air Force general. For decades the ship served as a missile tracker and space relay. It was used in NASA's Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo projects and the Shuttle program. The Vandenberg was the set for some of the scenes in the '90s movie Virus as the Russian MIR relay station. Soon it will become one of the world's most awesome diving spots."
Image

New Laser System Targets Mosquitoes Screenshot-sm 354

An anonymous reader writes "In the Cold War the so-called 'Star Wars defense system' proposed using lasers to destroy incoming Soviet missiles. In a 2007 brainstorming session aimed at combating malaria, Dr. Lowell Wood, the architect of that system, proposed modifying his original idea to kill mosquitoes. The cover of today's Wall Street Journal contains an article that highlights this initiative as well as a few others, like using a giant flashlight to disrupt mosquitoes' vision and using the insects to vaccinate, in the war against malaria. The system is intelligent enough to avoid noncombatants like humans and butterflies and can even tell the difference between females, the blood-drinkers, and males. My favorite quote: 'We'd be delighted if we destabilize the human-mosquito balance of power.'"
GNU is Not Unix

NY Bill Proposes Tax Credit for Open Source Developers 111

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "Assemblymen Jonathan Bing and Micah Kellner, along with a number of co-sponsors, have introduced proposed legislation in New York State which would grant a tax credit to individuals acting as volunteers who develop open source programs. The idea of the credit is to ensure that volunteer developers, who could not otherwise deduct their expenses because they are not part of a 'business,' should nevertheless be able to receive a tax benefit for their contribution. The credit would be for 20% of the expenses incurred, up to $200. The preamble to the bill notes that the New York State Assembly itself currently uses 'Open Source programs such as Mozilla for email, Firefox for web browsing, and WebCal for electronic calendars,' and that these programs have led to significant cost savings to taxpayers. The preamble also cited a 2006 report authored by John Irons and Carl Malamud from the Center for American Progress detailing how Open Source software enhances a broader dissemination of knowledge and ideas."
Biotech

Amateurs Are Trying Genetic Engineering At Home 245

the_kanzure points out this AP story on amateur genetic engineering, excerpting: "The Apple computer was invented in a garage. Same with the Google search engine. Now, tinkerers are working at home with the basic building blocks of life itself. Using homemade lab equipment and the wealth of scientific knowledge available online, these hobbyists are trying to create new life forms through genetic engineering a field long dominated by Ph.D.s toiling in university and corporate laboratories." Reader resistant has a few ideas about how to use this sort of lab: "Personally, I'd like to whip up a reasonably long-lasting and durable paint made with dye based on squid genes that glows brightly enough to allow 'guide lines' to be daubed along hallway baseboards, powered by a very low trickle of electricity. Plus, a harmless glowing yogurt would make for a cool prank."
Earth

Drilling Hits an Active Magma Chamber In Hawaii 251

Smivs writes "The BBC are reporting that drillers looking for geothermal energy in Hawaii have inadvertently put a well right into a magma chamber. Molten rock pushed back up the borehole several meters before solidifying, making it perfectly safe to study. Magma specialist Bruce Marsh says it will allow scientists to observe directly how granites are made. 'This is unprecedented; this is the first time a magma has been found in its natural habitat,' the Johns Hopkins University professor told BBC News. 'Before, all we had to deal with were lava flows; but they are the end of a magma's life. They're lying there on the surface, they've de-gassed. It's not the natural habitat.' It is hoped the site can now become a laboratory, with a series of cores drilled around the chamber to better characterise the crystallisation changes occurring in the rock as it loses temperature."
Games

Torture in Games 249

Recent comments from Richard Bartle, one of the developers for the first Multi-User Dungeon (MUD), stirred up discussion about whether virtual torture is acceptable as part of modern games. Bartle was referring to a quest in the latest World of Warcraft expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, in which players are instructed to extract information from an NPC. He drew criticism for his view from a variety of sources, but Wired is now running a piece provocatively titled, "Why We Need More Torture in Games." The author makes the case that the failure of most media to properly portray how horrible torture actually is (for example, on the TV show 24), and the increased focus on real-world topics like Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib and waterboarding, could make games the perfect venue for demonstrating the "devastating repercussions" of torture.
Earth

Chemical Pollution Is Destroying Masculinity 773

myrdos2 writes "A host of common chemicals is feminizing males of every class of vertebrate animals, from fish to mammals, including people. Many have been identified as 'endocrine disruptors' or gender-benders because they interfere with hormones. Communities heavily polluted with gender-benders in Canada, Russia, and Italy have given birth to twice as many girls as boys, which may offer a clue to the mysterious shift in sex ratios worldwide. And a study at Rotterdam's Erasmus University showed that boys whose mothers had been exposed to PCBs grew up wanting to play with dolls and tea sets rather than with traditionally male toys. It also follows hard on the heels of new American research which shows that baby boys born to women exposed to widespread chemicals in pregnancy are born with smaller penises and feminized genitals. It is calculated that 250,000 babies who would have been boys have been born as girls instead in the US and Japan alone. And sperm counts are dropping precipitously. Studies in more than 20 countries have shown that they have dropped from 150 million per milliliter of sperm fluid to 60 million over 50 years."
Technology

Accident Could Lead To Better Digital Cameras 120

Dave Bullock (eecue) writes "Scientists at UCLA have accidentally created a material that will some day give us better, faster, cheaper, more flexible digital cameras. I toured their lab and shot a photo essay for Wired. Personally I'm looking forward to a quantum-dot embedded camera sensor someday soon. 'Graduate student Hsiang-Yu Chen was working on a new formula for solar cells when something went wrong. Instead of creating electricity when hit with light, the conductivity of the material she was working with changed. "The original purpose [was] to make a solar cell more efficient," says Chen. "However, during the research we found the solar cell phenomenon [had] disappeared." Instead, the test material showed high gain photoconductivity, indicating potential use as a photo sensor.'"

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