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Submission + - Japanese Company Develops a Solar Cell With Record-Breaking 26%+ Efficiency (arstechnica.com)

An anonymous reader writes: The silicon-based cells that make up a solar panel have a theoretical efficiency limit of 29 percent, but so far that number has proven elusive. Practical efficiency rates in the low-20-percent range have been considered very good for commercial solar panels. But researchers with Japanese chemical manufacturer Kaneka Corporation have built a solar cell with a photo conversion rate of 26.3 percent, breaking the previous record of 25.6 percent. Although it’s just a 2.7 percent increase in efficiency, improvements in commercially viable solar cell technology are increasingly hard-won. Not only that, but the researchers noted in their paper that after they submitted their article to Nature Energy, they were able to further optimize their solar cell to achieve 26.6 percent efficiency. That result has been recognized by the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL). In the Nature Energy paper, the researchers described building a 180.4 cm2 cell using high-quality thin-film heterojunction (HJ)—that is, layering silicon within the cell to minimize band gaps where electron states can’t exist. Controlling heterojunctions is a known technique among solar cell builders—Panasonic uses it and will likely incorporate it into cells built for Tesla at the Solar City plant in Buffalo, and Kaneka has its own proprietary heterojunction techniques. For this record-breaking solar cell, the Kaneka researchers also placed low-resistance electrodes toward the rear of the cell, which maximized the number of photons that collected inside the cell from the front. And, as is common on many solar cells, they coated the front of the cell with a layer of amorphous silicon and an anti-reflective layer to protect the cell’s components and collect photons more efficiently.

Submission + - Why American Farmers Are Hacking Their Tractors With Ukrainian Firmware (vice.com)

AmiMoJo writes: To avoid the draconian locks that John Deere puts on the tractors they buy, farmers throughout America's heartland have started hacking their equipment with firmware that's cracked in Eastern Europe and traded on invite-only, paid online forums. Tractor hacking is growing increasingly popular because John Deere and other manufacturers have made it impossible to perform "unauthorized" repair on farm equipment, which farmers see as an attack on their sovereignty and quite possibly an existential threat to their livelihood if their tractor breaks at an inopportune time. "When crunch time comes and we break down, chances are we don't have time to wait for a dealership employee to show up and fix it," Danny Kluthe, a hog farmer in Nebraska, told his state legislature earlier this month. "Most all the new equipment [requires] a download [to fix]."

Submission + - Fathers 'afraid to ask for flexible working' (bbc.co.uk)

AmiMoJo writes: Dads who want to be more involved in the care of their children fear that asking for more flexible hours might damage their careers. Such requests can even lead to employers questioning their workers' commitment. Research suggests 44% of dads have lied about family-related responsibilities. The UK government forecasts that between only 2% and 8% of eligible fathers will take up Shared Parental Leave.

Submission + - EFF needs your help to stop Congress dismantling Internet privacy protections! (eff.org)

Peter Eckersley writes: Last year the FCC passed rules forbidding ISPs (both mobile and landline) from using your personal data without your consent for purposes other than providing you Internet access. In other words, the rules prevent ISPs from turning your browsing history into a revenue stream to sell to marketers and advertisers. Unfortunately, members of Congress are scheming to dismantle those protections as early as this week. If they succeed, ISPs would be free to resume selling users' browsing histories, pre-loading phones with spyware, and generally doing all sorts of creepy things to your traffic.

The good news is, we can stop them. We especially need folks in the key states of Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, and Pennsylvania to call their senators this week and tell them not to kill the FCC's Broadband Privacy Rules.

Together, we can stop Congress from undermining these crucial privacy protections.

Submission + - Attackers Can Hijack Security Software via Microsoft Tool (securityweek.com)

wiredmikey writes: Researchers have identified a new technique that can be used by attackers to take full control of popular security software products.

The attack involves the Microsoft Application Verifier, a runtime verification tool for unmanaged code that helps developers find subtle programming errors in their applications.

The attack, dubbed by the security firm Cybellum as “DoubleAgent,” allegedly affects the products of several vendors, including Avast, AVG, Avira, Bitdefender, Trend Micro, Comodo, ESET, F-Secure, Kaspersky, Malwarebytes, McAfee, Panda, Quick Heal and Symantec (Norton). Only a few of the vendors have released patches.

The tool works by loading a so-called “verifier provider DLL” into the targeted application’s process for runtime testing, which allows a piece of malware executed by a privileged user to register a malicious DLL for a process associated with an antivirus or other endpoint security product, and hijack its agent.

Submission + - US Secretary of Defense: Climate Change National Security Issue (propublica.org)

omaha393 writes: Secretary of Defense James Mattis identified climate change as a national security risks to the Senate Armed Services Committee, according to unpublished comments sent to the Senate Armed Services Committee. Secretary Mattis joins several scientific and policy experts as well as the Pentagon Study urging action to address climate change. While Secretary Mattis’ position seems at odds with other members of the White House cabinet, this is hardly the first time Mattis has offered contrary opinions on major policy decisions. Other members of the cabinet, including Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, have changed their tones on the subject, now supporting the evidence that man-made climate change is real and may pose a threat to national security. How climate change will be addressed under the new administration remains to be seen, as advisors the White House have indicated the administration intends to pull out of the Paris Climate Accords and the recently revealed "budget blueprint" seeks to slash funding to climate change alleviation.

Submission + - Trump's proposed budget would result in big spending cuts for renewables (computerworld.com)

Lucas123 writes: The Trump administration's newly released 2018 budget proposal outlining changes to discretionary would likely cut spending on renewable energy. For example, not only does the proposed budget cut the EPA and Energy Department budget by 31% and 6%, respectively, it would also not fund the Clean Power Plan and other climate change programs. With the CPP gone, the U.S. would likely see fewer retirements of coal-fired power plants due to carbon emissions and less impetus for the procurement of utility-grade solar power. The good news for renewables: the budget would not have any impact on the solar investment tax credit, carbon tax proposals or state-based solar subsidies, according to Amit Ronen, director of the Solar Institute at George Washington University. Additionally, renewable energy resources, such as solar panels, have gained too much momentum and aren't likely to be deterred by regulatory changes at this point, according to Raj Prabhu, CEO of Mercom Capital Group, a clean energy research firm. For example, even with the dissolution of the CPP, the number of coal-fired generators is still expected to be reduced by about one-third through 2030, or by about 60 gigawatts of capacity, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Meanwhile, wind and solar are by far the fastest growing energy sectors, which indicates an appetite by utilities and consumers that is highly unlikely to be slowed by regulatory changes at the federal level, experts said.

Submission + - SPAM: NY bill would require removal of inaccurate, irrelevant or excessive statements 1

schwit1 writes: In a bill aimed at securing a "right to be forgotten," introduced by Assemblyman David I. Weprin and (as Senate Bill 4561 by state Sen. Tony Avella), New York politicians would require people to remove 'inaccurate,' 'irrelevant,' 'inadequate' or 'excessive' statements about others...
  • Within 30 days of a "request from an individual,"
  • "all search engines and online speakers] shall remove ... content about such individual, and links or indexes to any of the same, that is 'inaccurate', 'irrelevant', 'inadequate' or 'excessive,'' "
  • "and without replacing such removed ... content with any disclaimer [or] takedown notice."
  • " '[I]naccurate', 'irrelevant', 'inadequate', or 'excessive' shall mean content,"
  • "which after a significant lapse in time from its first publication,"
  • "is no longer material to current public debate or discourse,"
  • "especially when considered in light of the financial, reputational and/or demonstrable other harm that the information ... is causing to the requester's professional, financial, reputational or other interest,"
  • "with the exception of content related to convicted felonies, legal matters relating to violence, or a matter that is of significant current public interest, and as to which the requester's role with regard to the matter is central and substantial."

Failure to comply would make the search engines or speakers liable for, at least, statutory damages of $250/day plus attorney fees.
Link to Original Source

Submission + - Tim Berners-Lee: I invented the web. Here are three things we need to change to (theguardian.com)

mspohr writes: "1) Weâ(TM)ve lost control of our personal data

The current business model for many websites offers free content in exchange for personal data. Many of us agree to this â" albeit often by accepting long and confusing terms and conditions documents â" but fundamentally we do not mind some information being collected in exchange for free services.

2) Itâ(TM)s too easy for misinformation to spread on the web
Today, most people find news and information on the web through just a handful of social media sites and search engines.

3) Political advertising online needs transparency and understanding
Targeted advertising allows a campaign to say completely different, possibly conflicting things to different groups. Is that democratic?"

Submission + - Europol Is Investigating Over 5000 Organized Crime Groups In Europe (europa.eu)

dryriver writes: Europol's 2017 Crime Threat Assessment Report finds that organized crime, including cybercrime and criminals cleverly using technology to break the law, is on the increase in the EU. Highlights from the report: "More than 5000 international Organized Crime Groups (OCGs) with more than 180 nationalities are currently under investigation in the EU. The number of organized crime groups that are involved in more than one criminal activity (poly-criminal) has increased sharply over the last years (45% compared to 33% in 2013). For almost all types of organized crime, criminals are deploying and adapting technology with ever greater skill and to ever greater effect. This is now, perhaps, the greatest challenge facing law enforcement authorities around the world, including in the EU. Cryptoware (ransomware using encryption) has become the leading malware in terms of threat and impact. Document fraud has emerged as a key criminal activity linked to the migration crisis. Document fraud, money laundering and the online trade in illicit goods and services are the engines of organized crime." The single most profitable criminal activity in the EU appears to be the production and peddling of illegal synthetic drugs, with crime gangs making a profit of an estimated 24 Billion Euros (USD 25.4 Billion) each year from this activity alone.

Submission + - The Rocket Science Of Designing Future Jet Engines (bbc.com)

dryriver writes: The BBC has a very insightful article detailing the current and future challenges of designing efficient jet engines. An excerpt: "Jet engine design will face changes in the future. One new potential science, which several companies and research institutions are currently studying, is called the Rotating Detonation Engine. Essentially, this works by creating a series of small detonations and using the supersonic wave that a detonation generates to keep combustion going continuously. Theoretically, if the system works, it would require significantly less fuel to get the engine moving and keep it moving. And even with less fuel the engine would also theoretically produce significantly more energy. “The trick of the engine is containing [the detonation], making it stable, and having it operate at conditions you want,” says Dean. “Will it operate well, will it be durable, can it have low emissions, and what fuel can I burn with such an engine? We’re in the middle of the science phase.”"

Submission + - Fast Radio Bursts - the astronomical signal - may be from extraterestrial source (arxiv.org)

RockDoctor writes: In an exercise of "try all sorts of ideas", some Harvard (USA) astronomers examine coincidences between "fast radio bursts" (the several uhh "enigmatic" uhh, fast bursts of radio emission detected over the last few years) and discover that the plausible sizes of the sources of the signals and some of their other characteristics are not inconsistent with them being sourced from "a large rocky planet."

They continue to examine the far-fetched idea with the tools of science. The extemely high brightness temperature (change of intensity with radiation frequency) of ~10^37 K has suggested a coherent radiation source, and tihs idea is developed into considering them as the overflows of light sails powered by a radiation source at the source planet, as has been proposed for investigating the planet around Proxima Centauri.

In an acknowledgement of the Popplerian definition of a scientific hypothesis, they are explicit in discussing "implications and predictions in Section 3", so their ideas can be probed by reality. So even if their idea proves wrong, it will remain a valid contribution to the literature. As the authors finish, "Although the possibility that FRBs are produced by extragalactic civilizations is more speculative than an astrophysical origin, quantifying the requirements necessary for an artificial origin serves, at the very least, the important purpose of enabling astronomers to rule it out with future data"

Submission + - LIGO doesn't just detect gravitational waves. It makes them, too (sciencemag.org)

sciencehabit writes: The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) is not only the most sensitive detector of ripples in spacetime. It also happens to be the world's best producer of gravitational waves, a team of physicists now calculates. Although these waves are far too feeble to detect directly, the researchers say, the radiation in principle could be used to try to detect weird quantum mechanical effects among large objects.

Submission + - One Woman's Brilliant "Fuck You" to Wikipedia Trolls (backchannel.com)

mirandakatz writes: Now 22, Emily Temple-Wood has been editing Wikipedia for a decade, making her one of few young, female editors on the site. Along with that status has come a slew of harassment, including death and rape threats. To fight back, she's come up with a brilliant solution, which she's dubbed the "Fuck You" project: for every harassing email, death threat, or request for nude photos that she receives, she creates a Wikipedia biography on a notable woman scientist who was previously unknown to the free online encyclopedia. She may not be able to silence the trolls, but she can taunt them with what misogynists hate the most—successful women.

Submission + - Scott Adams and "The Non-Expert Problem" (blogspot.ca) 18

Layzej writes: It is easy for a non-expert to be swayed by a credible sounding narrative that claims to overthrow a scientific consensus. For a scientist it is generally clear which arguments are valid, but the general public can’t independently evaluate scientific evidence. Scientist Victor Venema provides answers to a number of concerns about climate science raised by cartoonist Scott Adams. His answers are accessible and illuminating, and hopefully helpful to the non-expert who would like to understand the truth behind certain contrarian talking points.

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