Hugh Pickens writes: "BBC reports that Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, a former investigator with the CIA and the DOE who led US efforts to determine whether al-Qaeda possessed a nuclear bomb in the wake of 9/11, says there are three headlines that keep him awake at night: Pakistani 'loose nukes' in the hands of terrorists, North Korea supplies terrorists with nuclear bombs, and Al-Qaeda launches nuclear attack. While the good news is that Mowatt-Larssen thinks "the odds are stacked against" terrorists acquiring a nuclear bomb, the low probability has to be weighed against the awfulness of the consequences. In Mowatt-Larssen's view, there is "a greater possibility of a nuclear meltdown in Pakistan than anywhere else in the world" because the region has more violent extremists than any other, the country is unstable, and its arsenal of nuclear weapons is expanding. While Mowatt-Larssen says the possibility of a Taliban takeover is a "worst-case scenario," Al-Qaeda's experience on the nuclear black market has taught its planners that its best chance lies in constructing an "improvised nuclear device (IND)," using a quantity of plutonium or 25kg- to 50kg of highly enriched uranium (HEU), the size of one or two grapefruits. HEU is held in hundreds of buildings in dozens of countries. "Security measures for many of these stocks are excellent, but security for others is appalling," according to a report published in 2008 by the Nuclear Threat Initiative and there is no global inventory of either material, so no-one can be sure how much has gone missing over the years. "It is a stark and worrying fact, therefore, that nuclear materials and weapons around the world are not as secure as they should be," writes Ian Kearns, Research Director of the British-American Security Information Council, adding that the future of nuclear security hangs on this week's summit in Washington."
FiReaNGeL writes: "Could humans one day walk on walls, like Spider-Man? A palm-sized device invented at Cornell that uses water surface tension as an adhesive bond just might make it possible. The device consists of a flat plate patterned with holes, each on the order of microns (one-millionth of a meter). A bottom plate holds a liquid reservoir, and in the middle is another porous layer. An electric field applied by a common 9-volt battery pumps water through the device and causes droplets to squeeze through the top layer. The surface tension of the exposed droplets makes the device grip another surface – much the way two wet glass slides stick together. To turn the adhesion off, the electric field is simply reversed, and the water is pulled back through the pores, breaking the tiny "bridges" created between the device and the other surface by the individual droplets." Link to Original Source
itwbennett writes: Do geeks really 'drive girls out of computer science,' as the headline of a LiveScience article contends? Blogger Cameron Laird doesn't think so. In fact, 'I don't think 'gender issues in computing' is important enough to merit the attention it gets,' says Laird in a recent post. And maybe the problem isn't that there are too few women in computing, but that there are too many men. 'I'm waiting to read the headline: 'Women too smart for careers with computers,' says Laird, 'where another researcher concludes that only 'boys' are stupid enough to go into a field that's globally-fungible, where entry-level salaries are declining, and it's common to think that staying up all night for a company-paid pizza is a good deal.' Link to Original Source
The Narrative Fallacy writes: "Wired reports that with just a few weeks of training, you can learn to "see" objects in the dark using echolocation the same way dolphins and bats do. Acoustic expert Juan Antonio Martinez at the University of Alcalá de Henares in Spain has developed a system to teach people how to use echolocation, a skill that could be particularly useful for the blind and for people who work under dark or smoky conditions, like firefighters — or cat burglars. "Two hours per day for a couple of weeks are enough to distinguish whether you have an object in front of you," says Martinez. "Within another couple weeks you can tell the difference between trees and pavement." To master the art of echolocation, you can begin by making the typical "sh" sound used to make someone be quiet. Moving a pen in front of the mouth can be noticed right away similar to the phenomenon when traveling in a car with the windows down, which makes it possible to "hear" gaps in the verge of the road. The next level is to learn how to master "palate clicks," special clicks with your tongue and palate that are better than other sounds because they can be made in a uniform way, work at a lower intensity, and don't get drowned out by ambient noise. With the palate click you can learn to recognize slight changes in the way the clicks sound depending on what objects are nearby. "For all of us in general, this would be a new way of perceiving the world," says Martinez."
schrodingers_rabbit writes: "Despite physicist's increasing focus on the small, a recently created network of microwave telescopes could soon quite literally shed light on relativity's elephant in the room- the black hole. According to New Scientist magazine, a network of microwave telescopes with enough power to view the black hole in the center of our galaxy, Sagittarius A*, could be completed in mere months. Although the network is not yet complete, a team led by Shep Doeleman at MIT's Haystack Observatory has recorded hazy, incomplete images very close to the quality required to prove the existence of the black hole. The existence of the black hole would further validate general relativity, which predicts a supermassive black hole or similarly enormous object at the center of the galaxy."
Nicros writes: Hello slashdotters! I work for a publicly traded biotech company that happens to write software. The software we write is, in fact kind of critical for the business, in that without it no data would ever be read from our instruments, and no analyses would be performed on that data.
The problem is that as a 'biotech' company, I have the impression that we, as a company, are not taking software quality seriously.
We have no senior management with any history of commercial software development- because as a biotech company, we only hire biotech related people. The result is our C level has really no clue whatsoever as to what is going on in software, much less what software really is.
All of our quality processes are related to manufacturing our system (not software), so we are constantly forced into ad-hoc development since there is no real process for our development.
Repeated requests to hire someone with some real commercial software development experience have gone unanswered- I believe due to the problem above, in that nobody understands that software development has its own processes, and quality control measurements.
So the question- is this just a fact of life and I need to deal the best I can? I have been to the CEO directly one-on-one and although he agreed this was an issue, he thanked me, said he would look into it and that was the end of that. He has bigger things to worry about.
What else can I do? Any pearls of wisdom from the gallery on how to handle this?