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Submission + - Why BART is Falling Apart

HughPickens.com 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 + - Slaughter at the bridge: Uncovering a colossal Bronze Age battle (sciencemag.org)

schwit1 writes: About 3200 years ago, two armies clashed at a river crossing near the Baltic Sea. The confrontation can't be found in any history books-the written word didn't become common in these parts for another 2000 years-but this was no skirmish between local clans. Thousands of warriors came together in a brutal struggle, perhaps fought on a single day, using weapons crafted from wood, flint, and bronze, a metal that was then the height of military technology.

"If our hypothesis is correct that all of the finds belong to the same event, we're dealing with a conflict of a scale hitherto completely unknown north of the Alps," says dig co-director Thomas Terberger, an archaeologist at the Lower Saxony State Service for Cultural Heritage in Hannover. "There's nothing to compare it to." It may even be the earliest direct evidence-with weapons and warriors together-of a battle this size anywhere in the ancient world.

Submission + - Police destroy cameras, but forget one? Footage ruled illegal eavesdropping (voiceofoc.org)

Jack9 writes: As kafkaesque nightmares continue to mount, here's a pot-related event from southern california. The video of Santa Ana police officers raiding (no arrests) a dispensary, has gone viral. This resulted in some light harassment and edible consumption, by the undercover and uniformed participants. A judge has ruled that the recording, ostensibly from cameras the officers failed to destroy, has violated the privacy of said officers. The footage has been temporarily quashed as it would do "irreparable harm" to the officers, while being investigated by internal affairs.

Submission + - A close look at Russia's next generation space station modules (russianspaceweb.com)

schwit1 writes: The competiton heats up: Anthony Zak’s a detailed report of the design and development of the next generation space station modules Russia intends to dock at ISS has this interesting tidbit:

In addition to expanding the ISS, Russian developers viewed the NEM module as the basis for future Russian efforts to send humans beyond the Earth orbit. Thanks to its multi-function design, life support and power-supply capability, one or a whole cluster of such vehicles could provide habitation quarters and laboratories for a station at the so-called Lagrange points, which were considered as a staging ground for the exploration of the Moon, asteroids and Mars.

In case of an international agreement on the construction of a manned outpost in the Lagrange point, the NEM-based laboratory could constitute the Russian contribution into the effort. The NEM-based outpost could be serviced and staffed by the crews of US-European Orion spacecraft and by Russia’s next-generation spacecraft, PTK NP. Simularly, the NEM module, possibly in combination with other hardware, could serve as an outpost in the orbit around the Moon. Also in 2014, plans were hatched to make the NEM-based laboratory a part of the post-ISS Russian space station, VShOS, in the high-inclination orbit.

The Russians have always understood that a space station is nothing more than a prototype of an interplanetary spaceship. They are therefore simply carrying through with the same engineering research they did on their earlier Salyut and Mir stations, developing a vessel that can keep humans alive on long trips to other planets.

This approach makes a lot more sense than NASA’s SLS/Orion project, which does not give us what we need to make long interplanetary voyages, and costs a lot more.

Submission + - Don't Try To Sell a "Smart" Gun in the U.S. 3

R3d M3rcury writes: How's this for a good idea? A gun that won't fire unless it's within 10 inches of a watch? That's the iP1 from Armatrix. Of course, don't try to sell it here in the United States:

Belinda Padilla does not pick up unknown calls anymore, not since someone posted her cellphone number on an online forum for gun enthusiasts. Then someone snapped pictures of the address where she has a P.O. box and put those online, too. In a crude, cartoonish scrawl, this person drew an arrow to the blurred image of a woman passing through the photo frame. “Belinda?” the person wrote. “Is that you?”

Her offense? Trying to market and sell a new .22-caliber handgun that uses a radio frequency-enabled stopwatch to identify the authorized user so no one else can fire it. Ms. Padilla and the manufacturer she works for, Armatix, intended to make the weapon the first “smart gun” for sale in the United States.

“I have no qualms with the idea of personally and professionally leveling the life of someone who has attempted to profit from disarming me and my fellow Americans,” one commenter wrote.

Their complaint? The gubmint...

Submission + - Astronomers determine the length of day of an exoplanet

The Bad Astronomer writes: Astronomers have just announced that the exoplanet Beta Pic b — a 10-Jupiter-mass world 60 light years away -— rotates in about 8 hours. Using a high-resolution spectrometer and exploiting the Doppler shift of light seen as the planet spins, they measured its rotation velocity as 28,000 mph. Making reasonable assumptions about the planet's size, that gives the length of its day. This is the first time such a measurement has been achieved for an exoplanet.
Space

Submission + - Russia has sights set on manned moon landing by 2030 (tech-stew.com)

techfun89 writes: Russia plans on sending cosmonauts to the moon as well as unmanned spacecrafts to Mars, Jupiter and Venus by 2030. To date, the United States is still the only country who has successfully landed landers on Mars. Considering the recent launch failures in Russia, these plans seem very ambitious.

-via tech-stew.com

Apple

Submission + - The New iPad Is Expected To Overwhelm 4G Networks (itproportal.com)

hypnosec writes: The third generation iPad with its support for 4G LTE is not even in the hands of the first customers, where tech websites already predict trouble with the high speed networks. Analysts point out that 4G networks are currently lightly used, but this is about to change soon. Apparently, Apple managed to convince massive number of fans to buy the latest tablets and the stocks available for pre-orders have been exhausted. Under the circumstances, after the 16th March, the 4G networks will become overwhelmed. The new iPad with its high-resolution display that allows users to enjoy full 1080p HD video, which will have an effect on data usage.
News

Submission + - Your Soul Is in Your Eyeballs (vice.com)

pigrabbitbear writes: "Paul Bloom and Christina Starmans, of Yale Univeristy, published a clever research article last week in the journal Cognition, arguing that children and adults tend to assume the self is in and around the eyes. They devised a novel experiment where they showed children and adults different South Park-esque animated images of people with an object (in this case, a buzzing fly) placed in front of various regions of their cartoonish bodies. Subjects were then asked to judge how close the objects were to the cartoon. The objects, however, were not obviously closer or farther to the cartoon person in any of the experimental conditions, and Starmans and Bloom deduced that, “if children and adults consider the self to be equally distributed across the body, or if they think the self has no spatial location, then they should judge that an object is equally close to a person regardless of where on her body it is positioned. However, if people have an intuition that the self is located in a particular part of the body, then they should judge that objects nearer to that part of the body are closest to the person.”"
Businesses

Submission + - Former Google Employee James Whittaker Calls Google+ A Failure (ibtimes.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Former Google employee James Whittaker channeled his inner “Greg Smith” and posted a rant about why he quit his job at Google, which he blames on the failure that is Google +. According to Whittaker there are two eras of Google: “Before Google+” and “After.” The “before” era was “run like an innovation factory” while the “after” era was predominately Google “competing with Facebook” in a “corporate mandate” from CEO Larry Page which was unsuccessful. “Google was the rich kid who, after having discovered he wasn’t invited to the party, built his own party in retaliation. The fact that no one came to Google’s party became the elephant in the room,” he said. Whittaker said he couldn’t even get his teenage daughter to approve of Google+, which influenced his decision to quit as the head of the Google+ engineering team.

Submission + - The Very Real Danger of Genetically Modified Foods (theatlantic.com) 1

earlhood writes: The Atlantic reports Chinese researchers have discovered RNA in humans that eat rice, raising the concern that GMO foods can have an effect on humans. The article writes, 'The Chinese RNA study threatens to blast a major hole in Monsanto's claim. It means that DNA can code for microRNA, which can, in fact, be hazardous.' Scientific article cited in the Atlantic is availabe from nature.com: http://www.nature.com/cr/journal/v22/n1/full/cr2011158a.html
China

Submission + - 300 Chinese Foxconn Workers 'Threaten Mass Suicide (huffingtonpost.co.uk) 1

Daevad writes: The Huffington Post UK is reporting: Around 300 Chinese workers who manufacture XBox consoles took to a factory roof and threatened bosses with mass suicide over a dispute about pay, unconfirmed reports have claimed. According to the reports the employees had asked bosses for a raise but in response were told to either quit with compensation or keep their jobs at their usual salary. Most workers apparently decided to leave, but the company did not hand over the money as promised.
Science

Submission + - Consumer Fuel Cells Finally Begin to Show (fellowgeek.com)

An anonymous reader writes: SIGNa Chemistry has revealed quite possibly the first consumer fuel cell worth caring about. The PowerTrekk is a small device shaped somewhate like a fat glasses case that takes Pukks, small disc shaped fuel cells.

While the company didn’t reveal any exact numbers on how long each pukk would last, they did claim that several 5 watt pukks would let you operate electronic devices continuously for several days.

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