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Submission + - Boris Strugatsky claims Avatar was his idea. (

anastasd writes: Russian science fiction author Boris Strugatsky claims James Cameron stole the idea of the movie Avatar from his novel "The Noon Universe" (Russian: "Mir Poludnja") written in the '60s. Strugatsky said that the planet Pandora, its flora and fauna as well as its inhabitants — the cat-alike na'vi are originally created by him and his brother Arkady
Unfortunately Mr. Strugatsky said he will not watch the movie so most probably he will not verify his claims.


Supernova Birth Observed From Orbiting Telescope 94

FiReaNGeL writes "Astronomers have seen the aftermath of spectacular stellar explosions known as supernovae before, but no one had witnessed a star dying in real time — until now. While looking at another object in the spiral galaxy NGC 2770, using NASA's orbiting Swift telescope, scientists detected an extremely luminous blast of X-rays released by a supernova explosion. They alerted 8 other telescopes to turn their eyes on this first-of-its-kind event. 'We were looking at another, older supernova in the galaxy, when the one now known as SN 2008D went off. We would have missed it if it weren't for Swift's real-time capabilities, wide field of view, and numerous instruments.'" Bad Astronomy has an excellent, well-illustrated story about the discovery as well. I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property contributes a link to the BBC's coverage, and adds a nugget gleaned from Ars Technica: "SN 2007uy's collapse caused an X-ray burst of about 10^39 joules, most likely due to the 'shock break out' when the energy of the core's collapse finally reached the neutron star's surface."

Comment Re:Not color, false color. (Score 1) 110

This means that for each pixel in the image, they can determine what kind of atom is being measured. So they can generate false-color maps of atomic identity.
That's interesting. I guess this microscope will have lots of applications. At first thought - in semiconductors production, carbon allotropes and God knows where else.
United States

The Century's Top Engineering Challenges 290

coondoggie writes "The National Science Foundation announced today 14 grand engineering challenges for the 21st century that, if met, would greatly improve how we live. The final choices fall into four themes that are essential for humanity to flourish — sustainability, health, reducing vulnerability, and joy of living. The committee did not attempt to include every important challenge, nor did it endorse particular approaches to meeting those selected. Rather than focusing on predictions or gee-whiz gadgets, the goal was to identify what needs to be done to help people and the planet thrive, the group said. A diverse committee of engineers and scientists — including Larry Page, Robert Langer, and Robert Socolow — came up with the list but did not rank the challenges. Rather, the National Academy of Engineering is offering the public an opportunity to vote on which one they think is most important."

Microsoft Releases Office Binary Formats 259

Microsoft has released documentation on their Office binary formats. Before jumping up and down gleefully, those working on related open source efforts, such as OpenOffice, might want to take a very close look at Microsoft's Open Specification Promise to see if it seems to cover those working on GPL software; some believe it doesn't. stm2 points us to some good advice from Joel Spolsky to programmers tempted to dig into the spec and create an Excel competitor over a weekend that reads and writes these formats: find an easier way. Joel provides some workarounds that render it possible to make use of these binary files. "[A] normal programmer would conclude that Office's binary file formats: are deliberately obfuscated; are the product of a demented Borg mind; were created by insanely bad programmers; and are impossible to read or create correctly. You'd be wrong on all four counts."

Analog Cell Phone Network Shuts Down Monday 205

I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "AT&T and Verizon will be shutting down their old, analog AMPS networks next Monday, and AT&T will also turn off its old TDMA network, with smaller providers expected to follow thanks to a sunset date set by the FCC. After these old networks are shut down, the networks will be all digital. Of course, if you have one of those old fashioned 'just a phone' cellphones and it happens to be analog, you'd best enjoy the last few days before it becomes useless."

Energy From Raindrops 144

conlaw writes to share that according to scientists have found a way to extract energy from rain. A new technique could utilize piezoelectric principles of a special kind of plastic to generate power from falling water in rainstorms or even commercial air conditioners. "The method relies on a plastic called PVDF (for polyvinylidene difluoride), which is used in a range of products from pipes, films, and wire insulators to high-end paints for metal. PVDF has the unusual property of piezoelectricity, which means it can produce a charge when it's mechanically deformed."

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