Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


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Submission + - China's Tianhe-2 Tops Supercomputer Chart Again (

arisvega writes: China has the world's most powerful supercomputer for the third time in a row as the country once again ups its presence in the global top 500.

Tianhe-2 was top of the twice-yearly list that keeps tabs on supercomputer development and growth.

Since the last list, China had 20% more supercomputers in the top 500, while US representation went down 15%.

However, the US still dominates the chart with 233 computers making the latest tally.

China had 76, up from 63 in the last count. This is almost as many as the UK (30), France (27) and Germany (23) combined.

The full list is to be published Monday (today) at a conference in Leipzig, Germany.

Submission + - Scientists Report Observation of Dirac Monopoles (

arisvega writes: From their abstract: " [..] Here we demonstrate the controlled creation of Dirac monopoles in the synthetic magnetic field produced by a spinor Bose–Einstein condensate. Monopoles are identified, in both experiments and matching numerical simulations, at the termini of vortex lines within the condensate. [..] These real-space images provide conclusive and long-awaited experimental evidence of the existence of Dirac monopoles. Our result provides an unprecedented opportunity to observe and manipulate these quantum mechanical entities in a controlled environment."

I am trully sorry for the fact that the article is paywalled by a publisher that adds almost no value to it. Research from public funding has to be public, period. But this discovery/technique is Nobel-prize nomination material, so I think it worths a look.

Submission + - Occulus Rift Used in Virtual Reality Prototype with Live Motion Capture ( 1

arisvega writes: A researcher at University College London has developed a prototype augmented reality system which enables users to interact with virtual objects, avatars and websites, all bundled with live motion tracking.

Before you get too excited, note that the system is rather difficult to be made portable, as it uses fixed cameras to perform motion capture.

The system, developed by William Steptoe (and presumably his team?), researcher at University College London, uses a head-mounted display and panels fitted to the hands to insert virtual objects into the room in which you sit or stand, enabling interaction with virtual objects, avatars and websites.

In this demonstration he uses the technology to interact with objects around him and brings up tablet-like displays to get online. He even uses his Occulus Rift to put on a virtual Occulus Rift on.

Submission + - China 'Flies First Stealth Drone', Japan Steps Up Defence ( 3

arisvega writes: The BBC reports that 'China successfully flew a stealth drone for the first time on Thursday, state media said, citing eyewitness reports. A drone, called "Sharp Sword" by the media, made a test flight for around 20 minutes in Chengdu, reports said. China has been developing stealth aircraft in recent years, including J-20 and J-31 stealth fighters. Following that incident, Japan said it would shoot down unmanned aircraft in Japanese airspace.'

'In September', the BBC continues, 'an unmanned drone flew close to a group of disputed islands in the East China Sea, raising tensions with Japan. China's defence ministry said that any attempt by Japan to shoot down Chinese aircraft would constitute "an act of war".'

Point is, will UAV skirmishes eventually become an intermediate --and alternative-- level of conflict, perhaps a step above cold tensions and diplomatic sanctions (since UAVs can be very well armed indeed) but surely still below a full-blown war? And would The People's Republic of China actually go to war over a dead drone?

Submission + - Row over US mobile phone 'cockroach backpack' app (

arisvega writes: A US company that has developed an "electronic backpack" that fits onto a cockroach allowing its movements to be controlled by a mobile phone app has defended itself against cruelty claims.

For the "electronic backpack" to work the cockroaches have to be placed in icy water to subdue them before sandpaper is used to remove the waxy coating on the shell of the insect's head.

An electrode connector and electrodes are then glued on to the insect's body and a needle is used to poke a hole in their thorax in order to insert a wire. Their antennae are then cut and electrodes are inserted. A circuit is attached to their backs, and signals are received through a mobile phone app allowing users to control the cockroaches' movements to the left and to the right.

The Roboroach weighs 4.5g and is compatible with most mobile phones. It overrides the insect's antennae making it turn left and right at the flick of a switch.

Submission + - Japan military 'needs marines and drones' (

arisvega writes: The State of Japan is apparently seeking 'Deter and Respond' military capabilities, perhaps as an artifact from being "embroiled in a bitter row over islands with China" and being "deeply concerned by North Korea's nuclear ambitions", as reported by the BBC.

Since the end of WW II, under Article 9 of its post-war constitution, Japan is blocked from the use of force to resolve conflicts except in the case of self-defence. Now, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is looking to expand the scope of Japanese military activities — potentially a highly controversial move that would anger its neighbours.

The post-war constitution was of course put in place by the then victorious west, who would now have an interest to fully back up this move: though Japanese officials claim that any new upgrades will not be used for preemptive strikes, the result will be arms and battalions installed close to The People's Republic of China, The Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and The Russian Federation.

Read more on the source URL. It will be interesting to track how this plays out.


Submission + - Facebook sued over 'like' button (

arisvega writes: Facebook is facing legal action over its use of the "like" button and other features of the social network.

It is being sued by a patent-holding company acting on behalf of a dead Dutch programmer called Joannes Jozef Everardus van Der Meer.

Rembrandt Social Media said Facebook's success was based, in part, on using two of Mr Van Der Meer's patents without permission.

"We believe Rembrandt's patents represent an important foundation of social media as we know it, and we expect a judge and jury to reach the same conclusion based on the evidence," said lawyer Tom Melsheimer from legal firm Fish and Richardson, which represents the patent holder.

Facebook said it had no comment to make on the lawsuit or its claims.

The Military

Submission + - Bin Laden Unit Seal Team Six Punished Over Video Game Consulting (

arisvega writes: Seven US Navy Seals have been disciplined for revealing secrets during work as paid consultants on a video game, officials say.

They received reprimand letters and had half of their pay docked for two months for work on Medal of Honor: Warfighter.

The active-duty troops reportedly include one member of the team that killed Osama Bin Laden in 2011.

They were charged with violation of orders, misuse of command gear, dereliction of duty and disclosure of classified material.

The seven troops worked for two days during the spring and summer on the recently released video game, according to CBS News.

The game's maker has boasted that real commandos, both on active duty and retired, were involved with the process of designing the game to make it as realistic as possible.


Submission + - Apple Paid Only 2% Corporation Tax Outside US (

arisvega writes: Apple paid less that 2% corporation tax on its profits outside the US, its filing with US regulators has shown.

Apple paid $713m in the year to 29 September on foreign pre-tax profits of $36.8bn, a rate of 1.9%.

It is the latest company to be identified as paying low rates of overseas tax, following Starbucks, Facebook and Google in recent weeks.

It has not been suggested that any of their tax avoidance schemes are illegal.

All of the companies do pay considerable amounts of other taxes in the UK such as National Insurance and raise large sums of VAT.


Submission + - New Zealand Prime Minister Apologizes to Megaupload Boss Kim Dotcom (

arisvega writes: He said sorry because a New Zealand law enforcement agency was judged to have illegally spied on Mr Dotcom.

The investigation was illegal because the agency is only authorised to spy on foreigners. Mr Dotcom became a New Zealand citizen in 2010.

In a statement, Mr Key said: "I apologise to Mr Dotcom... We failed to provide that appropriate protection for him." The illegal surveillance was the result of "basic errors" said Mr Key.

The spying was carried out just before police raids that shut down file-storing service Megaupload.


Submission + - Bitcoin theft causes Bitfloor exchange to go offline (

arisvega writes: One of the biggest Bitcoin currency exchanges has been taken offline after 24,000 units (~$250,000) of the virtual currency were stolen from its computer servers.

Bitfloor's founder, Roman Shtylman, said he had kept unencrypted "keys", which the thief accessed and used to take the money, putting Bitfloor's future in doubt.

Mr Shtylman said his New York-based service was the biggest of its kind in the US and the fourth largest in the world.
"As a last resort, I will be forced to fully shut Bitfloor down and initiate account repayment using current available funds”, said Roman Shtylman, Bitfloor chief executive.

Another blow to Bitcoin, since UK-based Bitcoinica was hacked twice this year and subsequently sued by several of its users after they had alleged it was not able to honour their withdrawal requests. The firm has since ceased operations for what it terms "a transition period"; and last year another exchange, Japan's MtGox, suspended operations for several days after one of its accounts was compromised causing the currency to plummet in value. The service acted to compensate users who had been caught up in the sell-off.

What do you think, Slashdot crowd? Will we ever see Bitcoin taking off?


Submission + - Vote on What the Very Large Telescope Observes (

arisvega writes: The Slashdot crowd may be aware of VLT, the Very Large Telescope array (a collaboration between several European countries) located at the Atacama desert in Chile, operating at the visible and infrared wavelengths and producing some very detailed images and exciting new science, significally boosting astronomy and astrophysics research for the past couple of years without the hassle and the expenses of orbital observatories. Now, and for the first time in its history, there is a public invitation calling YOU to vote on which of the 16 proposed locations you would like the array to be pointed at, without the need for a scientific proposal. Astronomers are standing by to do your bidding!

Submission + - EU Parliament Adopts Resolution on eCall (

arisvega writes: In its resolution adopted today, the European Parliament has called on the European Commission and the Member States to make sure that the eCall system is be installed in every new vehicle by 2015.

Vehicles equipped with the eCall system will automatically contact the emergency services in the event of a crash.

Even if no passenger is able to speak, a minimum set of data will be sent through the system, including the exact location of the crash site.

It is expected that the eCall system will reduce the emergency services’ response time and thus save hundreds of lives in the EU every year. eCall will be dormant most of the time (no mentioning on what 'most of the time' is, though) and will not allow vehicle tracking outside emergencies (no elucidation on the nature of 'emergencies' either).

Submission + - Laser Treatment for Earth-bound Asteroids (

arisvega writes: A recent publication (for the math-versed) proposing the deployment of a Solar-powered, space-borne fleet of LASER cannons that would deflect Earth-bound asteroids caught the attention of international news agencies.

Do you think this ambition can in reasonable time turn into a fair-priced, life-saving (or indeed Biosphere-saving!) project, that will be to the benefit of all mankind? How threatened would you feel from the possibility of this proposed array being hijacked by extremely depraved individuals, ones capable or guilty of great crimes? And, are you not glad that now someone has published a paper on it, so Megacorp cannot 'patent' this Earth-saving idea?


Submission + - How Abused is the Term "Green Economy"? (

arisvega writes: Quite a lot, if one believes this this (oddly enough) non-paywalled Nature magazine article. Added to the dissapointing, non-binding outcome of the Rio+20 (the United Nations' Conference on Sustainable Development) is a dispute with the so-called Developing Countries, since they do not acknowledge the calling for a transition to a "Green Economy". Instead, they consider "Green Economy"-proposed restrictions as inhibitors for development prospects and business opportunities.

Bolivian President Evo Morales voiced those concerns by stating that this presented "Green Economy" model is a merely a modern form of Colonialism, employed by countries from the "wealthy North" with the goal to establish footholds for intervention mechanisms (IMF, anyone?). Then, they can interfere with and manipulate other Countries' National and Large-scale Planning affairs by invoking environmental concerns as an excuse.

The Bolivian President also called out to the African countries to "protect their natural wealth against multinational corporations", at a time almost five years later back from when the "Chinese Invasion" in Africa was news.

Since there have been stories on Slashdot considering the environmentally ethical face of production, consumption and technology, I thought this will make an interesting topic for discussion

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