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Submission + - The flying car again (rdmag.com)

mi writes: Federal Aviation Administration just authorized Terrafugia — one of the companies developing a flying car — to operate small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (SUAS) of its TF-X flying car for research and development purposes.

According to the company, the permission "will allow Terrafugia to test the hovering capabilities of a one-tenth scale TF-X vehicle and gather flight characteristics data that will drive future design choices".

Submission + - DuckDuckGo Grew 74% in 2015

An anonymous reader writes: DuckDuckGo, the privacy-focused web search engine startup, continues to grow rapidly. But it has also struggled to crack the mainstream. Through Dec. 15, DuckDuckGo received 3.25 billion search queries this year, according to its publicly posted traffic statistics. That’s up 74% over the same period last year. Monday, Dec. 14 was its first day with more than 12 million direct queries.

Submission + - North Carolina citizenry defeat pernicious Big Solar plan to suck up the Sun (arstechnica.com)

mdsolar writes: The citizens of Woodland, N.C. have spoken loud and clear: They don't want none of them highfalutin solar panels in their good town. They scare off the kids. "All the young people are going to move out," warned Bobby Mann, a local resident concerned about the future of his burg. Worse, Mann said, the solar panels would suck up all the energy from the Sun.

Another resident—a retired science teacher, no less—expressed concern that a proposed solar farm would block photosynthesis, and prevent nearby plants from growing. Jane Mann then went on to add that there seemed to have been a lot of cancer deaths in the area, and that no one could tell her solar panels didn't cause cancer. “I want information," Mann said. "Enough is enough."

Submission + - New Video Software from Disney can Merge Takes and Create New Ones (Post Prod) (engadget.com)

Tulsa_Time writes: A new tool out of Disney Research's labs could turn an ingénue's semi-decent attempt into a finely nuanced performance. This software called FaceDirector has the capability to merge together separate frames from different takes to create the perfect scene. It does that by analyzing both the actor's face and audio cues to identify the frames that correspond with each other. As such, directors can create brand new takes during post-production with zero input from the actor. They don't even need specialized hardware like 3D cameras for the trick — it works even with footage taken by regular 2D cams.

Submission + - Some physical properties are undecidable (nature.com)

wheelbarrio writes: In a paper titled "Undecidability of the spectral gap" published last week in Nature, three theoretical computer scientists demonstrate that at least one important characteristic of a physical system is axiomatically unprovable. Specifically, the presence or absence of a non-zero spectral gap — the difference in energy between the ground state and first excited state of a quantum system — cannot derived from first principles. The proof involves constructing a correspondence between the calculation of the spectral gap and the Turing machine halting problem. Unless a loophole is found this is a profoundly distressing result for physicists, and it means that the sixth Clay Millennium Prize problem (Yang-Mills mass gap) is insoluble.

Submission + - Huge Jupiter-Like Storm Rages On Cool 'Failed Star' (discovery.com)

astroengine writes: Jupiter’s Big Red Spot is the largest example of a long-lived storm in the solar system, but now it has some pretty stiff competition in another star system. However, this “exo-storm” hasn’t been spied on another gas giant, it’s been spotted in the uppermost layers of a cool, small "failed star" or brown dwarf. Using 3 NASA space telescopes, new research published in The Astrophysical Journal has found that this spot isn't a starspot, but a bona fide storm that has more in common with Jupiter's famous cyclone. So is this REALLY a failed star? Or is is an "overachieving planet"?

Submission + - Simple robots, complex behaviors: A controls perspective on Braitenberg Vehicles (robohub.org)

Hallie Siegel writes: Valentino Braitenberg was a neuroscientist and cyberneticist who used very simple electro-mechanical vehicles as a way to communicate how animal psychology could have evolved. His thought exercises, generally referred to as Braitenberg Vehicles, begin as a single sensor connected directly to a single actuator and evolve through multiple iterations into vehicles that can remember, have the ability to predict, and develop an ego. Controls expert Brian Douglas takes us through an informative and well-paced video tutorial on Braitenberg's concepts and how they apply to control systems.

Submission + - Scientists Invent a New Steel as Strong as Titanium (popularmechanics.com) 1

schwit1 writes: South Korean researchers have solved a longstanding problem that stopped them from creating ultra-strong, lightweight aluminum-steel alloys.

Today a team of material scientists at Pohang University of Science and Technology in South Korea announced what they're calling one of the biggest steel breakthroughs of the last few decades: an altogether new type of flexible, ultra-strong, lightweight steel. This new metal has a strength-to-weight ratio that matches even our best titanium alloys, but at one tenth the cost, and can be created on a small scale with machinery already used to make automotive-grade steel. The study appears in Nature.

Submission + - It wasn't just an asteroid that killed the dinosaurs

schwit1 writes: Scientists have now obtained enough solid data to confirm that the large extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago was caused not just by the Yucatan asteroid impact but also by the gigantic volcanic event in India called the Deccan Traps.

The researchers said the asteroid strike occurred 66.04 million years ago, plus or minus about 30,000 years. They said eruptions in a region called the Deccan Traps were already underway at a lower intensity but dramatically accelerated after the asteroid strike as if the powerful impact triggered it. The dating method they used found this acceleration began within 50,000 years of the impact, but it could have been in the mere days, months or years afterward. "Within measurement error, they're simultaneous," said volcanologist Loyc Vanderkluysen of Philadelphia's Drexel University. "The two processes in tandem caused the extinctions," added Paul Renne, director of the Berkeley Geochronology Center and a University of California, Berkeley geologist, who led the study in the journal Science.

Though many planetary scientists have discounted the Deccan Traps for decades, paleontologists have tended to favor it as a major factor in the extinction. This new study suggests that both were involved, which was the theory held by most of the more reasonable scientists in both fields. While many liked to push one or the other theory in the press, the better scientists considered both a possible factor and have been working to determine this possibility.

Submission + - Have The Robots Broken The Stock Market? (seekingalpha.com)

walterbyrd writes: The markets were sloppy last week, and we went out on a bad note. Sentiment was very negative. And when Chinese stocks continued to crash on Sunday, it looked like we might be on the verge of something nasty. Uncertainty was everywhere. And then the robots took control. I watched the futures market almost all night on Sunday, and we were seeing 100-point moves in the Dow Futures contract within a few minutes. This was not human controlled. And it was not rational.

Submission + - Federal Court Overturns Ruling that NSA Metadata Collection was Illegal (npr.org)

captnjohnny1618 writes: *Sigh* NPR is reporting that an appeals court has overturned the decision that the NSA's bulk data collection was illegal.


A three judge panel for a U.S. appeals court has thrown out a lower-court decision that sought to stop the NSA from continuing to collect metadata on phone calls made by Americans.
>br> The lower court ruling had found that the practice was unconstitutional.

They go on to clarify that due to the recent passage of new laws governing how metadata is collected, this is less of a significant point than it would have otherwise been:

In some ways, this decision is much less important now that Congress has passed a law that changes the way meta-data is collected by the government. If you remember, after a fierce battle, both houses of Congress voted in favor of a law that lets phone companies keep that database, but still allows the government to query it for specific data.

Still seems like a fairly significant decision to me: in one case a government agency was willfully and directly violating the rights of the Americans (and international citizens as well) and now it's just going to get shrugged off?

One step forward and two back...

Submission + - Extreme Pressure Reveals New Phenomenon in Atomic Nuclei (gizmag.com)

Zothecula writes: Scientists have long believed that while an atom's outer electrons are highly mobile and often behave somewhat chaotically, the inner electrons close to the nucleus are stable. They move steadily around the nucleus and stay out of each other's way. But new research reveals that if the pressure is really extreme, like double that found at the center of the Earth, the innermost electrons of an atom change their behavior.

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