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Submission + - SPAM: Nuclear's Glacial Pace

mdsolar writes: Climate change has forced us to rethink how we get electricity. Use of renewable sources like solar and wind is rapidly increasing, while nuclear, though long a reliable source of carbon-free electricity, is not. Meanwhile, a number of startups are promising cheap, safe, proliferation-resistant nuclear energy in the next decade (see “Fail-Safe Nuclear Power”).

Can these startups fulfill their promises? Outside of China, nuclear power is expanding nowhere. China has 21 new reactors under construction; Russia has nine, India six. The U.S. is bringing five new plants online, but since 2012, five other reactors have been retired, with seven more to be shuttered by 2019. California’s Diablo Canyon plant recently announced it will close by 2025. With other plants closing in Japan, Germany, and the U.K., more reactors may be decommissioned than built in the near future.

Link to Original Source

Submission + - NASA Funds Plan To Turn Used Rocket Fuel Tanks Into Space Habitats (ieee.org)

An anonymous reader writes: A couple of weeks ago NASA announced it has committed $65 million to six companies over the course of two years for the purpose of developing and testing deep-space habitats that could be used for future missions to Mars. One of the six companies, called NanoRacks, is attempting to take empty fuel tanks from the upper stages of rockets and turn them into space habitats on-orbit. IEEE Spectrum reports: "A rocket like the the Atlas V, which can deliver payloads of nearly 19,000 kg to low Earth orbit, consists of three primary pieces: on the bottom, you've got the first stage booster, which consists of a huge engine and some big tanks holding kerosene fuel and oxidizer. Above that, there's the second stage, which consists of one or two smaller engines, a big tank for storing liquid hydrogen fuel, and a smaller tank for oxidizer. The payload, which is what all of the fuss is about, sits on top. The first stage launches the rocket off of the pad and continues firing for about four minutes. Meanwhile, the second stage fires up its own engine (or engines) to boost the payload the rest of the way into orbit. On the Atlas V, the second stage is called Centaur. Once Centaur gets its payload where it needs to go, it separates, and then suicides down into Earth's atmosphere. Getting a payload into space is so expensive because you have to build up this huge and complicated rocket, with engines and guidance systems and fuel tanks and stuff, and then you basically use it for like 15 minutes and throw it all away. But what about the second stage? You've got a whole bunch of hardware that made it to orbit, and when getting stuff to orbit costs something like $2,500 per kilogram, you then tell it to go it burn itself up in the atmosphere, because otherwise it's just useless space junk." NanoRacks thinks this is wasteful, so they want to turn these tanks into deep space habitats. IEEE notes that the hydrogen fuel tank on a Centaur upper stage has a diameter of over 4 meters, and an interior volume of 54 cubic meters, while the inflatable BEAM module that arrived at the ISS earlier this year has an interior volume of 16 cubic meters.

Submission + - This Chinese Router Is Depressingly Insecure and Downright Evil (softpedia.com)

An anonymous reader writes: A Wi-Fi router manufactured and sold only in China can easily run for the title of "most insecure router ever made." The BHU router, whose name translates to "Tiger Will Power," has a long list of security problems that include: four authentication bypass flaws (of which one is just hilarious); a built in backdoor root account that gets created on every boot-up sequence; the fact that it opens the SSH port for external connections after every boot (somebody has to use that root backdoor account right?); a built-in proxy server that re-routes all traffic; an ad injection system that adds adverts to all the sites you visit; and a backup JS file embedded in the router firmware if the ad script fails to load from its server. For techies, there's a looong technical write-up, which gets funnier and scarier at the same time as you read through it.

Submission + - 2016 Hugo Award Winners Announced

Dave Knott writes: The recipients of the 2016 Hugo awards have been announced. Presented annually since 1955, the Hugos are (along with the Nebulas) one of science fiction's two most prestigious awards. They are voted on by members of the World Science Fiction Convention ("Worldcon"), the most recent of which, MidAmeriCon II was held this past weekend in Kansas City. Notable winners include:

Best Novel: The Fifth Season , by N.K. Jemisin
Best Novella: Binti , by Nnedi Okorafor
Best Novelette: "Folding Beijing", by Hao Jingfang, trans. Ken Liu
Best Short Story: "Cat Pictures Please", by Naomi Kritzer
Best Graphic Story: The Sandman: Overture , written by Neil Gaiman, art by J.H. Williams III
Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: The Martian , screenplay by Drew Goddard, directed by Ridley Scott
Best Dramatic Presentation, ShortForm: Jessica Jones: "AKA Smile", written by Scott Reynolds, Melissa Rosenberg, and Jamie King, directed by Michael Rymer

As in the previous two years, the 2016 Hugos were subject to considerable controversy, as highly-politicized factions within science fiction fandom attempted to influence the awards via a concerted campaign that influenced the nomination process. Those actions once again proved unsuccessful, as the nominees put forth by these activists failed to win in any of the major awards categories.

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.

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