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Man Accused of Selling Golf Ball Finders As Bomb Detectors 131

CNET reports that a British businessman named Jim McCormick is facing charges now for fraud; McCormick "charged 27,000 pounds (around $41,000) for devices that weren't quite what he said they were." That's putting it mildly; what he was selling as bomb detecting devices were actually souped-up (or souped-down, with non-functional circuitboards and other flim-flammery) golf-ball detectors. The Daily Mail has some enlightening pictures.

Submission + - Chinese to keep us from going extinct in 2036 (technologyreview.com)

wisebabo writes: So as the article says, the Chinese have proposed sending a solar sail driven probe to hit the asteroid Apophis to make sure it has no chance of going through a "keyhole" near earth in 2029. If it goes through the keyhole then it will hit the earth seven years later.

The reason why they need to use a solar sail is because they want the very small probe (10kg?) to hit the asteroid in the opposite direction, a retrograde orbit which would otherwise require an insane amount of fuel (after being put on an escape trajectory it would need to first cancel out the earth's orbital momentum and then basically speed up to a likewise high velocity in the OPPOSITE direction). They are doing this to hit the asteroid at a very high impact speed.

While Apophis may not literally be capable of wiping us out (it "only" weighs 46 million kilograms) it might be able to wreck our civilization. So rather than putting the fate of our species into the hands of an untried technology (no solar sail has yet imparted substantial delta-V to its spacecraft) may I suggest an alternative? By using Jupiter as a gravity assist we could send a much heavier probe to hit it at comparable speeds. For example the Juno spacecraft, recently launched to the gas giant weighs almost 8000kgs.

Jupiter could sling a spacecraft around so as to completely cancel its orbital momentum (with no fuel expenditure!). Then it will fall directly towards the sun and, if guided correctly, could hit Apophis broadside. Considering it will be falling from a height of several hundred million miles it would pack quite a blow. Admittedly, the impact will be on the side rather than head on but that should be okay since all we have to do is assure that Apophis doesn't pass through the keyhole which is only 600m wide.

Don't get my wrong, I hope that solar sails become widely used for the (slow, cheap) transport of cargos in the solar system. It's just that I wouldn't base the defense of earth on them. Then again, if you were able to very accurately control the asteroid impactor, not only could you control IF the asteroid was going to go through the keyhole but WHERE it was going to go through. Then you could determine where, on earth, the asteroid was going to eventually going to hit.

Say on an unfriendly nation (that was preferably on another continent).


Submission + - To Save the Galaxy, Destroy Humanity (discovery.com)

astroengine writes: "In a study carried out by NASA and Pennsylvania State University scientists, several intelligent extraterrestrial encounter scenarios are examined. One of the scenarios is a sci-fi favorite: what if we encounter an alien race hellbent on destroying us? However, there's a twist.

This isn't mindless thuggery on behalf of the aliens, and they're not killing us to get at our natural resources, they have a cause. They want to exterminate us for the greater good of the Milky Way."


Submission + - 13-Year-Old Makes Fibonacci Solar Breakthrough (inhabitat.com)

An anonymous reader writes: While most 13-year-olds spend their free time playing video games or cruising Facebook, one 7th grader was trekking through the woods uncovering a mystery of science. After studying how trees branch in a very specific way, Aidan Dwyer created a solar cell tree that produces 20-50% more power than a uniform array of photovoltaic panels. His impressive results show that using a specific formula for distributing solar cells can drastically improve energy generation. The study earned Aidan a provisional U.S patent – it’s a rare find in the field of technology and a fantastic example of how biomimicry can drastically improve design.

Submission + - RKK Energia confirms private trip to the Moon (kyivpost.com)

Teancum writes: "RKK Energia, the prime contractor for the Russian space program and the company who builds the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, recently confirmed negotiations are underway with space tourism company Space Adventures for a privately financed crewed flight around the Moon. While the offer and purchase of at least one seat has been discussed earlier, this is the first time Energia has confirmed the negotiations and has gone into at least some details in terms of what they are expecting to have happen with this flight and the approximate timeframe for when this flight would take place... sometime in 2016 or 2017."

Comment Re:Viewpoint from an American in China (Score 4, Informative) 220

I live in China and access Slashdot frequently. I've never seen it blocked. Most foreign news sites are rarely blocked in China, and even negative articles about China's government are usually accessible. The exception is news sites with a lot of articles in Chinese, those are often blocked. And around certain important dates some news sites like the BBC may be inaccessible for several days.

Comment Viewpoint from an American in China (Score 5, Interesting) 220

I'm an American who has lived in China for 7 years.

Most ordinary people in China believe the firewall is only for blocking pornography and dangerous information from terrorists. They don't believe political discussion is being blocked. In fact, there are many blogs and social networking sites in China full of political discussion, which are of course censored, but it is only a few sensitive topics that will be removed, so most users will never notice the censorship.

From the comments in this thread, it seems like most US internet users (even the savvy users on Slashdot) likewise believe that US web censorship is only for blocking IP infringement, and never for censoring political discussion.

So it would seem that Chinese and US internet users are equally misinformed and complacent about their own governments' internet censorship.


Submission + - Substitute teacher gets 40 years for porn popups

alphamugwump writes: Substitute teacher Julie Amero faces up to 40 years in prison for exposing kids to porn using a classroom computer.
From the Arstechnica article:

Amero was substituting for a middle-school English class and asked the regular teacher permission to use the computer to e-mail her husband. The teacher granted her permission, and asked her not to log him out of the computer. Amero, the self-professed techno-noob, then left the room to use the restroom, and upon her return says that she found several students gathered around the machine looking at a web site. A series of unfortunate events occurred from this point on, resulting in a slew of pornographic pop-ups appearing on the screen. The onslaught continued despite Amero's attempts to close the windows.

According to The Register

When the students told their parents what had happened, they told the administration, who vowed that Julie would never work in the classroom again. But they went further. The 40-year-old substitute teacher was arrested, indicted, tried and here is the kicker on January 5, 2007, she was convicted of four counts of risk of injury to a minor, or impairing the morals of a child (Conn. Gen. Stat. 53-21). Indeed, she was originally charged with exposing 10 children in the seventh grade class to the materials on the internet, but six of the charges were dropped.

I guess "Ambush Porn" really is dangerous.

Comment Lead Times (Score 1) 30

Emachineshop looks like a really awesome and reasonably-priced service, although some of our customers have complained that their quoted lead times are way too long. Perhaps it's because business is going really well for them, so they have more customers than they can handle in a timely manner.

We do plastic injection molding in China, but we often machine metal or plastic prototypes for our customers as well. Lead times for prototypes are often as short as 5 days, plus 2-3 days to ship to the customer by FedEx.

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This is clearly another case of too many mad scientists, and not enough hunchbacks.