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China Unveils 'Straddling Bus' Design To Beat Traffic Jams ( 157

An anonymous reader writes: A Beijing company has unveiled spectacularly futuristic designs for a pollution-busting, elevated bus capable of gliding over the nightmarish mega-jams for which urban China has become notorious. The "straddling bus," which owes more to Blade Runner than China's car-clogged highways, is supported by two legs that run along rails laid along the roadside. Those legs allow the Transit Explore Bus, or TEB's giant frame to glide high above the gridlock at speeds of up to 60km per hour. Equally, vehicles that are less than two metres high will be able to drive freely underneath the bus, even when it is stationary. "The biggest advantage is that the bus will save lots of road space," Song Youzhou, the project's chief engineer, told Xinhua, China's official news agency. Song claimed his buses, capable of transporting up to 1,400 commuters, could be produced for 20% of the price of an underground train and rolled out far more quickly since the supporting infrastructure was relatively simple. One TEB could replace 40 conventional buses, he said.You can watch the concept video here. Interestingly a very similar -- if not the exact same -- concept has come out of China before. Not sure what kind of developments have been made in the six years since then.

Japanese Startup Wants To Rain Down Man-Made Meteor For Tokyo Olympics ( 106

A startup called Star-ALE wants to create a man-made meteor shower over the city of Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics opening ceremonies. The pyrotechnics show, Star-ALE says, will be visible from an area 200km across Japan, and the pyrotechnics will actually shower from space. Starting next year, Star-ALE will begin sending a fleet of microsatellites carrying 500 to 1000 specially-developed pellets that ignite and intensely glow as they re-enter the earth's atmosphere. ScienceAlert reports: But wonderment comes at a cost, and in this case, that cost isn't cheap. Each combustible pellet comes in at about $8,100 to produce, and that's not including the costs involved in actually launching the Sky Canvas satellite. The company has tested its source particles in the lab, using a vacuum chamber and hot gases to simulate the conditions the pellets would encounter upon re-entering Earth's atmosphere. In its testing, the particles burn with an apparent magnitude of -1, which should ensure they're clearly visible in the night sky, even in the polluted skyline of a metropolis like Tokyo.

Microsoft Launches Bot Framework To Let Developers Build Their Own Chatbots ( 81

An anonymous reader shares a report on VentureBeat: Microsoft today is introducing the Bot Framework, a new tool in preview to help developers build their own chatbots for their applications. Using this, anyone can create a text program that they can chat with. A BotBuilder software-development kit (SDK) is available on GitHub under an open-source MIT license. These bots can be implemented into a variety of applications, including Slack or Telegram or even email. "Bots are like new applications," Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella said. "And digital assistants are meta apps, or like the new browsers. And intelligence is infused into all of your interactions. That's the rich platform that we have." Microsoft will want to tread carefully.

Algorithmic Trading Rapidly Replacing Need For Humans 331

DMandPenfold writes "Algorithmic trading, also known as high frequency trading (HFT), is rapidly replacing human decision making, according to a UK government panel which warned that the right regulations need to be introduced to protect stock markets. Around one third of share trading in the UK is conducted by computers fulfilling commands based on complex algorithms, said the Foresight panel in a working paper published yesterday. Nevertheless, this proportion is significantly lower than in the U.S., where three-quarters of equity dealing is computer generated. The Foresight panel, led by Dame Clara Furse, the former chief executive of the London Stock Exchange, argued that there are both benefits and severe risks to algorithmic trading. There was 'no direct evidence' that the computer trading in itself increased volatility, it said, but in specific circumstances it was possible for a series of events with 'undesired interactions and outcomes' to occur and cause massive damage."

The Spread of Do-It-Yourself Biotech 206

zrbyte writes "Are you an electronics hobbyist or a garden shed tinkerer? If so, then move aside, because there's a new kid on the block: the DIY biotechnologist. The decreasing price of biotech instrumentation has made it possible for everyday folks (read: biotech geeks) with a few thousand dollars to spare to equip their garages and parents' basements with the necessary 'tools of the trade.' Some, like PCR machines, are available on eBay; other utensils are hacked together from everyday appliances and some creativity. For example: microscopes out of webcams and armpit E. coli incubators. Nature News has an article on the phenomenon, describing the weird and wonderful fruits of biotech geek ingenuity, like glow-in-the-dark yogurt. One could draw parallels with the early days of computer building/programming. It may be that we're looking at a biotech revolution, not just from the likes of Craig Venter, but from Joe-next-door hacking away at his E. coli strain. What are the Steve Wozniaks of biotech working on right now?"

EyeDriver Lets Drivers Steer Car With Their Eyes 166

Hugh Pickens writes "NPR reports that German researchers have tested a new technology called eyeDriver that tracks a driver's eye movement and, in turn, steers the car in whatever direction they're looking at speeds up to 31 mph. 'The next step will be to get it to drive 60 miles per hour,' says Raul Rojas, an artificial intelligence researcher at Berlin's Free University. A Dodge Caravan fitted with eyeDriver has been tested on the tarmac at an abandoned airport at Tempelhof Airport. However, it remains unclear when — or if — the technology will be commercialized, as questions about safety and practicability abound: What about looking at a cute girl next to the road for a few seconds? Not to mention taking phone calls or typing a text while driving. But the researchers have an answer to distracted drivers: 'The Spirit of Berlin' is also an autonomous car equipped with GPS navigation, scores of cameras, lasers, and scanners that enable it to drive by itself. And should the technology-packed vehicle have a major bug, there's still an old fashioned way of stopping it. Two big external emergency buttons at the rear of the car allow people outside to shut down all systems."

MIT Researchers Harness Viruses To Split Water 347

ByronScott writes "A team of researchers at MIT has just announced that they have successfully modified a virus to split apart molecules of water, paving the way for an efficient and non-energy-intensive method of producing hydrogen fuel. 'The team, led by Angela Belcher, the Germeshausen Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and Biological Engineering, engineered a common, harmless bacterial virus called M13 so that it would attract and bind with molecules of a catalyst (the team used iridium oxide) and a biological pigment (zinc porphyrins). The viruses became wire-like devices that could very efficiently split the oxygen from water molecules. Over time, however, the virus-wires would clump together and lose their effectiveness, so the researchers added an extra step: encapsulating them in a microgel matrix, so they maintained their uniform arrangement and kept their stability and efficiency.'"

Cyber-criminal Left In Charge of Prison Computer Network 389

samzenpus writes "A 27-year-old man serving six years for stealing £6.5million using forged credit cards over the internet was recruited to help write code needed for the installation of an internal prison TV station. He was left unguarded with unfettered access to the system and produced results that anyone but prison officials could have guessed. He installed a series of passwords on all the machines, shutting down the entire prison computer system. A prison source said, 'It's unbelievable that a criminal convicted of cyber-crime was allowed uncontrolled access to the hard drive. He set up such an elaborate array of passwords it took a specialist company to get it working.'"

Prototype Vehicle For the Blind 238

An anonymous reader writes "A student team from Virginia Tech Robotics and Mechanisms Laboratory have created a vehicle which allows the blind to drive. The vehicle uses a laser range finder to determine distances and alerts the driver through voice commands and vibration. Tomorrow [Friday] morning, the vehicle will have its first public test drive at the University of Maryland. At last, Braille on drive-up ATMs may finally be vindicated."

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