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Comment Re:Inexpensive way to send up inert objects (Score 1) 131

The high velocity at the muzzle is an advantage if you add a scram jet to the launch vehicle. Plus you can always build the thing on top of a big mountain for extra credit.

The idea is feasible. The real problem is that it's so simple that every two bit dictator in the world could build one in a jiffy if the technology was well developed.

Submission + - National Instruments hosts talk on Cold Fusion (

enslaved_robot_boy writes: Since 1926 there have been over 200 observations of intense heat release in palladium when it is loaded well beyond its equilibrium limit with deuterium. Very careful work at two national laboratories, namely the Naval Research Laboratory in the United States, and at ENEA, the National Energy Laboratory of Italy, and at many other laboratories around the world, clearly indicate that these extreme ‘excess’ heat releases are in fact real, despite earlier claims to the contrary, and I will discuss why these experiments have proven to be so difficult to repeat. These heat releases are anomalous, since we do not yet have a clear understanding of the physical process that is responsible for these often extreme levels of heat release. These effects have been referred to as ‘cold fusion’ and ‘low-energy nuclear reactions’ in the past, but these names imply an understanding of the physical origin of these anomalous effects that in fact does not yet exist. Hence the term 'Anomalous Heat Effect (AHE)'.

Comment Re:Return to discrete components? (Score 1) 38

As a materials chemist the benefits of this design compared to existing programmable gate arrays is beyond my knowledge.

However, I can say that this is exciting because several of it's design elements are made with simple processing techniques that don't require the amazingly complex (and expensive) equipment used in traditional microfabrication.

The design (transistors made in arrays of crossed lines) is very interesting to material scientists because it is so simple compared to a traditional transitor array (or FPGA for that matter) that it is possible to imagine building it using self assembly techniques at very low cost.

As someone who works in nanotechnology, I can tell you that bottom-up transistors arrays is one of the coolest things that might actually be possible and that this is a good step in that direction. Essentially this research is a step towards being able to grow a computer chip instead of build one.

Comment Re:Return to discrete components? (Score 2) 38

This is cooler than that.

This a two dimensional array of transistors that can be turned on or off individually.

It's like the screen on your monitor except that each pixel is a variable transistor. So you can imagine that one "image" in the two dimensional array would be perfect for compiling code or something and another image would be best for graphics rendering. Essentially the promise of this design is that you could change your hardware as fast as you refresh your TV screen.

Comment Re:GaAs? (Score 1) 38

These are made with germanium and silicon. No gallium involved.

The expense of GaAs comes from the incredible cost of the wafers. Experiments like this which use individually grown nano-wires use an incredibly small amount of material for the semiconductor layer. If you could actually make these devices at a large scale with good enough properties for commercial use they would be incredibly cheap and you could make them on just about any substrate (glass.. paper?... skin!??... ) no wafer required.

Comment Transistors + Memristors + Bottom-Up (Score 4, Insightful) 38

This work is significant for two reasons

1) because it uses self assembled nano-wires as the semiconducting element of the transistor. This is an example of bottom-up processing.
2) because it uses a three layer gate oxide which can be altered by applying a high voltage, turning transistors on and off.

Bottom-up processing is extremely cool because it offers the future promise of being able to make electronics using the fundamental chemical properties of materials. The idea is that under the right conditions you can grow electronics without using super expensive top-down processing like deep-UV interference lithography.

The programmable nature of the transistor, which comes from the long lasting and reversible electrochemical changes that 6-9V applied between the gate and source generates (kinda like a memristor), means that if you make a square array of transistors and then you can address each transistor in the array individually, turning it on or off. This allows you to change the chip "hardware" on the fly. Which could be cool for programmers i guess....

Basically this is amazing work.

PlayStation (Games)

Sony Finally Turning a Profit On PS3s 117

When the PS3 launched in 2006, estimates pegged the price of producing the consoles to be as much as $250 more than the price at which they were sold. Production costs have dropped since then, but there have been several price cuts as well. Now, almost four years later, Sony Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida says they're finally turning a profit on the hardware. "This year is the first time that we are able to cover the cost of the PlayStation 3,' Yoshida said. 'We aren't making huge money from hardware, but we aren't bleeding like we used to.' In May, Sony began shipping new PlayStation 3 consoles with smaller and more cost-effective graphics chips. Now, Yoshida said, Sony is looking at replenishing retail stock that has been running on empty since January rather than cutting the price. 'When we bring the cost of hardware down, we are looking at opportunities to adjust prices if we believe that will increase demand,' he explained. 'At the moment, we are trying to catch up our production.'"

Comment Re:One lone protester (Score 1) 411

As someone who works in this industry, I still remain on the record saying that the current plan is the best one NASA has had since the Shuttle was a dream given form*.

* Not quite the form it should have been, though.

You may be right but why do you feel the shuttle was any good?

Isn't the cost of launching a shuttle payload 5000$ a pound?

If you think of it that way a launch vehicle which costs 1000$ a pound would have allowed 5 times more equipment to be launched for the same amount of money.

As someone who works in the industry why do you feel that nobody besides Sadaam Hussein ever tried to build a low cost launch system like a super-gun?

Comment Re:which is better (Score 1) 326

This view is expressed in the book Eaarth (spelled wrong to indicate that the planet is no longer the Earth we once knew!).

I find the idea of halting growth to be abhorrent.

What is growth? Growth is an either an increase in population or an increase in wealth.

Population increase is problematic but that is not a problem in the western world where population is basically stable, our real problem is increasing wealth. The problem with our increasing wealth is not that it is necessarily harmful to the environment and usustainable and thus destined to end in a catastrophic collapse (see Jared Diamond's book Collapse). The problem with our growth is that it is poorly defined.

A private company that borrows money from the bank cannot report that money as profit, if they did their shareholders would eat them alive. Similarly if a company borrowed money from the bank and spent it on things other than infrastructure that allowed them to make more money (like new equipment) they would be in big big trouble.

If borrowing money that you later need to pay back is not "growth" then depleting the resources of the planet without increasing the long term value of those resources is not growth it is just borrowing value without a plan to pay it back. Our version of growth is just doing the same stupid thing only doing it more. The skills and technology exist for us to increase our wealth in a real sense. If the incentives were correct we would be motivated to develop technologies that utilize resources in a more and more efficient manner such that we never end up running out of resources.

We are no where near efficient enough at the moment to talk about living within our means we need to grow out of this wasteful local minimum and continue to progress towards a world were every individual is free to pursue life to it's maximum potential.

Here is an example of what I would consider growth: A plant that grows steak (at this point I would be a vegetarian).

Comment An Oath is Not the Answer (Score 2, Interesting) 366

Ethics have no place in science.

The real problem with the practice of science today is that it is dependant on funding from non-scientists.

The result of this is that research is inefficent and corrupted by outside influence.

My solution to this problem is this:

If we assume that the wealth generated by scientific research is greater (perhaps much greater) than the money used to fund the research in the first place, then a good solution to corruption and inefficiency in science research is to begin funding it ourselves. Imagine if there was an enormous investment fund that was administered by scientists for science. We could invest in research of practical and academic value of our choosing and reinvest the gains in further research, taking control of our own destinies.

Imagine if this Science Association had existed when the microchip was invented for instance. How much cash would a company like Intel or IBM generate for researchers instead of shareholders. Where would the motive for fudging data come from if all you were doing was wasting what would effectively be your own money and what would the consequences be if you were found out by other scientists who held a real financial stake in what you were doing?

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