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Submission + - International Space Station to Trial Aussie-designed Ion Thruster (

theweatherelectric writes: Barney Porter from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation writes, "An Australian-designed rocket propulsion system is heading to the International Space Station (ISS) for a year-long experiment that ultimately could revolutionise space travel. The technology could be used to power a return trip to Mars without refuelling, and use recycled space junk for the fuel. Former University of Sydney student, Dr Paddy Neumann — now of Neumann Space — and two co-inventor professors from his alma mater have developed an ion thruster that could replace the current chemical-based rocket propulsion technology, which requires huge volumes of fuel to be loaded onto a spacecraft."

Submission + - F-35A Catches Fire at Mountain Home Air Force Base (

theweatherelectric writes: Writing for Defense News, Valerie Insinna reports that another F-35 has caught fire during an exercise. She writes, "The incident took place at around noon and involved an F-35A aircraft from the 61st Fighter Squadron located at Luke Air Force Base, the service said in a statement. No serious injuries seem to have been sustained by the pilot or nearby crew.

'The pilot had to egress the aircraft during engine start due to a fire from the aft section of the aircraft,' Air Force spokesman Capt. Mark Graff said in an email. 'The fire was extinguished quickly. As a precautionary measure, four 61st Aircraft Maintenance Unit Airmen, three Airmen from the 366th Maintenance Group and the 61st Fighter Squadron pilot were transported to the base medical center for standard evaluation.'"

Submission + - Niobium nanowire breakthrough could boost performance of wearables (

An anonymous reader writes: A team of researchers is developing an innovative nanowire technology [] for delivering short bursts of electrical power required by electronic wearable devices. Scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the University of British Columbia explain that wearable devices such as fitness monitors and smartwatches are currently limited by insufficient power from their small batteries needed for data transmission. According to the researchers, supercapacitors can provide a solution to this issue, storing and releasing short bursts of power. The latest development uses yarns of niobium nanowire as the electrodes in a compact supercapacitor. The team discovered that although nanoparticles such as graphene and carbon are potential solutions, they are typically characterised by low electrical conductivity. Their current study has found that the niobium yarn could offer a new alternative, demonstrating the ability to store as much as five times more power in a given volume as carbon nanotubes.

Submission + - What consumers want from their smart homes (

Hallie Siegel writes: Despite the energy savings and environmental friendliness that has often been associated with smart home technologies, a recent poll showed that consumers want their homes to optimize for their comfort level and personal preference (45%). Security/Safety and Energy Savings tied in second place (18%). Environmentally friendliness came in at only 11%. Note that the three most voted choices have direct advantages for the user, as opposed to Environmental Friendliness, which is primarily a societal benefit.

Submission + - How we'll know whether BICEP2 was right about gravitational waves

StartsWithABang writes: The Big Bang takes us back to very early times, but not the earliest. It tells us the Universe was in a hot, dense state, where even the possibility of forming neutral atoms was impossible due to the incredible energies of the Universe at that time. The patterns of fluctuations that are left over from that time give us insight into the primordial density fluctuations that our Universe was born with. But there’s an additional signature encoded in this radiation, one that’s much more difficult to extract: polarization. While most of the polarization signal that’s present will be due to the density fluctuations themselves, there’s a way to extract even more information about an even earlier phenomenon: gravitational waves that were present from the epoch of cosmic inflation! Here's the physics on how that works, and how we'll find whether BICEP2 was right or not.

Submission + - Expert calls for closure of nuclear plant in California (

mdsolar writes: A senior federal nuclear expert is urging regulators to shut down California’s last operating nuclear plant until they can determine whether the facility’s twin reactors can withstand powerful shaking from any one of several nearby earthquake faults.

Michael Peck, who for five years was Diablo Canyon’s lead on-site inspector, says in a 42-page, confidential report that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is not applying the safety rules it set out for the plant’s operation.

The document, which was obtained and verified by The Associated Press, does not say the plant itself is unsafe. Instead, according to Peck’s analysis, no one knows whether the facility’s key equipment can withstand strong shaking from those faults — the potential for which was realized decades after the facility was built.

Continuing to run the reactors, Peck writes, “challenges the presumption of nuclear safety.”

Peck’s July 2013 filing is part of an agency review in which employees can appeal a supervisor’s or agency ruling — a process that normally takes 60 to 120 days, but can be extended. The NRC, however, has not yet ruled. Spokeswoman Lara Uselding said in emails that the agency would have no comment on the document.

Submission + - Toward a Quantum Theory of Gravity? (

GlowingCat writes: One of the main problems in attempting to calculate gravitational interactions with gravitons has been that the calculations produced unphysical infinities at almost every step. Bern and colleagues, however, managed to enormously simplify the calculations by showing that, at least in some cases, gravitons can be replaced by two copies of gluons — the carriers of the strong nuclear force. If this double-copy-of-gluons relationship holds in general, this clue could potentially lead to a dramatic breakthrough in the search for a quantum theory of gravity.

Submission + - Amazing New Invention: A Nail Polish That Detects Date Rape Drugs (

stephendavion writes: Checking to see if your drink has been tampered with is about to get a whole lot more discreet. Thanks to the work of four North Carolina State University undergrads, you’ll soon be able to find out without reaching for a testing tool. That’s because you’ll already have five of them on each hand. The team — Ankesh Madan, Stephen Gray, Tasso Von Windheim, and Tyler Confrey-Maloney — has come up with a creative and unobtrusive way to package chemicals that react when exposed to Rohypnol and GHB. They put it in nail polish that they’re calling Undercover Colors.

Submission + - 1 Old Car Battery Can Help Power 30 Homes (

Taffykay writes: Science recently scored a simultaneous victory over pollution for both recycling and renewable energy! A team of researchers at MIT has come up with plan to turn old car batteries into durable solar panels. According to, the system proposed by a group of MIT professors and published in the journal Energy and Environmental Science uses a fairly new solar cell technology that includes a compound called perovskite, which is nearly on par with traditional silicon-based cells but takes significantly less material to manufacture.

Submission + - As Ebola death toll rises, scientists work on nanotech cure

rlinke writes: Scientists at Northeastern University are using nanotechnology to find an effective treatment for the Ebola virus, which has killed more than 1,200 people and sickened even more.

What makes finding a vaccine or cure such a formidable job is that the virus mutates so quickly. How do you pin down and treat something that is continually changing?

Thomas Webster, professor and chairman of bioengineering and chemical engineering at Northeastern, may have an answer to that — nanotechnology.

Submission + - VertiKUL Drone "Delivers" on Both Hovering and Forward Flight (

Zothecula writes: When something is sent to you by airmail, it travels in a fast and relatively fuel-efficient fixed-wing aircraft, not a fuel-guzzling helicopter. Nonetheless, when we hear about the possibility of drones being used to deliver items within cities, multirotor-style aircraft are almost always what's proposed – while they're good at maneuvering in urban spaces, they're essentially just little unmanned helicopters. With that in mind, a group of three engineering students from Belgium's KU Leuven (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven) have created a prototype delivery drone known as VertiKUL, which combines the best features of both types of aircraft.

Submission + - Recycled Car Batteries Transformed into Low-Cost Solar Panels

rofkool writes: MIT researcher have developed a method of transforming old lead-acid car batteries into long-lasting, low-cost solar panels.

It is estimated that a single battery could be used to produce enough solar cells to power up to 30 homes.

The discovery addresses two key problems: Firstly the problem of disposing of lead-acid batteries in an environmentally-responsible way, and secondly the difficulty of producing raw lead ore for use in solar cells.

Angela Belcher, W.M. Keck Professor of Energy at MIT and co-author of the study, said: "Once the battery technology evolves, over 200 million lead-acid batteries will potentially be retired in the United States, and that could cause a lot of environmental issues."

Submission + - Cold fusion is back ( 1

An anonymous reader writes: America's multibillion-dollar, laser-blasting fusion machine has gotten more energy out of a smidgen of fuel than was put into it — but the most significant thing is how it was done.

The latest experiments, reported in this week's issue of the journal Nature, marked a first for the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. They're the first laser shots to produce a net gain in energy under any definition, and they're also the first to show evidence of a mechanism that's essential if controlled fusion is ever to become a reality.

Submission + - "Shark Tank" Competition Used to Select Education Tech

theodp writes: With support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the tech billionaire-backed NewSchools Venture Fund, the Silicon Valley Education Foundation used a competition based on the reality show Shark Tank to determine which educational technology entrepreneurs would win the right to have teachers test their technology on students for the rest of the year. 'Ten companies, selected from 80 original applicants,' reports Mercury News columnist Mike Cassidy, 'had three minutes to convince a panel of educators and then a panel of business brains that their ideas would be a difference maker in middle school math classes.' The winners? Blendspace, which helps teachers create digital lessons using Web-based content; Front Row Education, which generates individual quizzes for students and tracks their progress as they work through problems; LearnBop, which offers an automated tutoring system with content written by math teachers; and Zaption, which lets teachers use existing online videos as lessons by adding quizzes, discussion sections, images and text.

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