hcdejong writes: "At 18:56 UTC, the first SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket achieved orbit insertion after a successful launch. Earlier today, there were some hiccups: the launch was aborted at T-0:00 (around 17:30 UTC) due to an out-of-limit startup parameter."
hcdejong writes: "Australian researchers have found evidence that working in an open plan office could be a health hazard.
Dr. Vinesh Oommen from Queensland's University of Technology and colleagues conducted a large-scale review on existing research regarding open-plan offices and how they affect employees. From the abstract:
Research evidence shows that employees face a multitude of problems such as the loss of privacy, loss of identity, low work productivity, various health issues, overstimulation and low job satisfaction when working in an open plan work environment. Conclusion: Managers need to have a better understanding of open plan work environments before embracing such workplace designs. A multidisciplinary approach is recommended when decisions are being made in relation to which type of environment is better suited to the requirements of their employees as this has an impact on workforce productivity and job satisfaction.
hcdejong writes: "Dutch R&D company FRIEND claims they have made a quantum leap in electric motors for e.g. hybrid vehicles. Their motor develops 37 kW at an efficiency of 95%. More interesting is its weight, only 15 kg. The large electric motor from a Prius (MG2) develops 50 kW and weighs 45 kg.
Friend also claim their motor is easier/cheaper to produce and recycle than other motors, they say a hybrid using this motor can be produced for only 6000 more than the petrol car it's derived from.
The inventor, Frits van Breemen-Schneider, has a background in radio-controlled toys, an industry that has seen a lot of innovation in light-weight, high-power electric motors."
hcdejong writes: "The Dutch commission that has been investigating the electoral process presented its final report yesterday (Dutch only). The conclusions and recommendations are devastating to the current Dutch practice of voting electronically, and to plans for voting via the internet.
Paraphrasing from the report:
the current electronic voting machines do not comply with the basic requirements of an election (e.g. transparency, controllability, integrity).
the paper ballot still offers the best way to comply with these basic requirements.
the commission recommends using an electronic system to generate the paper ballot. The voter must be allowed to check the ballot before it is deposited in a locked box.
votes can be counted electronically (by scanning the paper ballots), with the option of a manual recount.
The deputy minister for the interior Bijleveld said in an initial response (Dutch only) that she would revoke the certification of the current generation of electronic voting machines. The minister plans to present an official Cabinet position on the electoral process in two months. The next elections (for the European Parliament, 2009) may see a return to paper ballots."
hcdejong writes: "The BBC reports on a recent study into the short-term health effects of electromagnetic radiation from e.g. cell phone towers.
The study conducted double-blind tests and concluded:
" Short-term exposure to a typical GSM base station-like signal did not affect well-being or physiological functions in sensitive or control individuals. Sensitive individuals reported elevated levels of arousal when exposed to a UMTS signal. Further analysis, however, indicated that this difference was likely to be due to the effect of order of exposure rather than the exposure itself. "
During these tests, the people who claim to be electrosensitive were unable to distinguish between signal on/off.
But when they thought the signal was on they reported more distress. They also had measurably sweatier skin and higher blood pressure, suggesting the problem has a psychological basis.
The study was funded by the Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research programme, a body which is itself funded by industry and government."
hcdejong writes: "Dutch research organisation TNO has developed a desalinisation technique that at last, promises to be inexpensive enough to be used on a large scale.
The process is called Memstill (a contraction of Membrane and deStillation). Salt water is run through a condensor, on which water vapour condenses. Energy from the vapour is transferred to the salt water, which warms up. More energy is then added from an external heat source, making the salt water warm enough for evaporation. In a membrane array, the evaporation escapes through a membrane that allows the vapour to pass through, but which stops liquid water. The vapour ends up at the condensor.
The external heat source can be just about anything. The required temperature is only 50-100 C, which means that e.g. cooling water from an industrial plant can be used. Solar heating also works.
Thanks to this 'free' heat, TNO estimates that a production plant will be able to make freshwater for only $ 0.30-0.40 per cubic metre, lower than any other desalinisation technique, see this PDF for a comparison. The current price for potable water is about 1.50 Euro/cubic metre in the Netherlands.
hcdejong writes: "Yesterday, the Dutch government announced that use of the SDU NewVote voting computer will not be allowed in the upcoming general election. The NewVote is one of two voting machines in use in the Netherlands, with a market share of about 10%.
The NewVote contains a Windows PC with a touch screen. The AIVD (Dutch secret service) found they could read the signals broadcast by the NewVote from dozens of meters away, and determine which candidate was being voted for.
The machines built by competitor Nedap also broadcast readable signals, as shown by We don't trust voting computers. These have a shorter range (less than 10m). Nedap is working to reduce these emissions, and to remove any readable information from them. These modifications will be tested again before the election.
According to the letter (warning, PDF) written by minister Nicolai, there have been two investigations: one by the AIVD into reading votes remotely, and one by research lab TNO into hacking the machines themselves (changing the software etc.).
For the election, the machines will be sealed more thoroughly than before, and EPROMs will be replaced with ROMs.
After the election, several hundred machines will be tested."