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Transportation

The Specter of Gasoline At $5 a Gallon 1205

Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that gas prices are already at record highs for the winter months — averaging $4.32 in California and $3.73 a gallon nationally. As summer approaches, demand for gasoline rises, typically pushing prices up around 20 cents a gallon. But gas prices could rise another 50 cents a gallon or more, analysts say, if the diplomatic and economic standoff over Iran's nuclear ambitions escalates into military conflict or there is some other major supply disruption. 'If we get some kind of explosion — like an Israeli attack or some local Iranian revolutionary guard decides to take matters in his own hands and attacks a tanker — than we'd see oil prices push up 20 to 25 percent higher and another 50 cents a gallon at the pump,' says Michael C. Lynch, president of Strategic Energy and Economic Research. A sharp rise in the prices of oil and gas would crimp the nation's budding economic recovery would cause big political problems at home for President Obama, who is already being attacked by Republican presidential candidates over gas prices and his overall energy policies. On the other hand, environmentalists see high gas prices as a helpful step toward the development of alternative energy. Secretary Treasury Steven Chu notably said in 2008 'we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe' to make Americans trade in their 'love affair with the automobile' for a marriage to mass transit. In the meantime President Obama is in a bind because any success in tightening sanctions on Iran could squeeze global oil supplies, pushing up prices and causing serious economic repercussions at home and abroad."
Hardware

Submission + - Speech-jamming gun silences from 30 meters (extremetech.com)

MrSeb writes: "Japanese researchers have created a hand-held gun that can jam the words of speakers who are more than 30 meters (100ft) away. The gun has two purposes, according to the researchers: At its most basic, this gun could be used in libraries and other quiet spaces to stop people from speaking — but its second application is a lot more chilling. The researchers were looking for a way to stop 'louder, stronger' voices from saying more than their fair share in conversation. The paper reads: 'We have to establish and obey rules for proper turn-taking when speaking. However, some people tend to lengthen their turns or deliberately interrupt other people when it is their turn in order to establish their presence rather than achieve more fruitful discussions. Furthermore, some people tend to jeer at speakers to invalidate their speech.' In other words, this speech-jamming gun was built to enforce 'proper' conversations. Can you imagine the effect of such a device if you used it at a political rally, when pointed at Santorum, Romney, Paul, or Obama? Or what if it was used on the audience by a totalitarian state?"
Privacy

Submission + - Startup wants to peek through your home's wired cameras (networkworld.com)

alphadogg writes: The little cameras in your home are multiplying. There are the ones you bought, perhaps your SLR or digital camera, but also those that just kind of show up in your current phone, your old phone, your laptop, your game console, and soon your TV and set-top box. Varun Arora, founder of startup GotoCamera in Singapore, wants you to turn them all on and let his company's algorithms analyze what they show, then sell the results as marketing data, in a sort of visual version of what Google and other firms do with search results and free email services.
The Almighty Buck

Submission + - Scientific study show higher social class predicts increased unethical behavior (wsj.com)

liric writes: A recent scientific study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has showed that higher social class predicts increased unethical behavior or in simple terms the richer you are the more likely you are to behave amorally.

The study involved experiments in the real world as well as laboratory scenarios and went so far as to show that higher-class people will literally take candy from the mouths of children.

Mars

Mars-Bound Probe Serves As Radiation Guinea Pig 67

sighted writes "This week's huge solar storm will benefit future astronauts, thanks to the rover Curiosity, now on its way to Mars. The rover is equipped with an instrument that measures the radiation exposure that could affect a human astronaut en route to the Red Planet. Scientists are just starting to pore over the data from the blast of particles. Don't worry about the poor robotic geologist, though: 'No harmful effects to the Mars Science Laboratory have been detected from this solar event,' says NASA."
Patents

USPTO Declares Invalid Third of Three Critical Rambus Patents 113

slew writes "This is a followup to this earlier story about 2 of 3 of Rambus's 'critical' patents being invalidated. Apparently now it's a hat-trick." There's something that seems unsavory and wasteful about a business environment in which a company's stock value "fluctuates sharply on its successes and failures in patent litigation and licensing." The linked article offers a brief but decent summary of the way Rambus has profited over the years from these now-invalidated patents.
Android

Submission + - Android Malware May Have Infected 5 Million Users (computerworld.com)

bonch writes: A massive Android malware campaign may be responsible for duping as many as 5 million users into downloading the Android.Counterclan infection from the Google Android Market. The trojan collects the user's personal information, modifies the home page, and displays unwanted advertisements. It is packaged in 13 different applications, some of which have been on the store for at least a month. Several of the malicious apps are still available on the Android Market as of 3 P.M. ET. Symantec has posted the full list of infected applications.
Politics

Submission + - Bill to expatriate 'enemy' U.S. citizens in commit (govtrack.us) 3

Dodger73 writes: "http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h112-3166 shows the Enemy Expatriation Act, H.R. 3166, introduced by Rep. Charles Dent (R-PA). According to the language posted, it would "add engaging in or supporting hostilities against the United States to the list of acts for which United States nationals would lose their nationality". H.R. 3166 amends the Immigration and Nationality Act by "adding any conflict subject to the laws of war" to the reasons to expatriate U.S. citizens. Full text of the bill here: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/billtext.xpd?bill=h112-3166."
Crime

Mexican Cartel Beheads Another Blogger 536

sanzibar writes "The Zetas killed and beheaded an Internet blogger Wednesday in Nuevo Laredo, the fourth slaying in the city involving people associated with social media sites since early September. '"This happened to me for not understanding that I shouldn't report on the social networks," advised a note left before dawn with the man's body at a key intersection in the city's wealthier neighborhood. The victim, identified on social networking sites only by his nickname — Rascatripas or Belly Scratcher — reportedly helped moderate a site called En Vivo that posted news of shootouts and other activities of the Zetas, the narcotics and extortion gang that all but controls the city.'"

Feed Google News Sci Tech: Safety regulators open probe of electric vehicles after Volt fire - Los Angeles (google.com)


Reuters

Safety regulators open probe of electric vehicles after Volt fire
Los Angeles Times
Federal safety officials have launched a probe into whether the batteries in Chevrolet's Volt plug-in hybrid sedan are prone to fires. The probe by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was launched after a Volt caught fire following a ...
GM Volt Fire Said to Prompt U.S. Probe of Lithium BatteriesSan Francisco Chronicle
Regulators Examine Electric Car Batteries After FireNew York Times
Fire in GM's electric Chevy Volt prompts US probeAFP
Reuters-Chicago Tribune-WSOC Charlotte
all 308 news articles

Feed Ars Technica: Tough Droid Razr teardown reveals user-unfriendly assembly (arstechnica.com)

The Motorola Droid Razr released today has the folks over at iFixit shaking their collective head over its user repairability. The site tore down the phone to find an impressively tight arrangement affording the phone its 0.28-inch thickness, but one that uses a lot of adhesive and requires a tedious, sometimes precarious disassembly.

One of the big offenders to the Droid Razr's repairability is its LCD screen, which is permanently mated to the covering glass. Even if owners manage to break only the glass, they'll have to pay to replace the LCD as well. The rest of the phone is also secured with generous helpings of adhesive, which earned it even more demerits.

The 1750mAh battery powers the phone through contact points, rather than the more common sockets or soldered wires. A Torx T5 screwdriver is required to free the battery, but once the screw is taken care of, users need only pull the "remove battery" tab. Inside the team found 16GB of storage from Toshiba and 4Gb of Samsung RAM, among a bevy of other chips covered by tiny EMI shields.

IFixit notes that the back of the phone, despite being made of Kevlar, was very flexible, but should provide "tough protection" for the internals. The rest of the plastic frames and casing were secured so firmly, the team found them "tedious" to remove, saying that the parts "felt like they would break at any moment."

Due to the mated LCD and glass, difficult disassembly, and injudicious application of adhesive, iFixit awards the Droid Razr a 4 out of 10 for repairability. Those who are not very interested in doing their own repairs, or are very interested in doing difficult repairs, can pick the phone up as of today.

Read the comments on this post



Space

Submission + - Helium White Dwarfs Bear New Quasiparticle (technologyreview.com)

eldavojohn writes: Helium white dwarf stars are now theorized to produce a new kind of quasiparticle that would explain a known temperature anomaly between helium white dwarfs and vanilla white dwarfs (lumps of charcoal). Since helium can form a Bose-Einstein condensate and there are extra constraints inside such a dense object, a new quasiparticle emerges. Their models claim it 'reduces the specific heat of the white dwarf core by two orders of magnitude compared to a crystalline core.' But even with that figured in, measurements of some nearby ancient helium white dwarfs show that they don't fit the specific temperature curve exactly. So some questions remain with the possible explanation that these stars undergo internal transition late in their age. The heavy reading is available on the prepublication site arxiv.
Windows

What's Keeping You On Windows? 1880

tearmeapart writes "It may be time again for another discussion/flamewar on the reasons why a lot of us are (still) using Microsoft. The last big discussion on Slashdot was close to 10 years ago, and a lot has changed since then: Windows XP and 7 have proven to be stable (and memories of Windows ME are mostly gone.) There are many more distributions for Linux, especially commercial options. Distributions like Ubuntu and CentOS have made GNU/Linux more friendly. Options for word processing, spreadsheets, etc. have grown. Apple and their products have changed considerably, though their philosophy hasn't. Microsoft Silverlight came and is on the way out. Wine and solutions like Transgaming have matured. So... why are a lot of us still using Windows? What would it take for us to switch?"

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