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Prince Says Internet Is Over 450

the_arrow writes "According to the artist currently known as Prince, 'The internet's completely over.' At least that what he says in an interview with the British newspaper Mirror. Quoting Prince: 'The internet's like MTV. At one time MTV was hip and suddenly it became outdated. Anyway, all these computers and digital gadgets are no good. They just fill your head with numbers and that can't be good for you.'"

Gamma Ray Mystery Reestablished By Fermi Telescope 95

eldavojohn writes "New observations from NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope reveal that our assumptions about the 'fog' of gamma rays in our universe are not entirely explained by black hole-powered jets emanating from active galaxies — as we previously hypothesized. For now, the researchers are representing the source of unaccounted gamma rays with a dragon (as in 'here be') symbol. A researcher explained that they are certain about this, given Fermi's observations: 'Active galaxies can explain less than 30 percent of the extragalactic gamma-ray background Fermi sees. That leaves a lot of room for scientific discovery as we puzzle out what else may be responsible.' And so we reopen the chapter on background gamma-rays in the science textbooks and hope this eventually sheds even more light on other mysteries of space — like star formation and dark matter."

Porsche Unveils 911 Hybrid With Flywheel Booster 197

MikeChino writes "Porsche has just unveiled its 911 GT3 R Hybrid, a 480 horsepower track vehicle ready to rock the 24-hour Nurburgring race this May. Porsche's latest supercar will use the same 911 production platform available to consumers today, with a few race-ready features including front-wheel hybrid drive and an innovative flywheel system that stores kinetic energy from braking and then uses it to provide a 160 horsepower burst of speed. The setup is sure to offer an advantage when powering out of turns and passing by other racers."

Pluto — a Complex and Changing World 191

astroengine writes "After 4 years of processing the highest resolution photographs the Hubble Space Telescope could muster, we now have the highest resolution view of Pluto's surface ever produced. Most excitingly, these new observations show an active world with seasonal changes altering the dwarf planet's surface. It turns out that this far-flung world has more in common with Earth than we would have ever imagined."

Next X-Prize — $10M For a Brain-Computer Interface 175

The first X-Prize was about reaching space. Now, reader destinyland writes "This time it's inner space, as Peter Diamandis holds a workshop at MIT discussing a $10 million X-Prize for building a brain-computer interface. This article includes video of Ray Kurzweil's 36-minute presentation, 'Merging the Human Brain with Its Creations,' and MIT synthetic neuroscientist Ed Boyden also made a presentation, followed by discussion groups about Input/Output, Control, Sensory, and Learning. Besides the ability to communicate by thought, the article argues, a Brain-Computer Interface X Prize 'will reward nothing less than a team that provides vision to the blind, new bodies to disabled people, and perhaps even a geographical 'sixth sense' akin to a GPS iPhone app in the brain.'"

Eight PHP IDEs Compared 206

snydeq writes "InfoWorld's Rick Grehen provides an in-depth comparative review of eight PHP IDEs: ActiveState's Komodo IDE, CodeLobster PHP Edition, Eclipse PHP Development Tools (PDT), MPSoftware's phpDesigner, NetBeans IDE for PHP, NuSphere's PhpED, WaterProof's PHPEdit, and Zend Studio. 'All of these PHP toolkits offer strong support for the other languages and environments (HTML, CSS, JavaScript, SQL database) that a PHP developer encounters. The key differences we discovered were in the tools they provide (HTML inspector, SQL management system) for various tasks, the quality of their documentation, and general ease-of-use,' Grehen writes.'"


For those of you who haven’t read the article yet, it essentially continues the endless speculation on the “new” US space policy and suggests the possibility of using the “Flexible Path” concept introduced by the Augustine commission as a spring board to future human exploration missions to Mars. These types of articles have been about as abundant as up-and-coming-stars/waitresses in Hollywood ever since President Obama took office, and I’m just about sick of them thank you very much.

Since the election of the new administration, we’ve had a much discussed transition team unable to maintain a professional dialog (anybody remember the “library spat” between Griffin and Garver?), a million dollar Augustine committee with insufficient political backbone to actually issue any clear directions, and a new NASA administrator whose only public visibility is when he makes appearances at local high schools.

Meanwhile, the rest of NASA seems engaged in a game of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic for a better view and never mind the iceberg ahead for the last 30 years: why is it that every “new” space architecture touted by one mastermind or another ignores the problem of lowering the cost of space access? The history of US human launch vehicle development since the Shuttle is so pathetic that it now leaves us bemoaning the day when a 30 year old system will be decommissioned leaving us with what, the brilliant new strategy of private industry providing human space access? We’ve been there before, it was called Orbital Space Plane – and it didn’t work then either.

The truth of the matter is that Earth-To orbit is hard, and the development of a truly innovative launch vehicle is an expensive and long-term effort. Unfortunately, the US government’s space investment policies have been about as long-lived as a common house-fly. After Shuttle there was National Aerospace Plane (NASP), after NASP there was 2nd Gen RLV, then there was VentureStar, Orbital Space Plane, Space Launch Initiative, Next Generation Launch Technologies, Constellation, and the most recent slated for the chopping block the Ares I & V launch family. Every program was shorter in duration than its predecessor, and each one was at a lower TRL than the previous one when it got canceled. When it comes to launch vehicle development, the only NASA solution to any kind of problem (technical or cost/schedule) seems to be to reset the clock and start over.

The current state of affairs is so discouraging, that even stalwart advocates of US human spaceflight programs have now resigned themselves to acting blasé towards the efforts by other nations – since the US can’t compete anymore, we talk of taking on a “mentoring” role, giving other nations an imperial pad on the back when they make it to their next space program milestones. We’ve been there a long time ago, good for you to catch up ? All the while the US celebrates its own most recent – highly dramatic - space accomplishments: we can now get Twitter feeds from our ISS astronauts so the world is immediately informed the next time s/he uses the urine collection device! Sign me up - not. Maybe it’s not all that surprising that this should be the flavor of US space accomplishments going forward, since marketing is about the only industry where this country still is a global leader. Let me do some marketing of my own then and apply some of the cutting edge tools of the trade: “it’s not how you feel about the product, but how the product makes you feel about yourself”. Well I don’t know how you feel about the US human space program these days, but I’m getting to the point where I’m embarrassed to tell people that I toiled in it for the last 15 years, with exactly zero to show for it.

Maybe President Obama will surprise us all and take the leash of Charlie Bolden so he can actually exercise some of his leadership skills, but already there is a toxic miasma of special interests swirling around the impending retirement of the Shuttle. What we need are less space agendas, and more clearly focused space policy. What we need is to get rid of the US paranoid isolationist legislation called ITAR, so the US aerospace workforce can once again participate in the international dialogue. What we need is a long-term policy commitment on how to solve the problem of getting into orbit at less than 7 figure price tags. How are we ever going to visit Mars, when we can’t even make it onto the front porch without using our grandfather’s crutches?


The Apple Paradox, Closed Culture & Free-Thinking Fans 945

waderoush writes "The secrecy surrounding the expected Apple tablet computer is only the latest example of the company's famously closed and controlling culture. Yet millions of designers, musicians, and other creative professionals love their Apple products, and the Apple brand is almost synonymous with free-thinking creativity. How can a company whose philosophy of information sharing is so at odds with that of most of its customers be so successful? This Xconomy essay explores three possible explanations. 1) Closed innovation, overseen by a guiding genius like Steve Jobs, may be the only way to build such coherent, compelling products. 2) Apple's hardware turns out to be more 'open' than the company intended — Jobs originally wanted to keep third-party apps off the iPhone, for example. 3) Related to #1: customers are pragmatic about quality, and the open source and free software movements haven't produced anything remotely as useful as Mac OS X and the iPhone."

NASA Prepping Plans For Flexible Path To Mars 175

FleaPlus writes "A group at NASA has been formulating a 'Flexible Path' to Mars architecture, which many expect will be part of the soon-to-be-announced reboot of NASA's future plans. NASA's prior architecture spends much of its budget on creating two in-house rockets, the Ares I and V, and would yield no beyond-LEO human activity until a lunar landing sometime in the 2030s. In contrast, the Flexible Path would produce results sooner, using NASA's limited budget to develop and gain experience with the technologies (human and robotic) needed to progressively explore and establish waypoints at Lagrange points, near-Earth asteroids, the Martian moon Phobos, Mars, and other possible locations (e.g. the Moon, Venus flyby). Suggested interim goals include constructing giant telescopes in deep space, learning how to protect Earth from asteroids, establishing in-space propellant depots, and harvesting resources/fuel from asteroids and Phobos to supply Moon/Mars-bound vehicles."

Heat Engines Shrunk By Seven Orders of Magnitude 168

KentuckyFC writes "The vast majority of motors that power our planes, trains, and automobiles are heat engines. They rely on the rapid expansion of gas as it heats up to generate movement. But attempts to shrink them by any significant amount have mostly ended in failure. Today, the smallest heat engines have a volume of some 10^7 cubic micrometers. Now group of Dutch engineers has built a heat engine that is seven orders of magnitude smaller than this. The engine consists of a piezoelectric bar that expands and contracts in the normal piezoelectric way. However it also heats up and cools at the same time causing a thermal expansion and contraction, which lags the piezoelectric displacement. By carefully choosing the frequency of the driving AC current, the Dutch team found a resonant effect in which the thermal expansion and contraction amplifies the mechanical motion, making it a true heat engine. Operating the thermodynamic cycle in reverse turns the device into a heat pump or refrigerator. The total volume of the device is just 0.5 cubic micrometres."
The Courts

Microsoft Dodges Class Action In WGA Lawsuit 256

An anonymous reader writes "A lawsuit that accused Microsoft of misleading consumers to download and install an update for Windows Genuine Advantage under the guise that it was critical security update will go forward, but not as a class action. A federal judge has refused to certify the lawsuit as a class action, which would have meant that anyone who owned a Windows XP PC in mid-2006 could join the case without having to hire an attorney. As Windows XP was easily the most popular operating system at the time, the ruling means Redmond has managed to avoid hundreds of millions in potential damages."

Jeremy Allison Calls Microsoft Dangerous Elephant 306

oranghutan writes "At the annual Linux.conf.au event being held in Wellington, NZ, one of the lead developers for the Samba Team (and Google employee) Jeremy Allison described Microsoft as 'an elephant that needs to be turned to stop it trampling the open source community.' Allison has been an outspoken critic of the vendor since he quit Novell over a deal it did with Microsoft that he saw as dangerous to open source intentions. And now he has evolved his argument to incorporate new case studies to explain why Microsoft's use of patents and its general tactics on free software are harmful.

Scientists To Breed the Auroch From Extinction 277

ImNotARealPerson writes "Scientists in Italy are hoping to breed back from extinction the mighty auroch, a bovine species which has been extinct since 1627. The auroch weighed 2,200 pounds (1000kg) and its shoulders stood at 6'6". The beasts once roamed most of Asia and northern Africa. The animal was depicted in cave paintings and Julius Caesar described it as being a little less in size than an elephant. A member of the Consortium for Experimental Biotechnology suggests that 99% of the auroch's DNA can be recreated from genetic material found in surviving bone material. Wikipedia mentions that researchers in Poland are working on the same problem."

NASA Designs All-Electric Personal Flight Vehicle 276

MikeChino writes "NASA is currently working on a personal aircraft that will put jet packs to shame. The Puffin is an all-electric one-man airplane that could be the start of some new and amazing air travel technology. With two prop electric engines, lithium phosphate batteries and a top speed of almost 300 mph, the vertical take off and landing vehicle was originally designed for covert military insertions because it has a lower heat signature than combustion engines. The Puffin would also be super quiet – 10 times quieter than current low-noise helicopters, and since the engine is electric it has no flight ceiling and can fly up to 9,150 meters high, uninhibited by thin air."

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