Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! ×

Comment Un oh. Explosives disguised as batteries? (Score 2) 109

Based on the fact that they allow certain (small) electronics, as another posted noted it may be some sort of physical attack.

Maybe someone has figured out to (expertly) disguise small explosives as batteries? I don't know how current X-ray technologies (in the airport) work but maybe they can't easily distinguish between a lithium ion battery and an explosive? So if you were able to package them in the same volume and then wire them so that they "look" on the scanner like batteries then they would pass that review.

While it might be possible to detect this alteration by asking the passenger to prove that they are, indeed, unaltered electronic devices by turning them on, I can image a decent electronics guy could leave in one small battery so it could be powered on briefly (it would probably have to be wired differently to provide the necessary voltage). In addition this would cause the (already long?) delays to become longer as passengers would have to open them and boot up the devices (and afterwards shut them down and repack them). I think there may be neutron(?) based scanners that can detect the nitrogen compounds in explosives but I believe they are large and very expensive and would again add delays.

What's interesting is that (so far) this is not a worldwide prohibition but thankfully (at least for people not planning on traveling to and from the middle east/africa) restricted to just that area. So the ability to do this possible physical "hack" is only for now in the middle east and they only think people heading to the U.S. (and not say Europe) will use it. It must by some pretty specific intel to generate this kind of warning. Maybe the security measures/machines in that part of the world are not capable of reliably discriminating these attacks. Then again some restrictions, as other posters have mentioned, only apply to travel to the U.S., for example at Taipei's airport you must go through an additional screening step when on flights bound to the U.S. so perhaps it's just due to more heightened security awareness/paranoia on the American end.

Comment Re:Critical lack of lack of GRAVITY (Score 1) 198

Whoops! Yes stupid mistake that I made in my (parent) post. Mars is most definitely 1/3 G and the moon is 1/6 G. While humans are (probably) not going to be able to develop normally on the Moon (then again, I'm just guessing), I'm hoping that Mars might just provide enough gravity so that they would develop "normally".

Maybe they'll end up to be REALLY tall, super basketball players (just from development in 1/3 G, not counting evolutionary changes). Unfortunately, they'll probably never be able to stand (comfortably) on Earth.

Comment Critical lack of lack of GRAVITY (Score 5, Interesting) 198

Like others who posted here, I'm very disappointed that the "CubeSat" is, in fact, not a "Sat" (Satellite) but just a dummy test environment here on plain old Earth. I guess it would have been nice to think that they had launched the thing into orbit (like on that 100+ satellite carrying Indian rocket) but I guess the cost and difficulty of making it space worthy (let alone human-spaceflight worthy to be sent to the ISS) was far greater than the budget of this marketing stunt. (And it was a stunt, as other posters have mentioned they eliminated so many of the bio-hazardous ingredients known to be on Mars, the soil was hardly an analog of Martian soil.)

However, this stupid marketing stunt did remind me of one thing that really needs to be examined, how does GRAVITY and the (partial) lack thereof affect our LONG-TERM prospects in space and throughout the solar system? Because except for maybe the clouds of Venus (and Saturn!) there will not be anywhere else in the solar system where we can find a remotely habitable environment that shares 1G. Will humans be able to become pregnant, bring babies to term, give birth and have them develop normally in a non-1G environment? If not in zero G what about on the moon (1/3 G) or Mars (1/6 G)? That is a huge question for which there has been no definitive research because it is very hard (impossible?) to mimic a less than 1G environment (even if you float an animal its internal organs are still subjected to 1G).

So what to do? Well I heard there WAS a plan to put a large centrifuge on the space station which could simulate various G levels for long periods of time. If so, while I'm sure it wouldn't have been large enough for humans to use (without massive disorientation due to the short radius), it would've been fine for mice and other small animal studies. This would've given us CRITICAL information on whether mammals at least would be able to reproduce on the moon or mars.

Without this data, the first colonists to go to the Moon and Mars are taking a tremendous risk with their most precious of possessions, their descendants. Unfortunately, their experiment (using their own families as subjects) and pioneering this new biological frontier could end in a terrible tragedy not just for them but for mankind.

Comment First Strike danger (Score 2) 233

For those of you reading, these are some follow up thoughts to my previous comments "China is reaping what it sowed".

The U.S. is facing a decision of historic proportions. I'm sure the Pentagon has told the Donald that within a year or two, maybe less, North Korea will have an ICBM with a nuclear warhead capable of reaching much of the United States. Not since the Cuban missile crisis has the U.S. faced such a dangerous AND unpredictable threat (the Cuban missile crisis, while not as unpredictable because the Soviets were apparently a lot more "sane", was more dangerous because the weapons were located much closer with presumably much more powerful warheads).

So there is a really big INCENTIVE for the U.S. to take out the ability for North Korea to take the final steps to this capability BEFORE they get this capability. I'm sure they would also more or less permanently reduce North Korea's nuclear infrastructure to rubble (it took many decades of deprivation to get to where they are, presumably with heightened awareness the Chinese won't be quite so accommodating to their attempts to rebuild the bomb). Perhaps the U.S. will also try to take out the top of the North Korean government, it would be easy enough to say a bomb went astray (as if any justification was necessary).

Unfortunately there may also be a really big COST if the U.S. does not completely wipe out all the bombs (and other weapons of mass destruction, as NK has shown, they have produced at least minute quantities of the deadliest chemical weapon known to the public, VX). There's a chance that, the Dear Leader will see he will have a very limited lifetime left surrounded by those around him who want him dead (because he killed off so many of his "enemies") that is if he isn't dead already from the strike against the nukes. The only thing that protects him now is his aura of power from threatening the U.S. and S. Korea with his nukes; without them he's just another dictator.

So, if he knows he's going to die, he might just try to take as many with him as possible, not from the U.S., but from its capitalist lackeys. S. Korea and Japan. If he's got any nukes left there's (I think) a much better chance he'd be able get them through the defenses surrounding Seoul than across the Pacific to L.A. As I mentioned, it's less than 50km to Seoul from the North Korean border, that's only 1-2 minutes ballistic missile flight time. Or he could use a low flying drone/fighter/helicopter to evade radar. Or he could put it on one of the mini-subs that every now and then are found prowling around S. Korean waters. Or maybe send it via diplomatic carrier (I don't know if this'll work in S. Korea, maybe Japan). Or maybe just explode one at the border along with a few tons of radioactive waste left over from processing; the fallout would be a great radiological weapon (think Fukushima but if it happened near Tokyo).

The problem here for the U.S. and South Korea is that while the incentives are all for the U.S. to conduct a pre-emptive strike, the costs are (almost) all borne by South Korea (and maybe Japan). This would be the time when the U.S. and South Korea really need to stand together as one and present a united front to their opponent so that IF a strike was made, preparations ranging from an immediate paratrooper assault on Pyongyang to prevent a counter-strike to getting people into shelters. Unfortunately as I mentioned before, South Korea is leaderless and would likely follow any such dramatic decision with great hesitation if at all.

This is what North Korea is counting on, that's why they're pushing now. The real wild card is what will the mercurial President of the United States; who said to the campaign that "he would make South Korea (and Japan) be responsible for their own defense" to some more recent comments he made (I think so far only to the Japanese) that the alliance was rock solid. Unfortunately the orange haired one may have the reputation of being somewhat of a paper tiger after he challenged the Chinese on the Taiwan question only to backtrack in a private phone call with their premiere. So the North Koreans feel emboldened by a stupid or weak (or stupidly weak or weakly stupid) president. Then again, maybe out of some desire to prove he's not a paper tiger, he'll attack. Such is the state of our world that it feels like momentous decisions affected the lives of millions are not being made by the wise or rational but rather by the vain and insecure.

Time is not on our side. Unless the North Korean missile program hits some roadblocks (either "natural" or through spy craft) the U.S. will lose its first strike option in a short amount of time. My guess is that if there is to be war, it could happen in the next six months (before a new South Korean president is elected and a strong alliance reaffirmed). Let's see what Trump tweets next (can he issue the launch codes via twitter?)

Comment China is reaping what they sowed (Score 5, Interesting) 233

By supporting this despotic regime for more than half a century, the Chinese will have to accept the deployment of a (more advanced) missile defense system (THAAD). While I'm sure they're going to retaliate against the South Koreans (and America?) possibly through a boycott and diplomatic sanctions, the South Koreans may have no choice but to try to improve their defenses. If you were faced with a nuclear attack wouldn't you be willing to suffer a bit economically in order to get a better defense?

Of course if the Chinese push too far or the North Koreans convince the South that their defenses are useless then we may see the worst possible outcome for the Chinese (and probably everyone); South Korea will build the bomb. This is different from the U.S. having some tactical nukes place in South Korea but presumably under control of the U.S.; a S. Korean nuke will make it very clear to North Korea that if they bomb Seoul that North Korea will be completely and utterly wiped out. It won't matter to the South if the North can strike the U.S., they won't care. Of course there's a very good chance that once both Koreas have the bomb that Japan will quickly follow suit, 2000 years of animosity isn't forgotten that easily. This will greatly complicate China's domination of Asia because they'll always have to worry about a catastrophic (even if suicidal) conflict with their formerly vassal states. For example, if China and Japan then got into a serious dispute over the Sendoku islands the whole world would hold its breath.

One of the reasons why this is coming to a head now is that North Korea realizes that South Korea is without an effective government. The president has been impeached and is awaiting a ruling from the high court to make it official. In the meantime, the interim leader doesn't have the political capital to make big decisions without the mandate of an election. So North Korea is pushing and pushing and is trying to see what it can get. Unfortunately for them (and everyone) the only person they could negotiate with is someone who's grasp of the truth is tenuous and he is erratic to put it mildly (especially at 3am, twitter time). So there's a giant game of chicken being played blindfolded.

If the American missile defenses were reliable then perhaps this could all be avoided; the North Koreans could threaten all they want but a nuclear warhead couldn't make it to American soil. This was the essence of the American position; the Americans realized it's much harder to intercept short range missile/cruise missile attacks traveling the 50km from North Korea to downtown Seoul (2 min. flight time). So despite the nice visuals of Patriot missiles hitting Scuds, the U.S. told the South that when (not if) North Korea could nuke Seoul, we'd retaliate for you with our nukes. That capability kept the North from having a real threat. Now however, the thought that the U.S. would retaliate for South Korea becomes less credible when North Korea can then (in theory) take out Los Angeles or Washington D.C. Everyone realizes this, so if the North gains a credible ICBM capability and if the U.S. lacks a credible defense, the American guarantee is gone and South Korea is left to the wolves (North Korea). Hence the panic over the inadequacies of the American missile defense/desire for better local defense.

Returning the subject of this article, the reason why the American defenses don't work (reliably) comes down to simple physics. My physics professor at Harvard was one of the ten(?) members of the scientific commission evaluating Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars" missile defense system. (Having been given top secret clearance he told me about a trip he had to the Groton, Connecticut sub base into the bowels of one of the "boomers" (SLBM subs) where he was led into a giant space with huge tubes running from floor to ceiling. The admiral escorting him turned to him and said, "Professor Horowitz, you're in the same room as a 200 H-bombs". He told me that basically the problem of hitting a bullet with a bullet greatly understates the problem; the bullet is painted black against black, is maybe on an erratic trajectory, maybe has decoys, maybe there are nuclear explosions nearby interfering with your sensors, at a time when you are likely to be least ready. All of this in a volume of millions of cubic kilometers in SPACE far from your command and control systems.

Oh and while the cost of the attacker's missile might be say 10M dollars; the potential damage (if it can get through) could be in the TRILLIONS. There's a lot of bang for the buck so to speak (which is why nuclear weapons were developed of course) which is why the attacker is sparing no expense to make as many of them as they can. Only one has to get through. So while computers and sensors have improved by many orders of magnitude since Reagan, it's still a very hard problem, and it is a problem in which a 56% success rate just isn't remotely good enough.

So because of physics and despite the hundreds of billions spent, my professor was then and is still right; anti ballistic missile defenses are not good enough against a nuclear attack where even a few (or one) failure may mean millions will die. The Chinese, by coddling and aiding and abetting a "genocidal" regime (can you call it that when it has attacked its own people?) had many many opportunities to alter the course of this tragic outcome. That they did not is a stain (from the blood of millions) on their hardly unblemished reputation.

Soap box, ballot box, jury box, router box, ammo box, TATA box- (With apologies to Stephen Decatur Miller, may he rest in peace). Updated for the 21st century, router box is BEFORE ammo box because while a cyberattack may cause more damage than a mere bullet, it will likely put the patriot at less risk (so use it first!). Of course the TATA box (which may soon be within reach of many) may put EVERYONE at risk but it changes the expression "Give me liberty or give us (meaning maybe everyone) death"

Comment Obvious deep space travel use (Score 1) 94

Ok, even if this only becomes partially successful, you could imagine it being used for an attempt by desperate individuals (or a desperate world) to send people to another star.

If only 25% of the individuals frozen, revived successfully after a centuries long trip, would it be worth it? And this is assuming the nanoparticles infected into them were non-toxic. I guess if the literal survival of the human race depended on it (I believe a third of the colonists at Plymouth didn't make it through the first winter).

Would be kinda creepy going into crysosleep knowing only a few would wake up (undamaged).

Comment What happens when it's on something HOT? (Score 1) 203

Ok, so what happens if you put this on something really HOT like a car engine running at 500C or maybe a jet engine at 1000C or a rocket engine at 2000C? (Of course, you'd replace the plastic "film" with something else or perhaps just apply the nano-beads directly.)

Would they REALLY benefit from the "huge temperature difference ... to outer space", so much so that they didn't require complex cooling systems but could instead just radiate their heat directly? (I presume that this would mean the hot parts would need to be directly exposed to the environment; we'll need IR transparent car hoods!). Would power plants be able to forgo the use of condensers used to cool down the working fluid? So no more cooling towers? (Another poster may have implied this by saying the cooling could be much more efficient).

What about OTHER applications of heat re-radiation technologies? If you change the size of the nano-beads you change the emission frequency of the IR, right? How about coating this on surfaces to make aircraft and missiles invisible to the wavelengths used by IR detectors? (Maybe because they track the exhaust plume, still might work to disguise warheads/satellites free falling in space). How about putting this on clothing so that their body heat doesn't show up on IR cameras? (Maybe too broadband to be able to disguise). Of course, if the nano-beads could absorb ALL light and dump it into their narrow emission frequencies, you could get a very good (against a black background) cloak.

If you can make the nano-beads just a bit smaller, you could do the same tricks but with VISIBLE LIGHT. Think paints that would really glow at specific frequencies. Shine a blue light on it and it would glow red! Even if expensive, it could be used for specialized inks (think anti-counterfeiting). Then again, maybe this is the principle behind quantum dots so maybe nothing new.

I'm wondering, can these beads up-convert the frequencies? That is can they take a large amount of long wavelength IR and make it into a lesser amount of short wavelength IR? (It would have to be a "lesser" amount otherwise there would be a violation of the conservation of energy). Would this violate some basic quantum principle? Isn't this what Einstein got his Nobel prize for (the photo-electric effect)?

Many questions, if only I'd studied thermodynamics and quantum mechanics!

Comment Yes, you see it here in S.E. Asia (Score 4, Interesting) 516

So I'm very familiar with two countries, Vietnam and Thailand.

Vietnam, as you all know, went through a difficult occupation by the French, then the Americans, before having their country divided in two and then suffering a devastating civil war which killed millions of people (4 million?) before unification. The result? Everyone, more or less, started out very poor (during the late 70s and early 80s starvation was a real fear). So everyone was equal. Now though, inequality is climbing (fast) as the winners have "capitalized" (ironic comment intended on the supposedly communist country) on their ability to extract a greater and greater portion of the country's rising wealth. Still, for a time, society was remarkably fluid and anyone could be anyone (for example the ex-prime minister came from humble beginnings).

Thailand has not been conquered by a foreign power (ever?), certainly not by the westerners who did so to every other country in S.E. Asia. (That was due to the astuteness of their past king(s) who played the foreigners off against each other). So the power structures in Thailand have remained static for hundreds of years. In the last century, because of the great increase in wealth coming from modernization and technology, much of it was captured by the ruling class. Thus you have an urban elite that was (until recently) running the show from Bangkok (the "Hi So" or High Society) and getting richer and richer in the process. A populist (yet corrupt) billionaire politician used this great divide to sweep himself into power (sound familiar) only to be ultimately blocked by the military (acting on behest of the existing power structures).

Comment Does this mean more fuel for thrusters? (Score 2) 58

So if they aren't going to be using the main engine for a major trajectory shift, does this mean that more fuel is available for the thrusters?

In my long (non) professional career of following of various space programs, it always seems that the limiting factors to a mission is 1) the availability of fuel for the thrusters (for minor course corrections, attitude control/dumping of momentum) and 2) how many reaction wheels are still working (although there have been creative solutions such as using sunlight pressure for attitude control). If Juno's thrusters same the same fuel (and fuel tank!) as the main engine then perhaps it now has access to a much larger supply and can conceivably last a long long time. :)

Of course, Juno's limiting factor WAS the intense radiation it was going to have to have faced but perhaps the new orbit has reduced that substantially. In fact, if there IS a lot more fuel available, perhaps it can use the fuel (once the primary mission is over) to get it out of the high radiation regions (perhaps by some creative gravity assists from the Galilean moons) and perform a multi-year "tour" of the Jovian system. This would possibly make up for the scientific tragedy that befell the Galileo probe when its high gain antennae didn't open and the data rate dropped by (three? more?) orders of magnitude. It'd be fantastic to get some really good pictures of Europa (life!) and Io (volcanoes!).

Or just put it in a relatively distant parking orbit around Jupiter and (because it's solar powered) let it monitor the Jovian system for (hopefully) decades

Submission + - US National Academy of Sciences allows genetic modified children (

wisebabo writes: Hey! Slashdot labelled this as *s*p*a*m* and it isn't! So I'm resubmitting this

Looks like genetically editing human germ line cells is not longer completely verboten (yes the allusion to German Nazi era eugenics by use of the word "verboten" was deliberate). A National Academy of Sciences panel has approved, under narrow (for now) circumstances, genetically modified children. Now with CRISPR-cas9, it has become easier to precisely edit the human genome.

Even if they manage to keep the circumstances "narrow" it seems obvious that other nations will not be so cautious. For example China where they've created genetically modified "super dogs" and you can even buy genetically modified "micro pigs" that don't grow big! Of course China is not the only country doing this, New Zealand is pursuing an audacious project to use genetic engineering to WIPE OUT entire species (as I submitted earlier in slashdot).

Anyway, if you're bothered by the "narrow circumstances" clause in the NAS recommendation, go to Vietnam (or another one of many countries) where there are no particular regulations regarding genetic engineering.

Submission + - SPAM: Designer Babies on the way! 5

wisebabo writes: Looks like genetically editing human germ line cells is not longer completely verboten (yes the allusion to German Nazi era eugenics by use of the word "verboten" was deliberate). A National Academy of Sciences panel has approved, under narrow (for now) circumstances, genetically modified children. Now with CRISPR-cas9, it has become easier to precisely edit the human genome.

Even if they manage to keep the circumstances "narrow" it seems obvious that other nations will not be so cautious. For example China where they've created genetically modified "super dogs" [spam URL stripped]... and you can even buy genetically modified "micro pigs" that don't grow big! [spam URL stripped].... Of course China is not the only country doing this, New Zealand is pursuing an audacious project to use genetic engineering to WIPE OUT entire species (as I submitted earlier in slashdot).

Anyway, if you're bothered by the "narrow circumstances" clause in the NAS recommendation, go to Vietnam (or another one of many countries) where there are no particular regulations regarding genetic engineering.

Link to Original Source

Submission + - First Gene Drive to wipe out mammalian species (in NZ) (

wisebabo writes: Say goodbye to our little whiskered friends!

So there is an (approved?) effort to wipe not just any species, (there's been discussions to wipe out the mosquitos that carry Malaria), but a MAMMAL. Specifically the house mouse which, along with other invasive species introduced by Westerners, have ravaged New Zealand's ecosystem. (Amongst other things they've rendered extinct many of the flightless birds there). They'll try using the "Gene Drive" which is a new genetic weapon made possible by the editing system CRISPR-cas9 (very new but even now being taught in my course on genetic engineering). Basically, it'll make all of the the children of the genetically engineered mice MALE and then all of their children MALE and so on. This'll continue until there are no females left and the population will crash. If this is successful, they want to use this technique on other species until ALL of the predators on New Zealand are wiped out.

(I doubt if they will use this on the biggest, most damaging predator of all...) (No I didn't say Trump)

Comment Re:Hmm (Score 2) 43

I once, a long time ago in a place far far away, went to the JPL monthly lecture in Pasadena California. This one was about the Cassini probe then completing its first few months around Saturn.

After the lecture, under the imposing model of one of the Voyager spacecraft, I met with the Project Scientist (I'm not sure if she is the same one as the current one) and asked her if they could do a "risky" maneuver at the end of Cassini's lifetime. Have Cassini go to the rings (in a synchronized fashion as you say) but stay "just" above them using a continual very low thrust from its main engine(s) or thrusters.

I had seen the pictures taken edge on of the rings and seen how "razor" thin they were (at least on a cosmic scale). It appeared to (my very unprofessional, untrained eye) that there was no debris or particles immediately above or below the rings. There seems to be some mechanism which causes particles to stay exactly within the rings (collisions and redistribution of momentum?). So, maybe Cassini could just apply a very small amount of thrust, perpendicular to the ring plane, to counteract its orbital trajectory that would normally take it up and down through the ring. It could then hover a few (tens? hundreds?) kilometers above the rings and could get unbelievable closeups of them without getting ground to pieces.

I think she just laughed and probably knew of a dozen reasons why this wouldn't work (the thrust would be too low, the propellant use too high, there was still probably way too much debris around, they wouldn't be able to navigate that accurately, etc.). Still your comment made me think about this, and that someday maybe with a probe with an (low) thrust long duration ion drive, it would be able to float just above the rings (as close as would be safe), synchronized with them, and be able to take spectacular long duration exposures of the tumbling pebbles, boulders, mountains that make up this spectacle.

Comment Re:About Hillary (Score 1) 277

The TECH GUYS involved were given immunity and yet still pleaded the fifth. The INVESTIGATION never recorded any interviews with her and never put her under oath. I'M not saying she did anything that was technically illegal, but she definitely shouldn't be given more power.

"whisper whisper hint hint" (note, please show me HILLARY in this)

So, you're willing to judge based on hearsay and unproven allegations? (Why don't you do this to Trump, there's nothing hearsay out of what comes out of HIS orifice!). This is despite (as is well documented) the enormous effort by the right to trash her (and both houses of Congress spending what, $47 million of OUR taxpayer money for nothing!). Why didn't the investigation put her under oath? I'm sure the Right would say because they were in her pocket (as if investigators, even if they weren't hired by the Republican congress, didn't have even an inkling of moral courage. If you think that they were so easily corrupted, you are either not a professional or don't know what it means to have ethics). Don't you think that it's because they didn't think the charges (of which there were none filed) were worth pursuing? Maybe they had the ethics not to pursue baseless charges. Don't you think that just maybe that the tech guys, facing prison, possibly invoked their right to SELF (not Hillary) incrimination? Or are you amongst the (almost) majority of Americans who've been guzzling the kool aid?

I'm afraid Lincoln was wrong when he said, "You can fool some of the people all of the time or all of the people some of the time but...". Well at least Lincoln was wrong when it came to getting enough votes to win an electoral college victory. (Please don't tell me you drank the kool aid about Trump winning the popular vote, or that millions of illegal votes were cast or that the inauguration was the largest in history or all the other nonsense he REGULARLY farts. It would be funny if these were the only things he was (self) deluded on, unfortunately when it comes to climate change, immigrant threats to American jobs, international relations with our allies and other, critical issues that will affect Americans for generations to come; it crosses the line from comedy to tragedy. Hope you don't have kids!

You know, Lincoln spoke at a time when people chose their leader through debate and reasoning (remember the Lincoln Douglas debates?). People cared about facts and certainly any serious contender for most powerful office in the land didn't make things up to stroke his own ego. Now, however, America has elected its leader on a process much closer to Reality Television; one not based on character and competence. No wonder Trump won

Comment Post the attack (Score 2) 71

I'm curious. Does this attack really work? Does the defense really work?

If the researchers have an effective attack AND an effective defense why not release both so that we can try it? Aren't there some Samsung users out there (okay all of them) that you'd like to annoy?

(Sorry, but with the way things are going, being sociopathic is now in vogue)

Slashdot Top Deals

Quark! Quark! Beware the quantum duck!