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Cassini's Space Odyssey To Saturn

Slashdot - Sun, 06/07/2014 - 22:23
An anonymous reader writes in with this look at the amazingly successful Cassini mission and the discoveries it has made. Scientists says Cassini is helping them understand how our solar system developed. Of the astronomically profound discoveries it's made over a decade of circling, the startling hint this April of a new moon being formed in the rings of Saturn is merely the latest. Indeed, the spacecraft Cassini — which inserted itself into orbit around the giant gas planet in July, 2004 — has transmitted imagery and sensory data back to Earth that has given us a new understanding of our bejewelled neighbour three doors down. "It's one of the most successful (space) missions probably ever," says University of Toronto astrophysicist Hanno Rein, whose own work has been significantly informed by the tiny craft's output.

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Consciousness On-Off Switch Discovered Deep In Brain

Slashdot - Sun, 06/07/2014 - 21:16
An anonymous reader writes "One moment you're conscious, the next you're not. For the first time, researchers have switched off consciousness by electrically stimulating a single brain area. Although only tested in one person, the discovery suggests that a single area – the claustrum – might be integral to combining disparate brain activity into a seamless package of thoughts, sensations and emotions. It takes us a step closer to answering a problem that has confounded scientists and philosophers for millennia – namely how our conscious awareness arises. When the team zapped the area with high frequency electrical impulses, the woman lost consciousness. She stopped reading and stared blankly into space, she didn't respond to auditory or visual commands and her breathing slowed. As soon as the stimulation stopped, she immediately regained consciousness with no memory of the event. The same thing happened every time the area was stimulated during two days of experiments.

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Two Earth-Like Exoplanets Don't Actually Exist

Slashdot - Sun, 06/07/2014 - 01:33
Two suspected exoplanets, Gliese 581g and 581d, have been shown to not exist, and are instead misinterpretations of data from starspot activity. From the article: "Gliese 581g doesn't exist," said lead author Paul Robertson of Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania. Neither, he said, does another planet in the same solar system, known as Gliese 581d, announced in 2009—less clearly hospitable to life, but still once seen by some astronomers as a possible place to find aliens. ... What's happening, they say, is that magnetic disturbances on Gliese 581's surface — starspots — are altering the star's spectrum in such a way that it mimics the motion induced by a planet. The star itself rotates once every 130 days, carrying the starspots with it; the disputed planets appeared to have periods of almost exactly one half and one fourth of the 130-day period. When the scientists corrected for the starspot signal, both planets disappeared.

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Industrial Control System Firms In Dragonfly Attack Identified

Slashdot - Sun, 06/07/2014 - 00:39
chicksdaddy (814965) writes Two of the three industrial control system (ICS) software companies that were victims of the so-called "Dragonfly" malware have been identified. ... Dale Peterson of the firm Digitalbond identified the vendors as MB Connect Line, a German maker of industrial routers and remote access appliances and eWon, a Belgian firm that makes virtual private network (VPN) software that is used to access industrial control devices like programmable logic controllers. Peterson has also identified the third vendor, identified by F-Secure as a Swiss company, but told The Security Ledger that he cannot share the name of that firm. The three firms, which serve customers in industry, including owners of critical infrastructure, were the subject of a warning from the Department of Homeland Security. DHS's ICS CERT said it was alerted to compromises of the vendors' by researchers at the security firms Symantec and F-Secure. DHS said it is analyzing malware associated with the attacks. The malicious software, dubbed "Havex" was being spread by way of so-called "watering hole" attacks that involved compromises of vendors web sites. According to Symantec, the malware targeted energy grid operators, major electricity generation firms, petroleum pipeline operators, and energy industry industrial equipment providers. Most of the victims were located in the United States, Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Turkey, and Poland.

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The View From Inside A Fireworks Show

Slashdot - Sat, 05/07/2014 - 23:45
kdataman (1687444) writes "There is a breathtaking video on Youtube of someone flying a quadcopter around and through a professional fireworks display. Of course, it was an illegal and dangerous thing to do. It also may inspire someone else to do something even more dangerous. But even so, I have watched it 4 times and get goosebumps every time. An article in Forbes says that unit is a DJI Phantom 2 with a GoPro Hero 3 Silver camera. The fireworks are in West Palm Beach, Florida."

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3D Printed PiGRRL - Raspberry Pi Gameboy

Slashdot - Sat, 05/07/2014 - 22:44
coop0030 (263345) writes "Celebrate the 25th anniversary of the classic gaming device, Game Boy, by building your own with 3d printing and DIY electronics. This project uses a Raspberry Pi and TFT touch screen to make an epic DIY Game Girl. The 3d printed enclosure houses all of the components and can be printed in your favorite color. It's controlled with SNES gaming controller components, reusing the printed circuit board, buttons and elastomers. The 3D files can be found on Thingiverse, and a video of the finished product is provided as well."

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Rightscorp Pushing ISPs To Disconnect Repeat Infringers

Slashdot - Sat, 05/07/2014 - 21:43
Torrentfreak acquired slides from the Anti-Piracy and Content Protection Summit indicating that Rightscorp wants ISPs to disconnect repeat copyright infringers, and that 140 small ISPs are already doing so. From the article: Christopher Sabec, CEO of Rightscorp, says that they have been in talks with various Internet providers urging them to step up their game. Thus far a total of 140 ISPs are indeed following this disconnection principle. ... By introducing disconnections Rightcorp hopes to claim more settlements to increase the company’s revenue stream. They offer participating ISPs a tool to keep track of the number of warnings each customer receives, and the providers are encouraged to reconnect the subscribers if the outstanding bills have been paid. ... Cutting off repeat infringers is also in the best interests of ISPs according to Rightscorp, who note that it is a requirement for all providers if they are to maintain their DMCA safe harbor. The presentation slides seem to indicate that Rightscorp is planning to go after the safe harbor protections that ISPs are given under the DMCA in order to force the issue.

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IEEE Spectrum Ranks the Top Programming Languages

Slashdot - Sat, 05/07/2014 - 20:49
An anonymous reader writes Working with computational journalist Nick Diakopoulos, we at IEEE Spectrum have published an app that ranks the popularity of dozens of programming languages. Because different fields have different interests (what's popular with programmers writing embedded code versus what's hot with web developers isn't going to be identical) we tried to make the ranking system as transparent as possible — you can use our presets or you can go in and create your own customized ranking by adjusting the individual weightings of the various data sources we mined.

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Amazon Fighting FTC Over In-App Purchases Fine

Slashdot - Sat, 05/07/2014 - 19:46
An anonymous reader writes One of the common problems of the smartphone generation has been parents who given their phones to children, who then rack up hundreds of dollars of in-app purchases without the parents' knowledge. The FTC smacked Apple with a fine for this, and Google is facing a lawsuit as well. Now, Amazon is the latest target, having received a complaint from the FTC demanding a similar settlement to Apple's. Amazon, however, is not willing to concede the fine; they plan to fight it. Amazon said, "The Commission's unwillingness to depart from the precedent it set with Apple despite our very different facts leaves us no choice but to defend our approach in court (PDF). The main claim in the draft complaint is that we failed to get customers' informed consent to in-app charges made by children and did not address that problem quickly or effectively enough in response to customer complaints. We have continually improved our experience since launch, but even at launch, when customers told us their kids had made purchases they didn't want, we refunded those purchases."

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Algorithm-Generated Articles Won't Kill the Journalism Star

Slashdot - Sat, 05/07/2014 - 18:47
theodp writes: The AP's announcement that software will write the majority of its earnings reports, argues The Atlantic's Joe Pinsker, doesn't foretell the end of journalism — such reports hardly require humans anyway. Pinsker writes, "While, yes, it's true that algorithms can cram stories about vastly different subjects into the same uncanny monotone — they can cover Little League like Major League Baseball, and World of Warcraft raids like firefights in Iraq — they're really just another handy attempt at sifting through an onslaught of data. Automated Insights' success goes hand-in-hand with the rise of Big Data, and it makes sense that the company's algorithms currently do best when dealing in number-based topics like sports and stocks." So, any chance that Madden-like (video) generated play-by-play technology could one day be applied to live sporting events?

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Autonomous Trucking

Slashdot - Sat, 05/07/2014 - 15:37
An anonymous reader writes We've heard about all the effort going into self-driving cars, but what about the massive fleet of trucks we use to deliver goods around the country? Well, Mercedes is trying to tackle that problem. They have just demonstrated an autonomous 18-wheeler on the German Autobahn. It's clearly a long-term project; they named it "Future Truck 2025," as an unsubtle reminder that this tech needs a lot of development before it's ready for common use. "Special cameras and multiple radar systems watch the road, the sides of the road, and cars and trucks behind the vehicle. Future Truck is also envisioned to communicate with other vehicles and connect to growing sources of online information as Big Data balloons on the road. ... Many of the component parts to put a vehicle like this into production are already available in trucks on the market: Systems that help drivers keep their distance from other drivers, active braking assistance, guidance and mapping systems, and fine-tuned cruise control and tons of other hi-tech tchotchke."

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Oklahoma's Earthquakes Linked To Fracking

Slashdot - Sat, 05/07/2014 - 14:35
An anonymous reader writes Oklahoma has already experienced about 240 minor earthquakes this year, roughly double the rate at which California has had them. A recent study (abstract) has now tied those earthquakes to fracking. From the article: "Fracking itself doesn't seem to be causing many earthquakes at all. However, after the well is fracked, all that wastewater needs to be pumped back out and disposed of somewhere. Since it's often laced with chemicals and difficult to treat, companies will often pump the wastewater back underground into separate disposal wells. Wastewater injection comes with a catch, however: The process both pushes the crust in the region downward and increases pressure in cracks along the faults. That makes the faults more prone to slippages and earthquakes. ... More specifically, the researchers concluded that 89 wells were likely responsible for most of the seismic activity. And just four wells located southeast of Oklahoma City were likely responsible for about one-fifth of seismic activity in the state between 2008 and 2013."

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NASA Approves Production of Most Powerful Rocket Ever

Slashdot - Sat, 05/07/2014 - 13:32
As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, NASA has given a green light to the production of a new motor, dubbed the Space Launch System, intended to enable deep space exploration. Boeing, prime contractor on the rocket, announced on Wednesday that it had completed a critical design review and finalized a $US2.8-billion contract with NASA. The last time the space agency made such an assessment of a deep-space rocket was the mighty Saturn V, which took astronauts to the moon. ... Space Launch System's design called for the integration of existing hardware, spurring criticism that it's a "Frankenstein rocket," with much of it assembled from already developed technology. For instance, its two rocket boosters are advanced versions of the Space Shuttle boosters, and a cryogenic propulsion stage is based on the motor of a rocket often used by the Air Force. The Space Frontier Foundation, an advocacy group and frequent NASA critic, said Space Launch System was "built from rotting remnants of left over congressional pork. And its budgetary footprints will stamp out all the missions it is supposed to carry, kill our astronaut program and destroy science and technology projects throughout NASA."

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