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Wheel Damage Adding Up Quickly For Mars Rover Curiosity

Soulskill posted 7 hours ago | from the wheels-on-the-rover-go-round-and-round dept.

Mars 99

An anonymous reader writes: The folks in charge of the Mars rover Curiosity have been trying to solve an increasingly urgent problem: what to do about unexpected wheel damage. The team knew from the start that wear and tear on the wheels would slowly accumulate, but they've been surprised at how quickly the wheels have degraded over the past year. Emily Lakdawalla at the Planetary Society blog has posted a detailed report on the team's conclusions as to what's causing the damage and how they can mitigate it going forward. Quoting: "The tears result from fatigue. You know how if you bend a metal paper clip back and forth repeatedly, it eventually snaps? Well, when the wheels are driving over a very hard rock surface — one with no sand — the thin skin of the wheels repeatedly bends. The wheels were designed to bend quite a lot, and return to their original shape. But the repeated bending and straightening is fatiguing the skin, causing it to fracture in a brittle way. The bending doesn't happen (or doesn't happen as much) if the ground gives way under the rover's weight, as it does if it's got the slightest coating of sand on top of rock. It only happens when the ground is utterly impervious to the rover's weight — hard bedrock. The stresses from metal fatigue are highest near the tips of the chevron features, and indeed a lot of tears seem to initiate close to the chevron features."

If Fusion Is the Answer, We Need To Do It Quickly

Soulskill posted yesterday | from the taming-a-small-star dept.

Power 212

Lasrick writes: Yale's Jason Parisi makes a compelling case for fusion power, and explains why fusion is cleaner, safer, and doesn't provide opportunities for nuclear smuggling and proliferation. The only downside will be the transition period, when there are both fission and fusion plants available and the small amount of "booster" elements (tritium and deuterium) found in fusion power could provide would-be proliferators what they need to boost the yield of fission bombs: "The period during which both fission and fusion plants coexist could be dangerous, however. Just a few grams of deuterium and tritium are needed to increase the yield of a fission bomb, in a process known as 'boosting.'" Details about current research into fusion power and an exploration of relative costs make fusion power seem like the answer to a civilization trying to get away from fossil fuels.

Scientists Find Traces of Sea Plankton On ISS Surface

Soulskill posted yesterday | from the space-stations-like-to-swim dept.

ISS 94

schwit1 sends this report from the ITAR-TASS News Agency: An experiment of taking samples from illuminators and the ISS surface has brought unique results, as scientists had found traces of sea plankton there, the chief of an orbital mission on Russia's ISS segment told reporters. Results of the scope of scientific experiments which had been conducted for a quite long time were summed up in the previous year, confirming that some organisms can live on the surface of the International Space Station for years amid factors of a space flight, such as zero gravity, temperature conditions and hard cosmic radiation. Several surveys proved that these organisms can even develop. He noted that it was not quite clear how these microscopic particles could have appeared on the surface of the space station.

Modular Hive Homes Win Mars Base Design Competition

Soulskill posted yesterday | from the i'll-order-a-dozen dept.

Mars 56

In June, we discussed news that JPL and MakerBot were teaming up to host a competition for designing a futuristic Mars base. The competition is now over, and the top three designs have been chosen. First place went to Noah Hornberger, who designed a base with hexagonal rooms and shielding made of depleted uranium. Second place went to a martian pyramid with an aquaponics system on top, mirror-based solar collectors, central water storage, and compartmentalized living spaces. The third place award went to Chris Starr for his Mars Acropolis, which was styled upon the ancient Greek Acropolis. It has a water tower at the top of the structure, a series of greenhouses at the bottom, and living quarters in between. The full list of 227 entries is browse-able on Thingiverse.

Why Chinese Hackers Would Want US Hospital Patient Data

timothy posted yesterday | from the makes-great-gift-wrapping-too dept.

China 157

itwbennett (1594911) writes In a follow-up to yesterday's story about the Chinese hackers who stole hospital data of 4.5 million patients, IDG News Service's Martyn Williams set out to learn why the data, which didn't include credit card information, was so valuable. The answer is depressingly simple: people without health insurance can potentially get treatment by using medical data of one of the hacking victims. John Halamka, chief information officer of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and chairman of the New England Healthcare Exchange Network, said a medical record can be worth between $50 and $250 to the right customer — many times more than the amount typically paid for a credit card number, or the cents paid for a user name and password. "If I am one of the 50 million Americans who are uninsured ... and I need a million-dollar heart transplant, for $250 I can get a complete medical record including insurance company details," he said.

The Royal Society Proposes First Framework For Climate Engineering Experiments

samzenpus posted 2 days ago | from the we-can-make-it-better dept.

Earth 149

Jason Koebler writes The Royal Society of London, the world's oldest scientific publisher, has unveiled a proposal to create the first serious framework for future geoengineering experiments. It's a sign that what are still considered drastic and risky measures to combat climate change are drifting further into the purview of mainstream science. The scientific body has issued a call to create "an open and transparent review process that ensures such experiments have the necessary social license to operate."

Ebola Quarantine Center In Liberia Looted

samzenpus posted 2 days ago | from the getting-worse dept.

Medicine 354

An anonymous reader writes The BBC and other outlets are reporting that a major quarantine center for patients who have been infected with the Ebola virus in Liberia has been looted and ransacked. Reports vary on the motive of the attack, but officials have confirmed that the Ebola patients are missing and that the quarantine center's medical supplies have been stolen. Officials say that the looters are highly likely to contract the virus themselves and worsen the epidemic further, as the WHO counts 1000+ lives claimed by the virus total."

Fighting Invasive Fish With Forks and Knives

samzenpus posted 2 days ago | from the don't-forget-the-tartar dept.

Earth 173

An anonymous reader writes NPR commentator Bonny Wolf has a unique solution to battle the threat of invasive fish species in our waterways. She proposes we fight them with a knife, fork, and a few lemon wedges. From the article: "Take the northern snakehead, which has made its way into tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay. It competes with native species for food, and then eats the native species, not to mention the odd frog or bird, with its mouthful of sharp teeth. It's been called "Fishzilla." It breeds fast, has no natural predators and can grow to be 4 feet long. The northern snakehead hangs out in grassy shallows, making it hard to catch. But a couple of years ago, Maryland started promoting the snakehead as an eating fish. Its harvest has increased from zero to 5,000 pounds a year."

No, a Huge Asteroid Is Not "Set To Wipe Out Life On Earth In 2880"

samzenpus posted 2 days ago | from the it's-the-end-of-the-world-or-not dept.

Space 115

An anonymous reader writes "Phil Plait wants you to know that asteroid 1950 DA is very, very unlikely to hit the Earth in 2880, despite what you may have read. He writes: "As it happens, 1950 DA is what's called a 'near-Earth asteroid', because its orbit sometimes brings it relatively close to Earth. I'll note that I mean close on a cosmic scale. Looking over the next few decades, a typical pass is tens of millions of kilometers away, with some as close as five million kilometers — which is still more than ten times farther away than the Moon! Still, that's in our neighborhood, which is one of the reasons this asteroid is studied so well. It gets close enough that we can get a decent look at it when it passes. Can it impact the Earth? Yes, kindof. Right now, the orbit of the asteroid doesn't bring it close enough to hit us. But there are forces acting on asteroids over time that subtly change their orbits; one of them is called the YORP effect, a weak force that arises due to the way the asteroid spins and radiates away heat. The infrared photons it emits when it's warm carry away a teeny tiny bit of momentum, and they act pretty much like an incredibly low-thrust rocket. Over many years, this can change both the rotation of the asteroid as well as the shape of its orbit."

Scientists Record Quantum Behavior of Electrons Via Laser Lights

samzenpus posted 2 days ago | from the spinning-lasers dept.

Shark 32

An anonymous reader writes in with news about a breakthrough in recording quantum behavior in electrons. A group of researchers has said that they have come up with a new method to record and control electron behavior at the quantum mechanical level. The research team, headed by the scientists at the University of Chicago, used laser lights in ultra-fast pulses for the experiment. The laser light controlled the quantum state of electrons. It contained inside nanoscale defects in a diamond. The researchers observed changes in that electron over a time period. They focused on the quantum mechanical property of electrons known as spin. Lead author David Awschalom, a molecular engineering professor at a university in Chicago, said, "These defects have attracted great interest of the scientists over the past decade. They provide a test-bed system for developing semiconductor quantum bits as well as nanoscale sensors."

Researchers Discover New Plant "Language"

samzenpus posted 3 days ago | from the what-does-the-ficus-say? dept.

Science 68

An anonymous reader writes A Virginia Tech scientist has discovered a potentially new form of plant communication, that allows them to share genetic information with one another. Jim Westwood, a professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science, found evidence of this new communication mode by investigating the relationship between dodder, a parasitic plant, and the flowering plant Arabidopsis and tomato plants to which it attaches and sucks out nutrients with an appendage called a haustorium. Westwood examined the plants' mRNA, the molecule in cells that instructs organisms how to code certain proteins that are key to functioning. MRNA helps to regulate plant development and can control when plants eventually flowers. He found that the parasitic and the host plants were exchanging thousands of mRNA molecules between each other, thus creating a conversation.

Figuring Out Where To Live Using Math

Soulskill posted 3 days ago | from the sanity-check-when-the-math-suggests-detroit dept.

Math 211

An anonymous reader writes: Dave Munson was thinking about moving, and had a couple broad requirements for a new home: it must be affordable, and its neighborhood must be walkable. Price is easy to chart, but how do you compare the walkability of hundreds of cities? Simple: use math. A website called Walk Score provides rough walkability ratings, but doesn't tell you much about affordability. Munson downloaded the data that went into a city's Walk Score, weighted the relevant variables, and mapped the top results. Then he looked for overlap with the map of areas in his price range. He says, "Capitol Hill, Seattle led the pack. To be honest, I was expecting something a smaller, affordable Midwest town or something, but it the highest scoring areas were usually just outside of major downtowns. Other top areas included Cambridge and Somerville outside of Boston, and the South End in Boston; Columbia Heights, Washington, DC; The Mission District, Lower Haight, and Russian Hill, San Francisco; Midtown, Atlanta; Greenwood, Dyker Heights, Kensington, and Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn; Graduate Hospital in Philadelphia, where we used to live; Lake View, Chicago; and Five Points, Denver."

Fukushima's Biological Legacy

Soulskill posted 3 days ago | from the please-be-mothra-please-be-mothra dept.

Japan 108

An anonymous reader sends this report from Eurekalert: Scientists began gathering biological information only a few months after the disastrous 2011 meltdown of the Fukushima power plant in Japan. Results of these studies are now beginning to reveal serious biological effects of the Fukushima radiation on non-human organisms ranging from plants to butterflies to birds. A series of articles summarizing these studies has been published in the Journal of Heredity describing impacts ranging from population declines to genetic damage (abstract 1, abstract 2, abstract 3, abstract 4). Most importantly, these studies supply a baseline for future research on the effects of ionizing radiation exposure to the environment. Common to all of the published studies is the hypothesis that chronic (low-dose) exposure to ionizing radiation results in genetic damage and increased mutation rates in reproductive and non-reproductive cells. Meanwhile, efforts to restart Japan's nuclear power program are dead in the water.

Why the Universe Didn't Become a Black Hole

Soulskill posted 4 days ago | from the would-have-been-a-bit-dull dept.

Space 109

StartsWithABang writes: With some 10^90 particles in the observable Universe, even stretched across 92 billion light-years today, the Universe is precariously close to recollapsing. How, then, is it possible that back in the early stages after the Big Bang, when all this matter-and-energy was concentrated within a region of space no bigger than our current Solar System, the Universe didn't collapse down to a black hole? Not only do we have the explanation, but we learn that even if the Universe did recollapse, we wouldn't get a black hole at all!

Groundwork Laid For Superfast Broadband Over Copper

Soulskill posted 4 days ago | from the now-your-plumbing-can-double-as-ethernet-wiring dept.

Networking 93

itwbennett writes: Telecom equipment vendor Adtran has developed a technology that will make it easier for operators to roll out broadband speeds close to 500Mbps over copper lines. Adtran's FDV (Frequency Division Vectoring), enhances the capabilities of two technologies — VDSL2 with vectoring and G.fast — by enabling them to better coexist over a single subscriber line, the company said. VDSL2 with vectoring, which improves speeds by reducing noise and can deliver up to 150Mbps, is currently being rolled out by operators, while G.fast, which is capable of 500Mbps, is still under development, with the first deployments coming in mid-2015. FDV will make it easier for operators to roll out G.fast once it's ready and expand where it can be used, according to Adtran. Meanwhile, Ars Technica has an article about how Verizon is letting its copper network rot in order to passively encourage customers to switch to fiber.

Involuntary Eye Movement May Provide Definitive Diagnosis of ADHD

Soulskill posted 4 days ago | from the either-that-or-a-massive-brain-hemmorhage dept.

Medicine 196

Zothecula writes: If a child who's simply very active is mistakenly diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), he can end up on pharmaceuticals such as Ritalin unnecessarily. The problem is, it can be quite difficult to determine if someone actually has ADHD, and misdiagnoses are common. Now, however, researchers from Tel Aviv University have announced that analyzing a patient's eye movements may be the key. "The researchers found a direct correlation between ADHD and the inability to suppress eye movement in the anticipation of visual stimuli. The research also reflected improved performance by participants taking methylphenidate, which normalized the suppression of involuntary eye movements to the average level of the control group."

The Flight of Gifted Engineers From NASA

Soulskill posted 4 days ago | from the when-NASA-starts-looking-like-the-USPTO dept.

NASA 160

schwit1 writes: Rather than work in NASA, the best young engineers today are increasingly heading to get jobs at private companies like SpaceX and XCOR. This is a long article, worth reading in its entirety, but this quote sums it up well: "As a NASA engineering co-op student at Johnson Space Center, Hoffman trained in various divisions of the federal space agency to sign on eventually as a civil servant. She graduated from college this year after receiving a generous offer from NASA, doubly prestigious considering the substantial reductions in force hitting Johnson Space Center in recent months. She did have every intention of joining that force — had actually accepted the offer, in fact — when she received an invitation to visit a friend at his new job with rising commercial launch company SpaceX.

Hoffman took him up on the offer, flying out to Los Angeles in the spring for a private tour. Driving up to the SpaceX headquarters, she was struck by how unassuming it was, how small compared to NASA, how plain on the outside and rather like a warehouse. As she walked through the complex, she was also surprised to find open work areas where NASA would have had endless hallways, offices and desks. Hoffman described SpaceX as resembling a giant workshop, a hive of activity in which employees stood working on nitty-gritty mechanical and electrical engineering. Everything in the shop was bound for space or was related to space. ... Seeing SpaceX in production forced Hoffman to acknowledge NASA might not be the best fit for her. The tour reminded her of the many mentors who had gone into the commercial sector of the space industry in search of better pay and more say in the direction their employers take." At NASA, young engineers find that they spend a lot of time with bureaucracy, the pace is slow, their projects often get canceled or delayed, and the creative job satisfaction is poor. At private companies like SpaceX, things are getting built now.

The Billion-Dollar Website

Soulskill posted 5 days ago | from the get-what-you-paid-for-minus-a-billion-dollars dept.

Government 194

stoborrobots writes: The Government Accountability Office has investigated the cost blowouts associated with how the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) handled the Healthcare.gov project. It has released a 60-page report entitled Healthcare.gov: Ineffective Planning and Oversight Practices Underscore the Need for Improved Contract Management, with a 5 page summary. The key takeaway messages are:

  • CMS undertook the development of Healthcare.gov and its related systems without effective planning or oversight practices...
  • [The task] was a complex effort with compressed time frames. To be expedient, CMS issued task orders ... when key technical requirements were unknown...
  • CMS identified major performance issues ... but took only limited steps to hold the contractor accountable.
  • CMS awarded a new contract to another firm [and the new contract's cost has doubled] due to changes such as new requirements and other enhancements...

Correcting Killer Architecture

samzenpus posted 5 days ago | from the built-to-kill dept.

United Kingdom 98

minstrelmike writes In Leeds, England, architects are adding a plethora of baffles and other structures to prevent the channeling of winds from a skyscraper that have pushed baby carriages into the street and caused one pedestrian death by blowing over a truck. Other architectural mistakes listed in the article include death ray buildings that can melt car bumpers and landscape ponds that blind tenants.

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