posted 13 days ago on slashdot
Taco Cowboy points out that many news outlets are reporting that IBM plans to spend $3 billion on semiconductor research and development in the next five years. The first goal is to build chips whose electronic components, called transistors, have features measuring just 7 nanometers, the company announced Wednesday. For comparison, that distance is about a thousandth the width of a human hair, a tenth the width of a virus particle, or the width of 16 potassium atoms side by side. The second goal is to choose among a range of more radical departures from today's silicon chip technology -- a monumental engineering challenge necessary to sustain progress in the computing industry. Among the options are carbon nanotubes and graphene; silicon photonics; quantum computing; brainlike architectures; and silicon substitutes that could run faster even if components aren't smaller. "In the next 10 years, we believe there will be fundamentally new systems that are much more efficient at solving problems or solving problems that are unsolvable today," T.C. Chen, IBM Research's vice president of science and technology, told CNET

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posted 14 days ago on slashdot
presroi (657709) writes "It has been 13 years after the last harmonization effort of copyright within the European Union and this period might soon be over. After the election of a new European Parliament in May this year, Jean-Claude Juncker has been nominated to become the new President of the European Commission. He has named a unified copyright his top priority, a statement repeated today at a hearing before the Greens/EFA group in the European parliament (transcript of the question by MEP Julia Reda and his answer in German, Video recording). These statements are coinciding with the upcoming release of a report by the General Directorate in charge of copyright, of which an advanced draft has been already leaked to the internet. The report analyzes four possible policy options, one of which is the introduction of a Single EU Copyright title."

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posted 14 days ago on slashdot
jfruh writes Wearable tech has been a pretty niche product so far, and a widely derided one at that, but moves are in the works to help the category break into the mainstream. One of the biggest irritants is that most wearable devices must pair with a smartphone to actually connect to the Internet — but an AT&T exec says that his company will be selling a standalone wearable by the end of 2014. Google Glass has been a flashpoint of conflict not least because it's extremely obvious; its creator says that subtle, non intrusive versions are coming. And while everyone wonders what Apple's play in this space will be, it may be best to imagine what they're working on as a successor to their fading iPod line.

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posted 14 days ago on slashdot
StartsWithABang writes 55 years ago, the Soviet probe Luna 3 imaged the side of the Moon that faces away from us for the first time. Surprisingly, there were only two very small maria (dark regions) and large amounts of mountainous terrain, in stark contrast to the side that faces us. This remained a mystery for a very long time, even after we developed the giant impact hypothesis to explain the origin of the Moon. But a new study finally appears to solve the mystery, crediting the heat generated on the near side from a hot, young Earth with creating the differences between the two hemispheres.

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posted 14 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes with good news for everyone who loves Strong Bad.Back in April, Homestar Runner got its first content update in over four years. It was the tiniest of updates and the site went quiet again shortly thereafter, but the Internet's collective 90s kid heart still jumped for joy...The site's co-creator, Matt Chapman, popped into an episode of The Jeff Rubin Jeff Rubin Show to chat about the history of Homestar — but in the last 15 minutes or so, they get to talking about its future. The too-long-didn't-listen version: both of the brothers behind the show really really want to bring it back. The traffic they saw from their itty-bitty April update suggests people want it — but they know that may very well be a fluke. So they're taking it slow.

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posted 14 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes "Video game designers and astronomers have been working different ends of the same problem: how to chart a galaxy full of stars. Astronomers start with observation, finding new and better ways to look into the sky and record what they can see. Game devs take the limited data we have as a starting point, and assume that everything else in the galaxy obeys roughly the same rules. They generate the rest of the galaxy procedurally from this data. But the information flow isn't simply one-way. As developers like David Braben improve their galaxy-creation models, astronomers can look at the models and see where they match (or not) with further observations, allowing them to improve their own scientific models in the process. "'The conflicts that show up are generally due to simplifications made in the models, for which new observations can provide improved guidelines. There's a continuously evolving and developing understanding of space, in which both models and observations play important roles.' ... Elite's model has expanded Braben's understanding of planet formation and distribution. Braben boasts that his games predicted extra-solar planets ('These were pretty close to those that have been since discovered, demonstrating that there is some validity in our algorithms'), and that the game's use of current planet-formation theories has shown the sheer number of different systems that can exist according to the rules, everything from nebulous gas giants to theoretically habitable worlds.""

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posted 14 days ago on slashdot
schwit1 writes with an update on the U.S. government's troubled F-35 program, the cost of which keeps rising while the planes themselves are grounded. A fire in late June caused officials to halt flights for the entire fleet of $112 million vehicles last week. Despite this, Congress is still anxious to push the program forward, and Foreign Policy explains why: Part of that protection comes from the jaw-dropping amounts of money at stake. The Pentagon intends to spend roughly $399 billion to develop and buy 2,443 of the planes. However, over the course of the aircrafts' lifetimes, operating costs are expected to exceed $1 trillion. Lockheed has carefully hired suppliers and subcontractors in almost every state to ensure that virtually all senators and members of Congress have a stake in keeping the program — and the jobs it has created — in place. "An upfront question with any program now is: How many congressional districts is it in?" said Thomas Christie, a former senior Pentagon acquisitions official. Counting all of its suppliers and subcontractors, parts of the program are spread out across at least 45 states. That's why there's no doubt lawmakers will continue to fund the program even though this is the third time in 17 months that the entire fleet has been grounded due to engine problems."

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posted 14 days ago on slashdot
Seth Ladd, Google Web engineer and Chrome Developer Advocate, is today's interviewee. He's talking about Dart, which Wikipedia says is 'an open-source Web programming language developed by Google.' The Wikipedia article goes on to say Dart was unveiled at the GOTO conference in Aarhus, October 10–12, 2011, and that the goal of Dart is 'ultimately to replace JavaScript as the lingua franca of web development on the open web platform.' A bold aim, indeed. Last month (June, 2014), InfoWorld ran an article by Paul Krill headlined, Google's Go language on the rise, but Dart is stalling. Seth Ladd, unlike Paul Krill, is obviously rah-rah about Dart -- which is as it should be, since that's his job -- and seems to think it has a growing community and a strong place in the future of Web programming. For more about Dart, scroll down to watch Tim Lord's video interview with Seth -- or read the transcript, if you prefer. (Alternate Video Link)

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posted 14 days ago on slashdot
astroengine writes: 'How cosmic dust is created has been a mystery for some time. Although the textbooks tell us that the dusty stuff that builds the planets — and, ultimately, the complex chemistry that forms life (we are, after all, made of 'star stuff') — comes from supernova explosions, astronomers have been puzzled as to how delicate grains of dust condense from stellar material and how they can possibly survive the violent shock waves of the cataclysmic booms. But now, with the help of a powerful ground-based telescope, astronomers have not only watched one of these supernova 'dust factories' in action, they've also discovered how the grains can withstand the violent supernova shock. "When the star explodes, the shockwave hits the dense gas cloud like a brick wall," said lead author Christa Gall, of Aarhus University, Denmark. "It is all in gas form and incredibly hot, but when the eruption hits the 'wall' the gas gets compressed and cools down to about 2,000 degrees. At this temperature and density elements can nucleate and form solid particles. We measured dust grains as large as around one micron (a thousandth of a millimeter), which is large for cosmic dust grains. They are so large that they can survive their onward journey out into the galaxy (PDF)." The surprising size of the measured dust particles means they can better survive the supernova's shockwave. This research has been published in the journal Nature.

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posted 14 days ago on slashdot
mdsolar sends this story from the NY Times: Here's what your future will look like if we are to have a shot at preventing devastating climate change. Within about 15 years every new car sold in the United States will be electric. ... Up to 60 percent of power might come from nuclear sources. And coal's footprint will shrink drastically, perhaps even disappear from the power supply. This course, created by a team of energy experts, was unveiled on Tuesday in a report for the United Nations (PDF) that explores the technological paths available for the world's 15 main economies to both maintain reasonable rates of growth and cut their carbon emissions enough by 2050 to prevent climatic havoc. It offers a sobering conclusion: We might be able to pull it off. But it will take an overhaul of the way we use energy, and a huge investment in the development and deployment of new energy technologies. Significantly, it calls for an entirely different approach to international diplomacy on the issue of how to combat climate change.

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posted 14 days ago on slashdot
the_newsbeagle (2532562) writes "People who have experienced traumatic brain injuries sometimes lose the ability to form new memories or recall old ones. Since many veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan suffered TBIs, the U.S. military is funding research on an implantable device that could do the job of damaged brain cells." Lofty goals: "To start, DARPA will support the development of multi-scale computational models with high spatial and temporal resolution that describe how neurons code declarative memories — those well-defined parcels of knowledge that can be consciously recalled and described in words, such as events, times, and places. Researchers will also explore new methods for analysis and decoding of neural signals to understand how targeted stimulation might be applied to help the brain reestablish an ability to encode new memories following brain injury. ... Building on this foundational work, researchers will attempt to integrate the computational models ... into new, implantable, closed-loop systems able to deliver targeted neural stimulation that may ultimately help restore memory function."

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posted 14 days ago on slashdot
sciencehabit (1205606) writes For decades, physicists have sought the sources of the most energetic subatomic particles in the universe — cosmic rays that strike the atmosphere with as much energy as well-thrown baseballs. Now, a team working with the Telescope Array, a collection of 507 particle detectors covering 700 square kilometers of desert in Utah, has observed a broad 'hotspot' in the sky in which such cosmic rays seem to originate. Although not definitive, the observation suggests the cosmic rays emanate from a distinct source near our galaxy and not from sources spread all over the universe.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
Lasrick sends this quote from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: Most people would agree that keeping track of dangerous material is generally a good idea. So it may come as a surprise to some that the arrangements that are supposed to account for weapon-grade fissile materials—plutonium and highly enriched uranium—are sketchy at best. The most recent example involves several hundreds kilograms of plutonium that appear to have fallen through the cracks in various reporting arrangements. ... [A Japanese researcher discovered] that the public record of Japan’s plutonium holdings failed to account for about 640 kilograms of the material. The error made its way to the annual plutonium management report that Japan voluntarily submits to the International Atomic Energy Agency ... This episode may have been a simple clerical error, but it was yet another reminder of the troubling fact that we know very little about the amounts of fissile material that are circulating around the globe. The only reason the discrepancy was discovered in this case was the fact that Japan has been unusually transparent about its plutonium stocks. ... No other country does this.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes Dwarf Fortress, the epic, ASCII text-based, roguelike citybuilding game, just released its biggest update in years. The game is notable for its incredible depth, and the new release only extends it. Here are the release notes — they won't make much sense if you don't play the game, but they'll give you a sense of how massively complex Dwarf Fortress is. It's also worth noting the a team of modders has recently released a new version Stonesense utility, which renders the game in 3-D from an isometric point of view. "[T]he utility relies on DFHack, a community-made library that reads the game's memory and can be parsed, thus allowing for additional utilities to render things while bypassing the initial ASCII output." If you're unfamiliar with the game, here's an illustrated depiction of an amazing story generated by the game.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes Dr. James Simons received his doctorate at the age of 23. He was breaking codes for the NSA at 26, and was put in charge of Stony Brook University's math department at 30. He received the Veblen Prize in Geometry in 1976. Today, he's a multi-billionaire, using his fortune to set up educational foundations for math and science. "His passion, however, is basic research — the risky, freewheeling type. He recently financed new telescopes in the Chilean Andes that will look for faint ripples of light from the Big Bang, the theorized birth of the universe. The afternoon of the interview, he planned to speak to Stanford physicists eager to detect the axion, a ghostly particle thought to permeate the cosmos but long stuck in theoretical limbo. Their endeavor 'could be very exciting,' he said, his mood palpable, like that of a kid in a candy store." Dr. Simons is quick to say this his persistence, more than his intelligence, is key to his success: "I wasn't the fastest guy in the world. I wouldn't have done well in an Olympiad or a math contest. But I like to ponder. And pondering things, just sort of thinking about it and thinking about it, turns out to be a pretty good approach."

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
sfcrazy writes: The KDE Community has announced the first release of Plasma 5. It's a release candidate, so it's meant for testing and preview purposes, like the developer preview of Android L. The final release will be announced next week, so this is the last chance for testers and developers to find issues and get them fixed before the release.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: The used smartphone market is thriving, with many people selling their old devices on eBay or craigslist when it's time to upgrade. Unfortunately, it seems most people are really bad at wiping their phone of personal data before passing it on to a stranger. Antivirus company Avast bought 20 used Android phones off eBay, and used some basic data recovery software to reconstruct deleted files. From just those 20 phones, they pulled over 40,000 photographs, including 1,500 family pictures of children and over a thousand more.. personal pictures. They also recovered hundreds of emails and text messages, over a thousand Google searches, a completed loan application, and identity information for four of the previous owners. Only one of the phones had security software installed on it, but that phone turned out to provide the most information of all: "Hackers at Avast were able to identify the previous owner, access his Facebook page, plot his previous whereabouts through GPS coordinates, and find the names and numbers of more than a dozen of his closest contacts. What's more, the company discovered a lot about this guy's penchant for kink and a completed copy of a Sexual Harassment course — hopefully a preventative measure."

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
ShaunC writes: Is there a glut of qualified American tech workers, or isn't there? Some companies like Facebook and Airbnb are now actively courting and recruiting high school students as young as 13 with promises of huge stipends and salaries. As one student put it, "It's kind of insane that you can make more than the U.S. average income in a summer." Another who attended a Facebook-sponsored trip said he'd "forego college for a full-time job" if it were offered. Is Silicon Valley taking advantage of naive young workers?

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Many prominent news organizations, including the BBC, are reporting on a study (PDF) that claims a new blood test is 87% accurate in predicting which patients will develop cognitive impairment. It's hailed as a major step forward in efforts to fight dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Unfortunately, reality isn't quite so impressive. An article at MedPage Today explains all of the statistical facts that the mainstream press glosses over: "Only about 10% of patients of patients with MCI convert to clinical dementia per year. With nearly 30% of positive results false (remember, the specificity was 71%) as well as 15% of negative results false, most of the positive results in such a group will be false. Yes, it's time once again for a tutorial in positive predictive values. If we have 100 MCI patients and a 10% conversion rate, then 10 of them will develop dementia. These are the true positives. There will be 90 true negatives — the ones who don't convert. But with a specificity of 71%, the test will falsely identify 29% of the 90 true negatives, or 26, as positive. Meanwhile, with a false negative rate of 15%, only nine (rounding up from 8.5) of the 10 true positives will be correctly identified. ... It's easy to get a high negative predictive value when the annual event rate is 10%. If I simply predict that no one will convert, I'll be right 90% of the time."

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
EthanV2 sends word that BlackBerry, having finally caught up to a world dominated by smartphones, is now trying to push the envelope by developing a smartphone with a square screen. The BlackBerry Passport has a 4.5-inch screen with a resolution of 1440x1440. The phone has a physical keyboard as well. In a blog post about the new phone, they show a picture with it side-by-side with an iPhone and a Galaxy S5 — the Passport is slightly taller than the iPhone, and significantly wider, as you'd expect. The Passport is a play for BlackBerry's "traditional" work-oriented user base, where the earlier BlackBerry Z10 and Z30 were efforts to break into the post-iPhone consumer smartphone space. Though the Passport may well be preferable for spreadsheets and word processing, that square screen will be much less useful for widescreen movies, and its wide, blocky design will entirely prohibit one-handed use. The Passport is expected to appear later this year, and it will launch with BlackBerry 10.3 (at least, according to early hands-on previews).

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
itwbennett writes: Python has surpassed Java as the top language used to introduce U.S. students to programming and computer science, according to a recent survey posted by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). Eight of the top 10 computer science departments now use Python to teach coding, as well as 27 of the top 39 schools, indicating that it is the most popular language for teaching introductory computer science courses, according to Philip Guo, a computer science researcher who compiled the survey for ACM."

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
Kittenman writes: The BBC is carrying information on a type of contraception (funded in part by Bill Gates) that takes the form of a microchip, inserted under the skin. The chip releases contraceptive hormones to the body until wirelessly advised not to do so. This device has several interesting applications and issues associated with it. The researchers are already working on making the device secure against unauthorized transmissions. There's also the issue of making it easier for governments to control population levels. The chip will be available from 2018. This correspondent will watch the issues with interest.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
New submitter jbmartin6 writes: The Panopticon may be coming, but perhaps not how we think. Instead of a massive government surveillance program, we might end up subjected to ubiquitous monitoring to save on our insurance premiums. The "internet of things (you can't get away from)" makes this more and more possible. Here a company saved money on its health insurance premiums by distributing Fitbits and an online service to enable reporting fitness gains back to the insurance company. We've already seen the stories on using black boxes to monitor drivers. There is even an insurance company named Panoptic! Heck, why not a premium hike for owners of this or that "aggressiveness gene"? What if in the future we got a quick "+50 cents" tweet for every scoop of ice cream? I suppose the natural stopping point might be the balance between an individual's willingness to be monitored and the desire to reduce insurance premiums.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
bmahersciwriter (2955569) writes In one of the biggest-ever seismology deployments at an active volcano, researchers are peppering Mount St Helens in Washington state with equipment to study the intricate system of chambers and pipes that fed the most devastating eruption in U.S. history. This month, they plan to set off 24 explosions — each equivalent to a magnitude-2 earthquake — around around the slumbering beast in an effort to map the its interior with unprecedented depth and clarity.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
schwit1 (797399) writes "Over 20 years after being smuggled out of Russia, a trove of KGB documents are being opened up to the public for the first time. The leaked documents include thousands of files and represent what the FBI is said to view as "the most complete and extensive intelligence ever received from any source." The documents include KGB information on secret Russian weapons caches, Russian spies, and KGB information on the activities of Pope John Paul II. Known as the Mitrokhin Archive, the files are all available as of today at Churchill College's Archives Centre."

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