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Sci-Fi Authors and Scientists Predict an Optimistic Future

Soulskill posted 41 minutes ago | from the roddenberry-approved dept.

Sci-Fi 23

An anonymous reader writes: A few years ago, author Neal Stephenson argued that sci-fi had forgotten how to inspire people to do great things. Indeed, much of recent science fiction has been pessimistic and skeptical, focusing on all the ways our inventions could go wrong, and how hostile the universe is to humankind. Now, a group of scientists, engineers, and authors (including Stephenson himself) is trying to change that. Arizona State University recently launched Project Hieroglyph, a hub for ideas that will influence science fiction to be more optimistic and accurate, and to focus on the great things humanity is capable of doing.

For example, in the development of a short story, Stephenson wanted to know if it's possible to build a tower that's 20 kilometers tall. Keith Hjelmsad, an expert in structural stability and computational mechanics, wrote a detailed response about the challenge involved in building such a tower. Other authors are contributing questions as well, and researchers are chiming in with fascinating, science-based replies. Roboticist Srikanth Saripalli makes this interesting point: "If the government has to decide what to fund and what not to fund, they are going to get their ideas and decisions mostly from science fiction rather than what's being published in technical papers."

Funding Tech For Government, Instead of Tech For Industry

Soulskill posted 1 hour ago | from the imagine-an-iphone-developed-by-the-government dept.

Government 18

An anonymous reader writes: If you're a creative engineer looking to build a product, you're probably going to end up starting your own business or joining an established. That's where ideas get funding, and that's where products make a difference (not to mention money). Unfortunately, it also siphons a lot of the tech-related talent away from government (and by extension, everybody else), who could really benefit from this creative brilliance. That's why investor Ron Bouganim just started a $23 million fund for investment in tech companies that develop ideas for the U.S. government. Not only is he hoping to transfer some of the $74 billion spent annually by the government on technology to more efficient targets, but also to change the perception that the best tech comes from giant, entrenched government contractors.

Court: Car Dealers Can't Stop Tesla From Selling In Massachusetts

Soulskill posted 2 hours ago | from the court-order-to-play-well-with-others dept.

Government 49

curtwoodward writes: Many states have laws that prevent car manufacturers from operating their own dealerships, a throwback to the days when Detroit tried to undercut its franchise dealers by opening company-owned shops. But dealers have taken those laws to the extreme as they battle new competition from Tesla, which is selling its cars direct to the public. In some states, dealers have succeeded in limiting Tesla's direct-sales model. But not in Massachusetts (PDF): the state's Supreme Court says the dealers don't have any right to sue Tesla for unfair competition, since they're not Tesla dealers. No harm, no foul.

Court Rules the "Google" Trademark Isn't Generic

samzenpus posted 2 hours ago | from the what's-in-a-name dept.

The Courts 62

ericgoldman writes Even though "googling" and "Google it" are now common phrases, a federal court ruled that the "Google" trademark is still a valid trademark instead of a generic term (unlike former trademarks such as escalator, aspirin or yo-yo). The court distinguished between consumers using Google as a verb (such as "google it"), which didn't automatically make the term generic, and consumers using Google to describe one player in the market, which 90%+ of consumers still do.

SparkFun Works to Build the Edison Ecosystem (Video)

Roblimo posted 3 hours ago | from the more-tiny-electronics-for-makers-and-builders-to-make-and-build-with dept.

Intel 34

Edison is an Intel creation aimed squarely at the maker and prototype markets. It's smaller than an Arduino, has built-in wi-fi, and is designed to be used in embedded applications. SparkFun is "an online retail store that sells the bits and pieces to make your electronics projects possible." They're partnering with Intel to sell the Edison and all kinds of add-ons for it. Open source? Sure. Right down to the schematics. David Stillman, star of today's video, works for SparkFun. He talks about "a gajillion" things you can do with an Edison, up to and including the creation of an image-recognition system for your next homemade drone. (Alternate Video Link)

Uber CEO: We'll Run Your Errands

samzenpus posted 4 hours ago | from the filling-in-the-gaps dept.

Businesses 88

mpicpp writes with Uber's latest plans for expansion. The future of Uber is about pharmacies and rickshaws. So says CEO Travis Kalanick. One of several avenues for expansion is in a category of delivery that's about running errands. "In Los Angeles, we're doing something called Uber Fresh, which is you push a button and you get a lunch in five minutes," Kalanick told CNN's Fareed Zakaria. "In DC, we're doing Uber Corner Store. So imagine all the things you get at a corner store...FedEx isn't going to your nearest pharmacy and delivering something to you in five minutes," he continued. Another is in emerging markets, where the company may focus on rickshaws, rather than high-end black cars, Kalanick said.

A 16-Year-Old Builds a Device To Convert Breath Into Speech

samzenpus posted 4 hours ago | from the breathe-and-spell dept.

42

stephendavion writes A 16-year-old from India has designed a device that converts breath into speech. High-school student Arsh Shah Dilbagi invented TALK as a portable and affordable way to aid people suffering from ALS, locked-in syndrome, and anyone else speech-impaired or paralyzed. Prototyped using a basic $25 Arduino microcontroller, Dilbagi's invention costs only $80, or about a hundred times less than the sort of Augmentative and Alternative Communication device used by Stephen Hawking. TALK works by translating breath into electric signals using a MEMS Microphone, an advanced form of listening tech that uses a diaphragm etched directly onto a silicon microchip. The user is expected to be able to give two distinguishable exhales, varying in intensity or time, so that they can spell words out using Morse code.

Artificial Spleen Removes Ebola, HIV Viruses and Toxins From Blood Using Magnets

samzenpus posted 4 hours ago | from the cleaning-the-system dept.

Medicine 84

concertina226 writes Harvard scientists have invented a new artificial spleen that is able to clear toxins, fungi and deadly pathogens such as Ebola from human blood, which could potentially save millions of lives. When antibiotics are used to kill them, dying viruses release toxins in the blood that begin to multiply quickly, causing sepsis, a life-threatening condition whereby the immune system overreacts, causing blood clotting, organ damage and inflammation. To overcome this, researchers have invented a "biospleen", a device similar to a dialysis machine that makes use of magnetic nanobeads measuring 128 nanometres in diameter (one-five hundredths the width of a single human hair) coated with mannose-binding lectin (MBL), a type of genetically engineered human blood protein.

The FCC Net Neutrality Comment Deadline Has Arrived: What Now?

samzenpus posted 5 hours ago | from the what-are-you-going-to-do-about-it? dept.

Government 98

blottsie writes After months of heated debate, viral campaigns, deliberate "slowdowns" and record-breaking public responses, the Federal Communications Commission is finally set to decide how "net neutrality"—the principle that all data must be treated equally by Internet service providers (ISPs)—should look in the U.S., or if it should exist at all. Today, Sept. 15, the FCC officially closes its public comment period on its latest net neutrality proposal. The plan enables ISPs to discriminate against certain types of data, in certain circumstances, by charging extra for broadband “fast lanes” between content providers—like Netflix or YouTube—and users.

How Governments Are Getting Around the UN's Ban On Blinding Laser Weapons

samzenpus posted 6 hours ago | from the don't-stare-directly-into-the-rifle dept.

The Military 118

Lasrick writes Despite the UN's 1995 Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons, the world is moving closer to laser weapons in both military and law enforcement situations that can cause temporary and even permanent blindness. Military-funded research in this area continues to be conducted by the Optical Radiation Bioeffects and Safety program, and already "dazzlers" have been in use in Afghanistan. Domestic versions of these weapons are intended for use by law enforcement agencies and in theory cause motion-sickness type illness but not blindness. "But something bright enough to dazzle at 300 meters can cause permanent eye damage at 50 meters, and these devices can be set to deliver a narrow (and more intense) beam."

Canon Printer Hacked To Run Doom Video Game

samzenpus posted 6 hours ago | from the print-or-play dept.

Security 67

wiredog writes Security researcher Michael Jordon has hacked a Canon's Pixma printer to run Doom. He did so by reverse engineering the firmware encryption and uploading via the update interface. From the BBC: "Like many modern printers, Canon's Pixma range can be accessed via the net, so owners can check the device's status. However, Mr Jordon, who works for Context Information Security, found Canon had done a poor job of securing this method of interrogating the device. 'The web interface has no user name or password on it,' he said. That meant anyone could look at the status of any device once they found it, he said. A check via the Shodan search engine suggests there are thousands of potentially vulnerable Pixma printers already discoverable online. There is no evidence that anyone is attacking printers via the route Mr Jordon found."

New Data Center Protects Against Solar Storm and Nuclear EMPs

samzenpus posted 7 hours ago | from the playing-it-safe dept.

Cloud 47

dcblogs writes "In Boyers, Pa., a recently opened 2,000-sq.-ft. data center has been purpose-built to protect against an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), either generated by a solar storm or a nuclear event. The company that built the facility isn't disclosing exactly how the data center was constructed or what materials were used. But broadly, it did say that the structure has an inner skin and an outer skin that use a combination of thicknesses and metals to provide EMP protection. Betting against an EMP event is a gamble. In 1859, the so-called Carrington solar storm lit the night skies and disrupted the only telegraph communications. William Murtagh, program coordinator at U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center, said there is ongoing concern that the earth may see an solar storm that could impact electronics on the ground. "We're concerned that can happen," A 2012 solar storm, that missed the earth, "was very powerful, and some have suggested it would have been on par with a Carrington-level event." One researcher put the odds of a catastrophic solar storm by 2020 as one in eight.

Ask Slashdot: What To Do After Digitizing VHS Tapes?

samzenpus posted 7 hours ago | from the now-what? dept.

Media 206

An anonymous reader writes Now that I've spent close to a month digitizing a desk drawer's worth of VHS tapes, deinterlacing and postprocessing the originals to minimize years of tape decay, and compressing everything down to H.264, I've found myself with a hard drive full of loosely organized videos. They'll get picked up by my existing monthly backup, but I feel like I haven't gained much in the way of redundancy, as I thought I would. Instead of having tapes slowly degrade, I'm now open to losing entire movies at once, should both of my drives go bad. Does anyone maintain a library, and if so, what would they recommend? Is having them duplicated on two drives (one of which is spun down for all but one day of the month) a good-enough long term strategy? Should I look into additionally backing up to optical discs or flash drives, building out a better (RAIDed) backup machine, or even keeping the original tapes around despite them having been digitized?

Chinese City Sets Up "No Cell Phone" Pedestrian Lanes

samzenpus posted 8 hours ago | from the on-your-right dept.

China 43

An anonymous reader writes The Chinese city of Chongqing has created a smartphone sidewalk lane, offering a path for those too caught up in messaging and tweeting to watch where they're going. "There are lots of elderly people and children in our street, and walking with your cell phone may cause unnecessary collisions here," said Nong Cheng, a spokeswoman for the district's property management company. However, she clarified that the initiative was meant to be a satirical way to highlight the dangers of texting and walking.

Extent of Antarctic Sea Ice Reaches Record Levels

samzenpus posted 9 hours ago | from the no-this-doesn't-mean-global-warming-isn't-real dept.

Earth 401

schwit1 writes Scientists have declared a new record has been set for the extent of Antarctic sea ice since records began. Satellite imagery reveals an area of about 20 million square kilometers covered by sea ice around the Antarctic continent. Jan Lieser from the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) said the discovery was made two days ago. "Thirty-five years ago the first satellites went up which were reliably telling us what area, two dimensional area, of sea ice was covered and we've never seen that before, that much area."

European Space Agency Picks Site For First Comet Landing In November

samzenpus posted 9 hours ago | from the x-marks-the-spot dept.

Space 32

An anonymous reader writes Europe's Rosetta mission, which aims to land on a comet later this year, has identified what it thinks is the safest place to touch down. From the article: "Scientists and engineers have spent weeks studying the 4km-wide "ice mountain" known as 67P, looking for a location they can place a small robot. They have chosen what they hope is a relatively smooth region on the smaller of the comet's two lobes. But the team is under no illusions as to how difficult the task will be. Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, currently sweeping through space some 440 million km from Earth, is highly irregular in shape. Its surface terrain is marked by deep depressions and towering cliffs. Even the apparently flat surfaces contain potentially hazardous boulders and fractures. Avoiding all of these dangers will require a good slice of luck as well as careful planning.

Google's Android One Initiative Launches In India With Three $100 Phones

samzenpus posted 10 hours ago | from the cheap-at-twice-the-price dept.

Google 45

An anonymous reader writes Google has unveiled its first set of Android One low-cost smartphones in the Indian market, partnering with Indian hardware vendors Spice, Micromax and Karbonn. The three phones will be available online on Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal and via Reliance Digital, Croma and The Mobile Store, offline. The phones provide a minimum set of features determined by Google, which has sourced several of the components to help cut manufacturing costs. The company has also teamed up with a local network to make it cheaper to download Android updates and new apps.

Microsoft To Buy Minecraft Maker Mojang For $2.5 Billion

samzenpus posted 11 hours ago | from the big-fish dept.

Microsoft 286

jawtheshark writes The rumors were true. Mojang, the company behind Minecraft, is being sold to Microsoft. Of course, the promise is to keep all products supported as they are. From the article: "Microsoft said it has agreed to buy Mojang AB, the Swedish video game company behind the hit Minecraft game, boosting its mobile efforts and cementing control of another hit title for its Xbox console. Minecraft, which has notched about 50 million copies sold, will be purchased by Microsoft for $2.5 billion, the company said in a statement. The move marks the tech giant's most ambitious video game purchase and the largest acquisition for Satya Nadella, its new chief executive. Minecraft is more than a great game franchise - it is an open world platform, driven by a vibrant community we care deeply about, and rich with new opportunities for that community and for Microsoft,' Nadella said in a statement."

Comcast Allegedly Asking Customers to Stop Using Tor

samzenpus posted 12 hours ago | from the no-tor-for-you dept.

Businesses 369

An anonymous reader writes Comcast agents have reportedly contacted customers who use Tor and said their service can get terminated if they don't stop using Tor. According to Deep.Dot.Web, one of those calls included a Comcast customer service agent who allegedly called Tor an “illegal service.” The Comcast agent told the customer that such activity is against usage policies. The Comcast agent then allegedly told the customer: "Users who try to use anonymity, or cover themselves up on the internet, are usually doing things that aren’t so-to-speak legal. We have the right to terminate, fine, or suspend your account at anytime due to you violating the rules. Do you have any other questions? Thank you for contacting Comcast, have a great day." Update: 09/15 18:38 GMT by S : Comcast has responded, saying they have no policy against Tor and don't care if people use it.

New Details About NSA's Exhaustive Search of Edward Snowden's Emails

samzenpus posted 12 hours ago | from the taking-a-good-look dept.

Privacy 178

An anonymous reader points out this Vice story with new information about the NSA's search of Edward Snowden's emails. Last year, the National Security Agency (NSA) reviewed all of Edward Snowden's available emails in addition to interviewing NSA employees and contractors in order to determine if he had ever raised concerns internally about the agency's vast surveillance programs. According to court documents the government filed in federal court September 12, NSA officials were unable to find any evidence Snowden ever had.

In a sworn declaration, David Sherman, the NSA's associate director for policy and records, said the agency launched a "comprehensive" investigation after journalists began to write about top-secret NSA spy programs upon obtaining documents Snowden leaked to them. The investigation included searches of any records where emails Snowden sent raising concerns about NSA programs "would be expected to be found within the agency." Sherman, who has worked for the NSA since 1985, is a "original classification authority," which means he can classify documents as "top-secret" and process, review, and redact records the agency releases in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

In his declaration, Sherman detailed steps he said agency officials took to track down any emails Snowden wrote that contained evidence he'd raised concerns inside the agency. Sherman said the NSA searched sent, received, deleted emails from Snowden's account and emails "obtained by restoring back-up tapes." He noted that NSA officials reviewed written reports and notes from interviews with "NSA affiliates" with whom the agency spoke during its investigation.

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