An Associated Press story, as carried by the Philadelphia Inquirer, says that NASA plans to test this Tuesday on the Hawaiian island of Kauai a huge (110' diameter) parachute intended as a means to land big loads (like astronauts) on the surface of Mars.
Says the story: "The skies off the Hawaiian island of Kauai will be a stand-in for Mars as NASA prepares to launch a saucer-shaped vehicle in an experimental flight designed to land heavy loads on the red planet. For decades, robotic landers and rovers have hitched a ride to Earth's planetary neighbor using the same parachute design. But NASA needs a bigger and stronger parachute if it wants to send astronauts there. ... During the flight, a high-flying balloon will loft the disc-shaped vehicle from the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai to 23 miles over the Pacific where it will be dropped. Then it will fire its rocket motor to climb to 34 miles, accelerating to Mach 4. The environment at this altitude is similar to Mars' thin atmosphere. As it descends to Earth, a tube around the vehicle should inflate, slowing it down. Then the parachute should pop out, guiding the vehicle to a gentle splashdown in the Pacific."
An anonymous reader writes "Light doesn't just make things brighter; it can also push things around. Normally this "radiation pressure" force is so small you don't notice it. But if you get a really big mirror then you could use it to power a space ship to the stars. This is the idea behind solar sails. The impact of light is more obvious on small things. Scientists are thinking about levitation of a mirror that would be large enough to see with the naked eye. If this turns out to work, the motion of the floating mirror could be used to probe the physics that connects quantum theory and general relativity."
Daniel Ellsberg, no slouch himself in bringing to public awareness documents that reveal uncomfortable facts about government operations, says that "Edward Snowden is the greatest patriot whistleblower of our time." Ellsberg says, in an editorial at The Guardian pointed out by reader ABEND (15913), that Snowden cannot receive a fair trial without reform of the Espionage Act. According to Ellsberg, "Snowden would come back home to a jail cell – and not just an ordinary cell-block but isolation in solitary confinement, not just for months like Chelsea Manning but for the rest of his sentence, and probably the rest of his life. His legal adviser, Ben Wizner, told me that he estimates Snowden's chance of being allowed out on bail as zero. (I was out on bond, speaking against the Vietnam war, the whole 23 months I was under indictment). More importantly, the current state of whistleblowing prosecutions under the Espionage Act makes a truly fair trial wholly unavailable to an American who has exposed classified wrongdoing. Legal scholars have strongly argued that the US supreme court – which has never yet addressed the constitutionality of applying the Espionage Act to leaks to the American public – should find the use of it overbroad and unconstitutional in the absence of a public interest defense. The Espionage Act, as applied to whistleblowers, violates the First Amendment, is what they're saying. As I know from my own case, even Snowden's own testimony on the stand would be gagged by government objections and the (arguably unconstitutional) nature of his charges. That was my own experience in court, as the first American to be prosecuted under the Espionage Act – or any other statute – for giving information to the American people." Ellsberg rejects the distinction made by John Kerry in praising Ellsberg's own whistleblowing as patriotic, but Snowden's as cowardly and traitorous.
New submitter Bodhammer (559311) writes "German researchers looked at the brains of 64 men between the ages of 21 and 45 and found that one brain region (the striatum, linked to reward processing), was smaller in the brains of porn watchers, and that a specific part of the same region is also less activated when exposed to more pornography." While it's tempting to cast blame, "the study doesn't confirm whether watching porn causes the changes, or whether people with a certain brain type are inherently more apt to tune into X-rated content." The study's abstract is available; the paper itself is pay-walled.
TechCrunch is among the many outlets which carry news (based on a release from MIT professor Daniela Rus) of robots that take advantage of materials engineered to change shape with the application of heat. With carefully planned creases and slits "printed" into flat sheets of plastic, heat-induced deformation can be channeled to create complex three-dimentional shapes, something between origami and Shrinky-Dinks. The creases can also be used to create moving parts in the finished product, and -- as with papercraft -- folding, overlapping and other techniques can increase the stiffness or otherwise give useful properties to the robot bodies formed. From the article: "This project could also produce a variable resistor by opening or closing an electric component and even create metallic muscles that contract when heated or current is applied. It’s obviously still in very early stages right now but Rus and her team will exhibit the technology at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation this year and maybe, one day, our cake-like robotic servants will rise up and bake us."
PC Mag reports that an upcoming laptop from HP (one that was prematurely announced in April, and now official) has decent-to-good specs — under 4 pounds, battery life more than 8 hours, Tegra processor, and a 1928x1080 touch screen — but an unusual operating system, at least for a laptop. The SlateBook 14 will run Android, rather than Windows (or ChromeOS, for that matter), which helps keep it relatively cheap, at $400. According to the article, Android is "a lot cheaper for HP to implement in a laptop; ChromeOS, in contrast, comes with more stringent system requirements that would cost HP a bit more." Ars Technica's mention in April includes a screenshot taken from a video (note: video itself appears to be disabled) which shows the keyboard layout and which reveals some Android-specific changes. Update: 06/01 19:23 GMT by T : Here's an alternative link to the promotional video.
mikejuk (1801200) writes "Born With Curiosity is a proposed biopic about computer pioneer Grace Hopper. With a week to go before it closes on June 7, a crowdfunding campaign on Indigogo has so far raised 94% of its $45,000 target. Although there have been a couple of books devoted to Grace Hopper and she recently was the subject of a Google Doodle, her story hasn't made it to celluloid, which is something that Melissa Pierce finds anomalous, stating on the Born With Curiosity Indigogo page: 'Steve Jobs had 8 films made about him, with another in pre-production! Without Grace Hopper, Steve might have been a door to door calculator salesman! Even with that fact,there isn't one documentary about Grace and her legacy. It's time to change that.'"
New submitter janvlug (3677453) writes "[As of Saturday, May 31], the OpenPandora case and hardware design files have been released for non-commercial use. The OpenPandora is a hand held Linux computer with gaming controls, but essentially it is an all-purpose computer. The OpenPandora offers the greatest possible degree of software freedom to a vibrant community of users and developers."
An anonymous reader writes "I am the IT director for a large rental property company that owns approximately 15,000 apartments in college towns across America. The board of directors has tasked me with exploring whether we can 'privatize' our network (we provide network access as part of rent in all of our properties) and charge certain commercial entities for access to our residents. Right now the network is more or less open, except that we block access (by court order) to certain sites at the request of various copyright holders. Specifically, they are interested in targeting commercial providers of services directed at college students, such as textbook rental firms, online booksellers, and so on. With approximately 35,000 residents, I guess they are thinking there is a substantial profit to be made here. Personally I don't like it one bit, but I thought I would ping Slashdot for thoughtful opinions. I imagine the phones will start ringing off the hook if students suddenly lose access to places like Amazon.com. I think it has 'bad idea' written all over it. What do you think?"
Advocatus Diaboli (1627651) writes "The National Security Agency is harvesting huge numbers of images of people from communications that it intercepts through its global surveillance operations for use in sophisticated facial recognition programs, according to top-secret documents. The spy agency's reliance on facial recognition technology has grown significantly over the last four years as the agency has turned to new software to exploit the flood of images included in emails, text messages, social media, videoconferences and other communications, the N.S.A. documents reveal. Agency officials believe that technological advances could revolutionize the way that the N.S.A. finds intelligence targets around the world, the documents show. The agency's ambitions for this highly sensitive ability and the scale of its effort have not previously been disclosed."
First time accepted submitter Jim Efaw (3484) writes "Tired of the OpenDNS Guide surprise from website-unavailable.com when you go to an old link or a typo from some ISPs? Relief is at hand: On June 6, 2014, OpenDNS will stop redirecting dead hostnames to Guide and its ads; the OpenDNS Guide itself will shut down sometime afterwards. OpenDNS nameservers will start returning normal NXDOMAIN and SERVFAIL messages instead. Phishing protection and optional parental controls will still stay in place."