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An anonymous reader writes about a Chinese building project designed to cement claims to a disputed region of the South China Sea. Sand, cement, wood, and steel are China's weapons of choice as it asserts its claim over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. China, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Brunei have sparred for decades over ownership of the 100 islands and reefs, which measure less than 1,300 acres in total but stretch across an area about the size of Iraq. In recent months, vessels belonging to the People's Republic have been spotted ferrying construction materials to build new islands in the sea. Pasi Abdulpata, a Filipino fishing contractor who in October was plying the waters near Parola Island in the northern Spratlys, says he came across "this huge Chinese ship sucking sand and rocks from one end of the ocean and blasting it to the other using a tube."
Artificial islands could help China anchor its claim to waters that host some of the world's busiest shipping lanes. The South China Sea may hold as much as 11 billion barrels of oil and 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to a 2013 report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. China has considered the Spratlys—which it calls Nansha—part of its territory since the 1940s and on occasion has used its military might to enforce its claim. In 1988 a Chinese naval attack at Johnson South Reef, in the northern portion of the archipelago, killed 64 Vietnamese border guards.
An anonymous reader writes "SpaceX has cancelled the launch of a Falcon 9 rocket after identifying a potential concern during preflight testing. This is the third straight day technical issues or weather have caused a delay. "Today's Orbcomm launch attempt has been scrubbed to address a potential concern identified during pre-flight checks," a SpaceX spokesperson said in a statement. "The vehicle and payload are in good condition, and engineering teams will take the extra time to ensure the highest possible level of mission assurance prior to flight," the statement said. The rocket is now scheduled for a Tuesday launch."
An anonymous reader writes For better or worse, surveillance technology is becoming more common in the workplace. These tools are being used to measure and monitor employees, with the promise changing how people work. "Through these new means, companies have found, for example, that workers are more productive if they have more social interaction. So a bank's call center introduced a shared 15-minute coffee break, and a pharmaceutical company replaced coffee makers used by a few marketing workers with a larger cafe area. The result? Increased sales and less turnover." Of course, this kind of monitoring raises privacy concerns. "Whether this kind of monitoring is effective or not, it's a concern," said Lee Tien, a senior staff lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco.
An anonymous reader writes with this interesting look at how Disney created realistic animatronic figures in a time before programming languages and systems on a chip. Animatronics have powered some of sci-fi and fantasy cinema's most imposing creatures and characters: The alien queen in Aliens, the Terminator in The Terminator, and Jaws of Jaws (the key to getting top billing in Hollywood: be a robot). Even beloved little E.T.—of E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial—was a pile of aluminum, steel, and foam rubber capable of 150 robotic actions, including wrinkling its nose. But although animatronics is a treasured component of some of culture's farthest-reaching movies, it originated in much more mundane circumstances. According to the Disney archives, it began with a bird.
Among the things Walt Disney was renowned for was bringing animatronics (or what he termed at the time Audio-Animatronics) to big stages at his company and elsewhere. But Disney didn't discover or invent animatronics for entertainment use; rather, he found it in a store. In a video on Disney's site, Disney archivist Dave Smith tells a story of how one day in the early 1950s, while out shopping in New Orleans antique shop, Disney took note of a tiny cage with a tinier mechanical bird, bobbing its tail and wings while tweeting tunelessly. He bought the trinket and brought it back to his studio, where his technicians took the bird apart to see how it worked.
An anonymous reader writes Researchers have discovered that emperor penguins may not be faithful to their previous nesting locations, as previously thought. Scientists have long thought that emperor penguins were philopatric, returning to the same location to nest each year. However, a new research study showed that the penguins may be behaving in ways that allow them to adapt to their changing environment. Lead author Michelle LaRue said,"Our research showing that colonies seem to appear and disappear throughout the years challenges behaviors we thought we understood about emperor penguins. If we assume that these birds come back to the same locations every year, without fail, these new colonies we see on satellite images wouldn't make any sense. These birds didn't just appear out of thin air—they had to have come from somewhere else. This suggests that emperor penguins move among colonies. That means we need to revisit how we interpret population changes and the causes of those changes."
An anonymous reader writes Even though it's been a couple months since the Heartbleed bug was discovered, many servers remain unpatched and vulnerable. "Two months ago, security experts and web users panicked when a Google engineer discovered a major bug — known as Heartbleed — that put over a million web servers at risk. The bug doesn't make the news much anymore, but that doesn't mean the problem's solved. Security researcher Robert David Graham has found that at least 309,197 servers are still vulnerable to the exploit. Immediately after the announcement, Graham found some 600,000 servers were exposed by Heartbleed. One month after the bug was announced, that number dropped down to 318,239. In the past month, however, only 9,042 of those servers have been patched to block Heartbleed. That's cause for concern, because it means that smaller sites aren't making the effort to implement a fix."
An anonymous reader writes There have been many US military machines of war that seemed to be revolutionary, but never make it out of the prototype stage. As Robert Farley explains: "Sometimes they die because they were a bad idea in the first place. For the same reasons, bad defense systems can often survive the most inept management if they fill a particular niche well enough." A weapon can seem like an amazing invention, but it still has to adapt to all sorts of conditions--budgetary, politics, and people's plain bias. Here's a look at a few of the best weapons of war that couldn't win under these "battlefield" conditions.
schwit1 (797399) writes "The text of a 19-page, international trade agreement being drafted in secret was published by WikiLeaks as the transparency group's editor commemorated his two-year anniversary confined to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Fifty countries around the globe have already signed on to the Trade in Service Agreement, or TISA, including the United States, Australia and the European Union. Despite vast international ties, however, details about the deal have been negotiated behind closed-doors and largely ignored by the press. In a statement published by the group alongside the leaked draft this week, WikiLeaks said "proponents of TISA aim to further deregulate global financial services markets," and have participated in "a significant anti-transparency maneuver" by working secretly on a deal that covers more than 68 percent of world trade in services, according to the Swiss National Center for Competence in Research.
hypnosec writes A new movement dubbed the Open Wireless Movement is asking users to open up their private Wi-Fi networks to total strangers – a random act of kindness – with an aim of better securing networks and facilitating better use of finite broadband resources. The movement is supported by non-profit and pro-internet rights organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), Mozilla, Open Rights Group, and Free Press among others. The EFF is planning to unveil one such innovation – Open Wireless Router – at the Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE X) conference to be held next month on New York. This firmware will allow individuals to share their private Wi-Fi to total strangers to anyone without a password.
ectoman (594315) writes The U.S. Supreme Court issued a groundbreaking decision concerning software patents, claiming that abstract ideas are not by themselves patentable. The ruling was a cause for celebration among those opposed to software patent abuse, like Red Hat's Vice President and Assistant General Counsel, Rob Tiller. Here, Tiller analyzes and offers some context for the Court's ruling, which "uses the traditional common law methodology of comparing one case to previous similar cases and harmonizing with those most similar."
An anonymous reader writes The White House has announced a federal strategy to reverse a decline in the number of honeybees and other pollinators in the United States. Obama has directed federal agencies to use research, land management, education and public/private partnerships to advance honeybee and other pollinator health and habitats. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Agriculture Department will lead a multi-agency task force to develop a pollinator health strategy and action plan within six months. As part of the plan, the USDA announced $8 million in funding for farmers and ranchers in five states who establish new habitats for honeybee populations.
An anonymous reader writes A few months ago researchers announced they had discovered proof of the big bang. Now they're not so sure. Further research suggests cosmic dust might have skewed the results. "Back in March, the BICEP2 team reported a twisted pattern in the sky, which they attributed to primordial gravitational waves, wrinkles in the fabric of the universe that could have been produced when the baby universe went through an enormous growth spurt. If correct, this would confirm the theory of inflation, which says that the universe expanded exponentially in the first slivers of a second after the big bang – many believe that it continues to expand into an ever-growing multiverse. Doubts about the announcement soon emerged. The BICEP2 team identified the waves based on how they twisted, or polarised, the photons in the cosmic microwave background (CMB), the earliest light emitted in the universe around 380,000 years after the big bang. Other objects, such as the ashes of exploding stars or dust within our galaxy, can polarise light as well."
Presto Vivace writes: Fortune has an article about increasingly overt age discrimination in the tech industry. Quoting: "It's a widely accepted reality within the technology industry that youth rules. But at least part of the extreme age imbalance can be traced back to advertisements for open positions that government regulators say may illegally discriminate against older applicants. Many tech companies post openings exclusively for new or recent college graduates, a pool of candidates that is overwhelmingly in its early twenties. ... 'In our view, it's illegal,' Raymond Peeler, senior attorney advisor at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency that enforces workplace discrimination laws said about the use of 'new grad' and 'recent grad' in job notices. 'We think it deters older applicants from applying.'" Am I the only one who thinks many of the quality control issues and failed projects in the tech industry can be attributed to age discrimination?
An anonymous reader writes In a paper published in Nature (abstract), scientists report successfully measuring the magnetic interaction of two bound electrons of two different strontium (Sr) ions. The two ions were suspended in a quadrupole ion trap (a.k.a. a Paul trap), and the effects of ambient magnetic noise were mitigated by 'restricting the spin evolution [of the electrons] to a decoherence-free subspace that is immune to collective magnetic field noise.' The scientists measured the magnetic interaction of the two electrons as a function of distance and found that the force acting between the two was inversely dependant on the cubed distance between the electrons, consistent with Newton's inverse-cube law.
rtoz writes: Researchers have found a new material design based on the use of microlattices with nanoscale features, combining great stiffness and strength with ultralow density. The actual production of such materials is made possible by a high-precision 3-D printing process called projection microstereolithography. Normally, stiffness and strength declines with the density of any material; that's why when bone density decreases, fractures become more likely. But using the right mathematically determined structures to distribute and direct the loads, the lighter structure can maintain its strength. This newly invented material is among the lightest in the world. It can easily withstand a load of more than 160,000 times its own weight.