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An anonymous reader writes: IEEE Spectrum reports on a study out of NASA exploring the idea that manned missions to Venus are possible if astronauts deploy and live in airships once they arrive. Since the atmospheric pressure at the surface is 92 times that of Earth, and the surface temperate is over 450 degrees C, the probes we've sent to Venus haven't lasted long. The Venera 8 probe sent back data for only 50 minutes after landing. Soviet missions in 1985 were able to get much more data — 46 hours worth — by suspending their probes from balloons. The new study refines that concept: "At 50 kilometers above its surface, Venus offers one atmosphere of pressure and only slightly lower gravity than Earth. Mars, in comparison, has a "sea level" atmospheric pressure of less than a hundredth of Earth's, and gravity just over a third Earth normal. The temperature at 50 km on Venus is around 75 C, which is a mere 17 degrees hotter than the highest temperature recorded on Earth.
The defining feature of these missions is the vehicle that will be doing the atmospheric exploring: a helium-filled, solar-powered airship. The robotic version would be 31 meters long (about half the size of the Goodyear blimp), while the crewed version would be nearly 130 meters long, or twice the size of a Boeing 747. The top of the airship would be covered with more than 1,000 square meters of solar panels, with a gondola slung underneath for instruments and, in the crewed version, a small habitat and the ascent vehicle that the astronauts would use to return to Venus's orbit, and home."
197 comments | 2 days ago
mikejuk writes A new games console is being launched based on the classic Sinclair ZX Spectrum from the 80s. Within days of the start of its Indiegogo campaign all of the 1000 Limited Edition Spectrum Vegas had been claimed but there is still the chance to get your hands on one of the second batch. The Sinclair Spectrum Vega is really retro in the sense that it plugs into a TV, thus avoiding the need for a monitor, and comes complete with around 1,000 games built-in. Games are accessed through a menu based system, and once selected load automatically, taking the player directly into the game play mode. This is very different from the original Spectrum with its rubber-topped keyboard and BASIC interface. If you have existing Spectrum games you'd like to play, you can use an SD card to load them onto the Vega, though the current publicity material doesn't give much clue as to how you go from ancient cassette tape to SD card. As for programming new games, there are ZX Spectrum emulators for Windows that are free and ready to use.
110 comments | about two weeks ago
dkatana points out an article arguing that the governments should stop further auctions of 4G spectrum because it reduces infrastructure investment from carriers and makes net neutrality more difficult to regulate. Quoting:
The FCC recently raised more than $34 billion for six blocks of airwaves, totaling 65 megahertz of the electromagnetic spectrum. This is good news for the treasury coffers, but government auctions threaten the ability of the FCC and similar agencies to manage the spectrum, impose net neutrality rules, and allow new businesses to compete.
Carriers and internet companies who won the auction might believe the spectrum is theirs to do as they please, blocking access or charging huge fees to others. Issues such as speed throttling and preferential access come to mind. If governments insist in auctions of the newly available frequencies, it could hurt the industry and potentially destroy any possibility of negotiating universal access and net neutrality.
66 comments | about two weeks ago
Rambo Tribble writes "South Korea has instituted large fines for selling unregistered "selfie-sticks". The problem arises because many of the devices are using Bluetooth radio spectrum, and must be certified to do so legally. Expressing doubts that the regulations and stiff fines will influence sales, one official said of them, "It's not going to affect anything in any meaningful way, but it is nonetheless a telecommunication device subject to regulation, and that means we are obligated to crack down on uncertified ones."
111 comments | about three weeks ago
rjmarvin writes According to Autism Speaks, about 85% of people who have autism in the United States are currently unemployed or underemployed, but a social enterprise organization called Meticulon is training autistic individuals for highly skilled jobs in software testing. According to Meticulon, autistic people often possess sharp memory and pattern matching skills as well as attention to detail, making them ideal candidates for software testing jobs. Each year's crop of autistic students or Meticulon Consultants is tested and evaluated to develop their MindMap, a unique profile of skills and ideal work environment ultimately used to find these trained software testers an ideal job.
109 comments | about three weeks ago
mrspoonsi writes The global race is on to develop 5G, the fifth generation of mobile network. While 5G will follow in the footsteps of 4G and 3G, this time scientists are more excited. They say 5G will be different — very different. "5G will be a dramatic overhaul and harmonization of the radio spectrum," says Prof Rahim Tafazolli who is the lead at the UK's multimillion-pound government-funded 5G Innovation Centre at the University of Surrey. To pave the way for 5G the ITU is comprehensively restructuring the parts of the radio network used to transmit data, while allowing pre-existing communications, including 4G and 3G, to continue functioning. 5G will also run faster, a lot faster. Prof Tafazolli now believes it is possible to run a wireless data connection at an astounding 800Gbps — that's 100 times faster than current 5G testing. A speed of 800Gbps would equate to downloading 33 HD films — in a single second. Samsung hopes to launch a temporary trial 5G network in time for 2018's Winter Olympic Games.
216 comments | about three weeks ago
_Sharp'r_ writes Two Stanford PhDs, Ross Koningstein and David Fork, worked for Google on the RE<C project to figure out how to make renewables cheaper than coal and solve climate change. After four years of study they gave up, determining "Renewable energy technologies simply won't work; we need a fundamentally different approach." As a result, is nuclear going to be acknowledged as the future of energy production?
652 comments | about three weeks ago
An anonymous reader sends word that the 2014 wireless spectrum license auction has surpassed $34 billion. "A government auction of airwaves for use in mobile broadband has blown through presale estimates, becoming the biggest auction in the Federal Communications Commission's history and signaling that wireless companies expect demand for Internet access by smartphones to continue to soar. And it's not over yet. Companies bid more than $34 billion as of Friday afternoon for six blocks of airwaves, totaling 65 megahertz of the electromagnetic spectrum, being sold by the F.C.C. That total is more than three times the $10.5 billion reserve price that the commission put on the sale, the first offering of previously unavailable airwaves in six years."
85 comments | about three weeks ago
the_newsbeagle writes In 2007, Google boldly declared a new initiative to invent a green energy technology that produced cheaper electricity than coal-fired power plants. Sure, energy researchers had been hammering at this task for decades, but Google hoped to figure it out in a few years. They didn't. Instead, Google admitted defeat and shut down the project in 2011. In a admirable twist, however, two of the project's engineers then dedicated themselves to learning from the project's failure. What did it mean that one of the world's most ambitious and capable innovation companies couldn't invent a cheap renewable energy tech?
222 comments | about a month ago
CowboyRobot writes: David Chisnall of the University of Cambridge argues that despite the current trend of categorizing processors and accelerators as "general purpose," there really is no such thing and believing in such a device is harmful.
"The problem of dark silicon (the portion of a chip that must be left unpowered) means that it is going to be increasingly viable to have lots of different cores on the same die, as long as most of them are not constantly powered. Efficient designs in such a world will require admitting that there is no one-size-fits-all processor design and that there is a large spectrum, with different trade-offs at different points."
181 comments | about a month ago
An anonymous reader writes: According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Elon Musk is looking at a new project: smaller, cheaper satellites that can provide internet access for people all across the world. "Mr. Musk is working with Greg Wyler, a satellite-industry veteran and former Google Inc. executive, these people said. Mr. Wyler founded WorldVu Satellites Ltd., which controls a large block of radio spectrum. In talks with industry executives, Messrs. Musk and Wyler have discussed launching around 700 satellites, each weighing less than 250 pounds, the people said. That is about half the size of the smallest communications satellites now in commercial use. The satellite constellation would be 10 times the size of the largest current fleet, managed by Iridium Communications Inc. ... The smallest communications satellites now weigh under 500 pounds and cost several million dollars each. WorldVu hopes to bring the cost of manufacturing smaller models under $1 million, according to two people familiar with its plans."
74 comments | about a month and a half ago
Tekla Perry writes Stealthy 'cinematic reality' company Magic Leap may be based in Florida--but it's doing a lot of hiring from the Bay Area, scooping up engineers from Pixar, Google, Apple, and Intel--along with a few Willow Garage alums. And it's got openings for many many more. Are all these folks with long-term Silicon Valley roots really going to move to South Florida? Or is Magic Leap getting ready to open up a Silicon Valley research center to house the brain trust it is gathering? Here's what we know about Magic Leap and its technology, who's joining it, and what other kinds of engineers the company aims to hire. Magic Leap has a lot of money to do all that hiring, having just raised more than half a billion dollars, the bulk of it from Google. If you're working in the Bay Area now, would you look forward to a move to Florida, or rather stay where you are?
161 comments | about a month and a half ago
RockDoctor writes: Reuters reports that there are changes afoot for life insurance contracts, which will require additional premiums for "space tourists." While not likely to be a disabling issue for the industry — the statistics for astronauts dying in flight are not that bad — it is an issue that people considering such a jaunt will need to address. Obviously this has been brought to the fore by the unfortunate crash of the Virgin Galactic craft under test. Relatedly, an article at IEEE Spectrum explains why SpaceShipTwo's rocket fuel wasn't the cause of the accident.
68 comments | about a month and a half ago
theodp writes With an 11.6" screen, Windows 8.1, and free Office 365 for a year, the $199.99 solid-state HP Stream 11 laptop is positioned to make people think twice about Chromebooks (add $30 for the HP Stream 13). But will it? "The HP Stream 11 is clearly both inexpensive and a great value," writes Paul Thurrott. "At just $200, it's cheap, of course. But it also features a solid-feeling construction, a bright and fun form factor, a surprisingly high-quality typing experience and a wonderful screen. This isn't a bargain bin throwaway. The Stream 11 is something special." The HP Stream Family also includes the HP Stream 7, a $99.99 Windows 8.1 Tablet that includes the Office 365 deal. By the way, at the other end of the price spectrum, HP has introduced the Sprout, which Fast Company calls a bold and weird PC that's bursting at the seams with new ideas, from 3-D scanning to augmented reality. (We mentioned the Sprout a few days ago, too; HP seems to be making some interesting moves lately, looks like they're getting on the smartwatch bandwagon, too.) If you're looking at the Stream as a cheap platform for OSes other than Windows, be cautious: one of the reviews at the Amazon page linked describes trouble getting recent Linux distributions to install.
232 comments | about a month and a half ago
the_newsbeagle writes: In the latest high-tech approach to personalized medicine, cardiologists can now create a computer model of an individual patient's heart and use that simulation to make a treatment plan. In this new field of computational medicine, doctors use a patient's MRI scans to make a model showing that patient's unique anatomy and pattern of heart disease. They can then experiment on that virtual organ in ways they simply can't with a flesh-and-blood heart. Proponents say this tech can "improve therapies, minimize the invasiveness of diagnostic procedures, and reduce health-care costs" in cardiology.
62 comments | about 1 month ago
An anonymous reader writes: 2014 was supposed to be the year broadcasters would be allowed to sell off their unused spectrum to mobile carriers. That got pushed back to 2015 in December, and now the Federal Communications Commission has bumped it to 2016 in the face of a lawsuit from the National Association of Broadcasters. The FCC says the legal briefs aren't even due until January 2015, and it will take them until the middle of the year to review the documents and respond in court. The delay is just fine with the NAB, but probably bad news for anyone hoping that spectrum would help to improve mobile communications in the U.S. any time soon.
31 comments | about 2 months ago
First time accepted submitter agent elevator writes In a wide-ranging interview at IEEE Spectrum, Michael I. Jordan skewers a bunch of sacred cows, basically saying that: The overeager adoption of big data is likely to result in catastrophes of analysis comparable to a national epidemic of collapsing bridges. Hardware designers creating chips based on the human brain are engaged in a faith-based undertaking likely to prove a fool's errand; and despite recent claims to the contrary, we are no further along with computer vision than we were with physics when Isaac Newton sat under his apple tree.
145 comments | about 2 months ago
An anonymous reader writes A Notice of Inquiry was issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Friday that focuses research on higher frequencies for sending gigabit streams of mobile data. The inquiry specifically states that its purpose is to determine "what frequency bands above 24 GHz would be most suitable for mobile services, and to begin developing a record on mobile service rules and a licensing framework for mobile services in those bands". Cellular networks currently use frequencies between 600 MHz to 3 GHz with the most desirable frequencies under 1 GHz being owned by AT&T and Verizon Wireless. The FCC feels, however, that new technology indicates the potential for utilizing higher frequency ranges not necessarily as a replacement but as the implementation necessary to finally usher in 5G wireless technology. The FCC anticipates the advent of 5G commercial offerings within six years.
52 comments | about a month ago
Mark.JUK writes: Samsung has become the first to successfully demonstrate a future 5G mobile network running at speeds of 7.5Gbps in a stationary outdoor environment. They also managed 1.2Gbps while using the same technology and driving around a 4.3km-long race track at speeds of up to 110kph.
Crucially, the test was run using the 28GHz radio spectrum band, which ordinarily wouldn't be much good for mobile networks where wide coverage and wall penetration is an important requirement. But Samsung claims it can mitigate at least some of that by harnessing the latest Hybrid Adaptive Array Technology (HAAT), which uses millimeter wave frequency bands to enable the use of higher frequencies over greater distances. Several companies are competing to develop the first 5G technologies, although consumers aren't expected to see related services until 2020 at the earliest.
36 comments | about 2 months ago
HughPickens.com writes Alan Boyle writes that over the years, Elon Musk's showmanship, straight-ahead smarts and far-out ideas have earned him a following that spans the geek spectrum — to the point that some observers see glimmers of the aura that once surrounded Apple's Steve Jobs. "To me, it feels like he's the most obvious inheritor of Steve Jobs' mantle," says Ashlee Vance, who's writing a biography of Musk that at one time had the working title The Iron Man. "Obviously, Steve Jobs' products changed the world ... [But] if Elon's right about all these things that he's after, his products should ultimately be more meaningful than what Jobs came up with. He's the guy doing the most concrete stuff about global warming." So what is Musk's vision? What motivates Musk at the deepest level? "It's his Mars thing," says Vance. Inspired in part by the novels of Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein, Musk has come around to the view that humanity's long-term future depends on extending its reach beyond Earth, starting with colonies on Mars. Other notables like physicist Stephen Hawking have laid out similar scenarios — but Musk is actually doing something to turn those interplanetary dreams into a reality. Vance thinks that Musk is on the verge of breaking out from geek guru status to a level of mass-market recognition that's truly on a par with the late Steve Jobs. Additions to the Tesla automotive line, plus the multibillion-dollar promise of Tesla's battery-producing "gigafactory" in Nevada, could push Musk over the edge. "Tesla, as a brand, really does seem to have captured the public's imagination. ... All of a sudden he's got a hip product that looks great, and it's creating jobs. The next level feels like it's got to be that third-generation, blockbuster mainstream product. The story is not done."
181 comments | about 2 months ago