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Officer Not Charged In Michael Brown Shooting

necro81 Re:Flip Argument (1087 comments)

I don't really know - I wasn't there, and the other party is dead

This is one of the real problems I have with "Stand Your Ground" laws, like the one in Florida that allowed George Zimmerman to escape charges in the death of Trayvon Martin. It doesn't even boil down to a "he said, he said" kind of argument - conflicting accounts of what happened, like some bad replay of Rashomon . Instead, it's "he said, and the other guy's dead," which doesn't sound like a good way to get at the truth, let alone justice.

("Stand Your Ground" is a somewhat different situation than cops shooting subjects, or Castle Doctrine laws involving one's own home. The situation is the same - one guy's dead - but the context of who did the shooting and where provide more latitude.)

2 days ago
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Corning Reveals Gorilla Glass 4, Promises No More Broken IPhones

necro81 Re:If they can only make the GLUE 10x weaker (201 comments)

For what it's worth, iPhone screens can be replaced by removing screws. It still takes some skill, and is easier if you have a suction-cup tool, but does not involve adhesive.

For instance: iPhone 6 teardown

4 days ago
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Coal Plants Get New Lease On Life With Natural Gas

necro81 Build their economy? (142 comments)

"We couldn't let it happen. We would lose our tax base, we would lose our jobs, we would lose our future," said State Sen. Catharine M. Young. "This agreement saves us. It gives us a foundation on which to build our economy."

It seems to me that if they were going to use the local power plant as a foundation for building the local economy, they might have gotten around to that by now. The plant has been there for decades, right? Looks to me like they squandered their chance as diversifying their tax and employment base - why should they be given a second chance to squander?

about a week ago
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Coal Plants Get New Lease On Life With Natural Gas

necro81 Re:Gas not less CO2 on refiring coal plants (142 comments)

If you just replace coal with natural gas in the same plant to heat the water it is not significantly less CO2

Burning coal is pretty much just turning bulk carbon into carbon dioxide. Burning natural gas (methane, CH4) creates carbon dioxide, too, of course, but also releases energy from burning the hydrogen to make water. As a result, the combustion of natural gas produces less CO2 for the same energy output.

From the Energy Information Agency - Pounds of CO2 emitted per million BTU of energy:
Coal (anthracite): 228.6
Gasoline: 157.2
Natural Gas: 117.0

[I'll apologize for the units - I'm just quoting the result. If you must know, 1 lb / 1e6 BTU is equivalent to 0.43e-3 kg/MJ. Or, just look at the number as a figure of merit: lower is better.]

more data here

about a week ago
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Coal Plants Get New Lease On Life With Natural Gas

necro81 Re:Who opposes cleaner sources of energy? (142 comments)

If one were to be cynical one would suggest that environmentalists only want sources of energy that are expensive and unreliable

Or they could, ya know, maybe use less energy. There's plenty of low-hanging fruit in using what energy we can produce more efficiently, which obviates the need for any new generation, or allows old plants to be mothballed. It doesn't mean shivering in dark caves: humans, particularly Americans, are fantastically thoughtless and wasteful when it comes to energy.

Rather than forcing utility rate payers to fork over $150 million for a natural gas conversion of an older plant, why not get them to fork over half as much money to pay for efficiency measures that would 1) negate the need for that natural gas plant altogether and 2) save them lots of money in the long run.

about a week ago
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What Would Have Happened If Philae Were Nuclear Powered?

necro81 Re:I'm quite surprised it wasn't (519 comments)

Check out the SNAP-19.

I know of it - it powered the Pioneer spacecraft in the early 1970s. Can I get one today? No. Can anyone take the drawings for it (assuming they can be found) and manufacture new ones for signficantly less than the cost of creating a modern design? Probably not. Could the ESA do it? Probably not.

I reiterate the points in my earlier post. Please read further.

about a week ago
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What Would Have Happened If Philae Were Nuclear Powered?

necro81 Re:Ignorant Article (519 comments)

How long it lasts is dictated by nuclear physics (the half life of Pu-238.)

The decay in power output is only partly due to the half-life of the nuclear fuel. An effect of roughly equal magnitude is the degradation of the thermocouple junctions themselves. For instance, each Voyager spacecraft's RTG had about 470 W electrical output at launch in the 1970s. As of 2008, about one half of a half-life later, the electrical output had declined to about 285 W. I'm sure that the thermal output of the RTGs is following the half life of Pu-238 just as one would expect, but the useful life is limited by other considerations.

about a week ago
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What Would Have Happened If Philae Were Nuclear Powered?

necro81 Re:but orbital reentry? (519 comments)

But what would happen if it would be heated up and worn down in a low angle orbital reentry? It could be subjected to melting/burning temperatures for many minutes

The Lunar Module from Apollo 13 carried an RTG, which was intended to power surface instruments on the Moon. It re-entered, along with the rest of Aquarius at around 25,000 mph, at roughly the same entry angle as the Odysee command module, which is intentionally shallow to bleed off maximum velocity with survivable g-forces.

That Pu-238 cask is now sitting at the bottom of the Pacific ocean. All seems well.

about a week ago
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What Would Have Happened If Philae Were Nuclear Powered?

necro81 Re:Right .... (519 comments)

Though, this is its thermal output. If you consider that Seebeck generators have a 10% efficiency, you could get 32W electrical out of 640g of PU-238. Let's account for the 10 years trip, so let's make it 1kg

The weight of the actual plutonium isotope is but a small fraction of the weight of the finished RTG. There's the thermocouple wires, the iridium cladding, the graphite casing, the metallic casing, etc. No one has made an RTG with just 10s of watts of output since the 1970s, but those designs weighed in at 10-20 kg, which is about the same mass as Philae's (solar+battery) power system.

Having an RTG would not obviate the need for actual batteries. The RTG is good for providing average power, but the peak power draw is much higher than that, and batteries are used for that purpose.

about a week ago
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What Would Have Happened If Philae Were Nuclear Powered?

necro81 Re:I'm quite surprised it wasn't (519 comments)

Plutonium 238 is really not that dangerous. It is an alpha emitter, and carried in a water insoluble form.

Radiation aside, it is also an extremely toxic heavy metal.

That said, it isn't safety concerns that kept RTGs of Rosetta/Philae. If the project had determined that the best way to achieve the science and program goals was through an RTG, they would have launched with an RTG. The safety concerns about exploding rockets or re-entering spacecraft didn't keep Curiosity, Cassini, or New Horizons from launching. Rather, if ever the engineering design and program management discussed using an RTG, they decided against it for much more pragmatic reasons (engineering, cost/benefit analysis, program risk, etc.)

about a week ago
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What Would Have Happened If Philae Were Nuclear Powered?

necro81 Re:I'm quite surprised it wasn't (519 comments)

A 32W RTG would generate about 600W of waste heat, something that is easy to radiate over 3m2 into space, assuming reasonable operating temperatures for the probe (and actually, a smaller RTG is sufficient)

I think this is something that isn't particularly well appreciated - a 32-W RTG does not exist. All the designs for recent spacecraft have been on the order of 100-300 W (electric).

I practically burst out laughing when the article gets around to introducing the notion of powering Philae using an RTG. The image that the author dramatically inserts at this point is the RTG for the Curiosity rover - an assembly that is itself about the size of the entire Philae spacecraft! Cassini, Ulysses, New Horizons - all of the recent RTG-powered probes used the same design, one that is entirely the wrong size for Philae.

For Philae to use an RTG, it would need to have been a new design (something the ESA has no experience in) - a development that could have cost more than the Philae lander itself. Even with a new design, they would have needed to secure the Pu-238 to power it (assuming they didn't use some other isotope, which would have been yet another costly design effort). When the craft was being designed and built, the supply of Pu-238 was already more or less spoken for, and it would have been an enormous program risk for them to commit to an RTG without a guarantee that they could fill it.

about a week ago
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Military Laser/Radio Tech Proposed As Alternative To Laying Costly Fiber Cable

necro81 Lasers? Raindrops? (150 comments)

Hearing about lasers and raindrops puts me in mind of this recent XKCD What-If posting.

about two weeks ago
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Boeing Readies For First Ever Conjoined Satellite Launch

necro81 Re:So, ion drive or something??? (67 comments)

how is this ion engine more efficient than just squirting a small amount of pressurized gas out of the tank instead

It has to do with how quickly you can throw the propellant - how much momentum you can impart to it, which in return imparts a certain change in momentum to the rest of the satellite (delta-v). With conventional satellite propulsion, like fuel+oxidizer rockets or monopropellant thrusters, the energy available to impart that momentum is chemically based. That is, the propellants undergo a chemical reaction, get hot and/or change phase into a gas, and nozzles force that gas to exit at some velocity. Details vary with engine and nozzle design, but there are limits on how much thrust you can get each fuel type. Mass in, reaction energy, mass*velocity (momentum) out. Rocket designers measure this "efficiency" with a quantity called specific impulse (measured in units of seconds) For a given mass of fuel, you can pretty quickly calculate what the total delta-v the satellite has available to it.

Ion engines can impart much higher velocities to the "fuel" than chemical rockets, in part because they are using electrical energy (of which there is an arbitrarily large supply) rather than whatever you can get from chemical reactions. Again, the details vary based on the design, but ion engines tend to have specific impulses much higher than chemical rockets. The actual thrust (i.e., total force) from an ion engine tends to be miniscule, but is provided very efficiently, and can be produced for days or weeks at a time.

about two weeks ago
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Researchers Forecast the Spread of Diseases Using Wikipedia

necro81 Re:umm (61 comments)

Google has been working on that, it's called Flu Trends. But it hasn't really proven itself out yet. See my post below.

about two weeks ago
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Researchers Forecast the Spread of Diseases Using Wikipedia

necro81 It's been done, sort of (61 comments)

Google tried (is still trying?) to track the spread of influenza, by watching the trends in searches for information about the disease. It's a very interesting bit of work, but as I recall, failed to be meaningfully predictive. The trouble is, there are lots of prosaic reasons why someone might search out information about the flu (or any other disease) other than actually having it. Separating that noise (general interest in the flu) from the genuine signal (particular interest from people who are infected). Doesn't mean it can't work, just that it hasn't been made to work yet.

about two weeks ago
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Comet Probe Philae Unanchored But Stable — And Sending Back Images

necro81 Re:Couldn't they have used an RTG? China syndrome (132 comments)

proper Stirling engines or steam turbines are not popular in space for some reason

R&D on a nuclear-powered stirling engine for space is ongoing. It's not they they aren't popular, per se, its just that they are a very difficult engineering problem. How many devices with continuously moving parts do you know that operate maintenance-free for years or decades? It's not impossible, but is really hard.

about two weeks ago
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Comet Probe Philae Unanchored But Stable — And Sending Back Images

necro81 Re:Couldn't they have used an RTG? (132 comments)

As others have mentioned: RTGs are difficult to come by ($$$, rationed resource) compared to solar panels. Generally, they only get used when there is no other way to power the spacecraft to meet the science objectives.

The present RTG designs for spacecraft are all 1-2 orders of magnitude larger than what Philae would need.

One other thing I would note is that RTGs have useful lifespans measured in years to decades. Philae hasn't been designed to operate for that long (its long sleep until it arrived notwithstanding). What is more, even if it has electrical power (solar, nuke, or otherwise) to operate indefinitely, it will be cooked by the Sun around the time of the comet's closest approach. So an RTG would vastly outlive the useful lifespan on Philae. Given that RTG material is scarce, this would be a wasteful use.

about two weeks ago
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Duke: No Mercy For CS 201 Cheaters Who Don't Turn Selves In By Wednesday

necro81 Sounds familiar (320 comments)

reminds me of a similar situation that came up in an introductory CS course at Dartmouth years ago. A bunch of students, possibly abetted by the TAs, ended up with the exact same code for some problem or other. The professor (a visiting professor, if that makes any difference) went ballistic and reported every student, intent on getting all of them suspended or expelled.

In the end, the charges were dropped. It would have been a very difficult situation to adjudicate - the behavior of the students, TAs, and professor was bad all around, and some might say that it all cancelled out. Some definitely were cheating (i.e., malicious intent), and others just got caught up in stupid behavior (i.e., ignorant), and it would have been difficult to separate the two.

about two weeks ago
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New Particle Collider Is One Foot Long

necro81 Re:USA are a country? (161 comments)

The usage of "United States of America" as either singular or plural has shifted over the years. The guidelines you provide are good for the general case of collected objects, but "USA" seems to be a particular case that (sometimes, maybe, mostly) breaks the rule.

about three weeks ago

Submissions

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Networked Gadgets Waste 400 Terawatt-Hours of Energy Every Year

necro81 necro81 writes  |  about 4 months ago

necro81 (917438) writes "IEEE Spectrum reports: "Your Xbox wastes a lot of energy—energy that could power the entire United Kingdom. Well, it's not just your Xbox, but your Xbox and my printer and your friend's television and 14 billion other networked electronic devices around the world....

"The International Energy Agency (IEA) has released a new report on just how much power all those networked devices use...[t]he results are amazing: network-enabled devices in homes and offices around the world consumed 616 terawatt-hours in 2013, and 65 percent of that (400 TWh) could have been saved simply by using technology that exists today."

It's a problem of design: even though it's technologically straightforward to design products for better energy consumption, with little incremental cost, there's no incentive for a designer to do so. It's not their electricity going to waste, after all."

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Luke Prosthetic Arm approved by FDA

necro81 necro81 writes  |  about 7 months ago

necro81 (917438) writes "The FDA today approved the Luke prosthetic arm for sale. The Luke Arm, created by Dean Kamen's DEKA R&D Corp., was a project initiated by DARPA to develop a prosthetic arm for wounded warriors more advanced than those previously available. The Arm can be configured for below-the-elbow, above-the-elbow, and shoulder-level amputees. The full arm has 10 powered degrees of freedom and has the look and weight of the arm it replaces. (more info here) Through trials by DEKA and the Dept. of Veterans Affairs, the Arm has been used by dozens of amputees for a total of many thousands of hours. Commercialization is still pending."
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Megatons to Megawatts Program Comes to a Close

necro81 necro81 writes  |  about 9 months ago

necro81 (917438) writes "In the aftermath of the Cold War, the disintegrating Soviet Union had tens of thousands of nuclear weapons and tons of weapons-grade fissile material. In the economic and political turmoil, many feared that it would fall into unfriendly hands. However, thanks to the doggedness of an MIT professor, Dr. Thomas Neff, 500 metric tons of weapons grade material made its way into nuclear reactors in the United States through the Megatons to Megawatts program. During the program, about 10% of all electricity generated in the U.S came weapons once aimed at the country. Now, after nearly 20 years, the program is coming to an end as the final shipment of Soviet-era uranium, now nuclear fuel, arrived in Baltimore."
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Inventor of AK-47 Dies at 94

necro81 necro81 writes  |  about a year ago

necro81 (917438) writes "Lt. Gen. Mikhail T. Kalashnikov, an arms designer for the Soviet Union, creator of the AK-47, passed away today at age 94. Kalashnikov was born a peasant and entered the Soviet Army as a conscript. However, the self-taught tinkerer had an aptitude that took him far. The AK-47, his best-known creation, was praised for its reliability and low cost; attributes that have made it the most successful firearm ever, seeing use in homeland defense, rebellion, terrorism, and untold massacres. The inventor was himself ambivalent about the uses his creation had seen, but was nevertheless proud of his contribution to his country, where he is praised as a hero."
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Another Casualty of Typhoon Haiyan: Geothermal Power

necro81 necro81 writes  |  1 year,5 days

necro81 (917438) writes "Little known even in environmental circles is a renewable energy success story: five geothermal power plants on Leyte Island in the Philippines — each of which producing enough power for the entire island — that collectively produce more than 10% of the Philippines total electrical demand. From boreholes deep underground comes pressurized water heated to 280 Celcius. At the surface it flashes into steam, turning one set of turbines, then cools and contracts to spin a second set of turbines. The low-grade steam is then condensed back into water and reinjected into the bedrock. But Typhoon Haiyan destroyed the cooling towers, snapped transmission towers, and scattered the employees."
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MAVEN mission to Mars will proceed, despite shutdown

necro81 necro81 writes  |  about a year ago

necro81 (917438) writes "Due to the ongoing shutdown of the U.S. Government, NASA is largely grounded. This is bad for all kinds of reasons, but one particularly bad outcome would have been missing the launch window for the MAVEN spacecraft, due to launch 18 November. The next launch window would not have been until 2016. MAVEN, thankfully, has been given the go-ahead, in large part because this orbiter will serve as a vital communications link for the Opportunity and Curiosity rovers currently on the surface. Currently, these rovers are served by two aging orbiters: Mars Odyssey (launched 2001) and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (launched 2005). Maintaining communications with the rovers is considered essential, hence the preparations and launch will proceed. (NASA's official mission website is currently offline.)"
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MAVEN mission to Mars will proceed, despite shutdown

necro81 necro81 writes  |  about a year ago

necro81 (917438) writes "Due to the ongoing shutdown of the U.S. Government, NASA is largely grounded. This is bad for all kinds of reasons, but one particularly bad outcome would have been missing the launch window for the MAVEN spacecraft, due to launch 18 November. The next launch window would not have been until 2016. MAVEN, thankfully, has been given the go-ahead, in large part because this orbiter will serve as a vital communications link for the Opportunity and Curiosity rovers currently on the surface. Currently, these rovers are served by two aging orbiters: Mars Odyssey (launched 2001) and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (launched 2005). Maintaining communications with the rovers is considered essential, hence the preparations and launch will proceed. (NASA's official mission website is currently offline.)"
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Link Rot and the U.S. Supreme Court

necro81 necro81 writes  |  about a year ago

necro81 (917438) writes "Hyperlinks are not forever. Link rot occurs when a source you've linked to no longer exists — or worse, exists in a different state than when the link was originally made. Even permalinks aren't necessarily permanent if a domain goes silent or switches ownership. According to new research from Harvard Law, some 49% of hyperlinks in Supreme Court documents no longer point to the correct original content. A second studyon link rot from Yale stresses that for the Court footnotes, citations, parenthetical asides, and historical context mean as much as the text of an opinion itself, which makes link rot a threat to future scholarship."
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Apple's New TouchID - Breakthrough or Disaster?

necro81 necro81 writes  |  about a year ago

necro81 (917438) writes "Apple isn't the first company to integrate a fingerprint reader into a cellphone. But with the introduction of TouchID into the home button of the new iPhone 5S, Apple has thrust the technology front and center, and made a big gamble in the process. Will users accept it? Will other companies follow? What happens if the false positive/false negative rates are too high? Without an open and inspectable protocol, we have to take Apple at its word that the fingerprint data exist only in the sensor and the (local) processor; no APIs for third-party access have been announced. Is this an acceptable security model? If it's an awful model, is it at least better than the alternative (passcodes, or nothing at all)?"
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Transporting a 15-m, 600-ton Magnet Cross Country

necro81 necro81 writes  |  about a year and a half ago

necro81 (917438) writes "Although its Tevatron particle accelerator has gone dark, Fermi Laboratory outside Chicago is still doing physics. A new experiment, called muon g-2 will investigate quantum mechanical behavior of the electron's heavier sibling: the muon. Fermi needs a large ring chamber to store the muons it produces and investigates, and it just so happens that Brookhaven National Laboratory outside NYC has one to spare. But how do you transport a delicate, 15-m diameter, 600-ton superconducting magnet halfway across the country? Very carefully."
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Fukushima cooling knocked offline by...a rat

necro81 necro81 writes  |  about a year and a half ago

necro81 (917438) writes "The cooling system at the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, responsible for keeping the spent fuel pools at an appropriate temperature, lost power early on March 18th. During the blackout, the temperature in the spent fuel pools gradually increased, although TEPCO officials indicated the pools could warm for four days without risking radiation release. Power was restored earlier this morning, and the pools should be back to normal temperature in a few days. During the repairs the charred remains of a rat were found in a critical area of wiring, leading some to believe that this rodent was the cause of this latest problem. At least it wasn't a mynock — then we'd really be in trouble."
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Towards a 50% Efficient Solar Cell

necro81 necro81 writes  |  more than 2 years ago

necro81 (917438) writes "IEEE Spectrum magazine has a feature article describing DARPA-funded work towards developing a solar cell that's 50% efficient, for a finished module that's 40% efficient — suitable for charging a soldier's gadgets in the field. Conventional silicon and thin-film PV tech can hit cell efficiencies of upwards of 20%, with finished modules hovering in the teens. Triple-junction cells can top 40%, but are expensive to produce and not practical in most applications. Current work by the Very High Efficiency Solar Cell program uses optics (dichroic films) to concentrate incoming sunlight by 20-200x, and split it into constituent spectra, which fall on many small solar cells of different chemistries, each tuned to maximize the conversion of different wavelengths."
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US Supreme Court rules against Warantless GPS Trac

necro81 necro81 writes  |  more than 2 years ago

necro81 (917438) writes "In a rare 9-0 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled (PDF) in United States v. Jones that law enforcement needed to obtain a search warrant before installing a GPS tracker on a suspect's car, then monitoring the car's movements. The Court split 5-4, however, on the scope of the ruling, and ruled largely on the fact that they installed the tracker on the defendant's private property (a car), sidestepping much larger questions about pervasive police tracking using GPS, cameras, and cellphones."
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HPV Vaccine Recommended for Boys

necro81 necro81 writes  |  more than 3 years ago

necro81 (917438) writes "An advisory committee to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will soon issue new recommendations that pre-adolescent boys be vaccinated against Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). The disease is sexually transmitted, endemic in the sexually active, can cause genital warts in both men and women, and is the primary cause of cervical cancer, which kills hundreds of thousands of women globally each year. The three-dose vaccination has been available for several years and already recommended for pre-adolescent girls. Vaccinating boys should further reduce transmission"
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Integrating Capacitors into Car Frames

necro81 necro81 writes  |  more than 3 years ago

necro81 (917438) writes "It has long been recognized that adding capacitors in parallel with batteries can improve the performance of hybrid and electric vehicles by accepting and supplying spikes of power, which reduces stress on the battery pack, extending range and improving cycle life. But where to put them, when batteries already compete for space? A new research prototype from Imperial College London has integrated them into the body panels and structural frame of the vehicle itself. In their prototype, carbon fiber serves as both the structure for the vehicle and electrode for the energy storage sandwiched within."
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Capturing Solar Power with Antennae

necro81 necro81 writes  |  more than 3 years ago

necro81 (917438) writes "Researchers at the University of Missouri and the Idaho National Laboratory have demonstrated a new method of capturing solar power. Rather than using semiconductors to capture photons of sunlight, they fabricated small coiled antennae (several um square) that resonate with the wave nature of light. The antennae are tuned towards midrange infrared light (5-10 um), which is abundant on our cozy-warm Earth — even at night. They also demonstrated a way to imprint these coils on a substrate, like how CDs or vinyl records are produced, but could be scaled to roll-to-roll mass production. The usual caveat applies: it may be 5-10 years until this could hit the market."
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Cisco to Close Flip Camera Unit

necro81 necro81 writes  |  more than 3 years ago

necro81 (917438) writes "When the Flip video camera arrived on the scene a few years ago, it made a splash. Compared to its camcorder brethren, it was smaller, lighter, easier, and cheaper. It was a much ballyhooed touchstone of the Good Enough Revolution. Competitors rushed in; the Flip evolved. Now the Flip is seeing its last days. Cisco, which bought Flip for more than $500 million just two years ago, will close Flip down as part of a money-saving restructuring. The ubiquity video-capable smartphones and pocket cameras has largely eliminated the Flip's niche market."
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Segway Company Owner Dies While Driving A Segway

necro81 necro81 writes  |  more than 4 years ago

necro81 (917438) writes "Jimi Heselden, the British multi-millionaire defense contractor and philanthropist, who bought the Segway company last December from inventor Dean Kamen, died yesterday after an accident while riding one of the machines. While using a ruggedized X2 version of the two-wheeled balancing scooter at his estate in North Yorkshire, he apparently drove over the edge of a precipice and into the River Wharfe. He was found later by a passerby and declared dead on the scene."
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Ted Stevens and Sean O'Keefe in plane crash

necro81 necro81 writes  |  more than 4 years ago

necro81 (917438) writes "The NY Times is reporting that former Senator Ted Stevens was aboard a small plane with eight others that crashed in remote southwest Alaska Monday night. Reuters is reporting that he died, along with at least four others. Meanwhile, the North American CEOof aerospace firm EADS and former NASA administrator Sean O'Keefe was was also reported in the crash. Rescue crews from the Alaska Air National Guard reached the site about ten hours after the initial crash."

Journals

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necro81 necro81 writes  |  more than 7 years ago http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/04/06/036222

Just bookmarking the 5 minutes of fame that the Cool Robot got here on slashdot.

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