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Sci-fi Predictions, True and False (Video 2)

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 12:50pm
You might want to go back to Video 1 before watching this one (or reading the transcript). This video is the second part of our recording of a panel discussion at the recent science fiction convention in Detroit. Panelists include writer and forensic science expert Jen Haeger; professor and generally fascinating guy Brian Gray; and expert in Aeronautical Management and 20-year veteran of the Air Force Douglas Johnson. In this video, they continue running down a list of science fiction predictions, both successful and unsuccessful, and evaluating how realistic or far-fetched each now seems. (Alternate Video Link)

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Acer Launches First 4K Panel With NVIDIA G-Sync Technology On Board

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 12:04pm
MojoKid writes: Save for a smattering of relatively small, 3K and 4K laptop displays, we haven't quite gotten to the same type of pixel density on the PC platform, that is available on today's high-end ultra-mobile devices. That said, the desktop display space has really heated up as of late and 4K panels have generated a large part of the buzz. Acer just launched the first 4K display with NVIDIA G-Sync technology on board. To put it simply, G-SYNC keeps a display and the output from an NVIDIA GPU in sync, regardless of frame rates or whether or not V-Sync is enabled. Instead of the monitor controlling the timing and refreshing at say 60Hz, the timing control is transferred to the GPU. The GPU scans a frame out to the monitor and the monitor doesn't update until a frame is done drawing, in lock-step with the GPU. This method completely eliminates tearing or frame stuttering associated with synchronization anomalies of standard panels. There are still some quirks with Windows and many applications that don't always scale properly on high-DPI displays, but the situation is getting better every day. If you're a gamer in the market for a 4K display, that's primed for gaming, the Acer XB280HK is a decent new option with this technology on board, though it does come at a bit of a premium at $799 versus standard 28-inch panels.

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The Secret Goldman Sachs Tapes

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 11:19am
An anonymous reader writes: The radio program "This American Life" has published an extraordinary investigative report on how the U.S. government regulators in charge of keeping an eye on the banks actually interact with powerful financial institutions (podcast here). Financial journalist Michael Lewis describes the report thus: "The Fed failed to regulate the banks because it did not encourage its employees to ask questions, to speak their minds or to point out problems. Just the opposite: The Fed encourages its employees to keep their heads down, to obey their managers and to appease the banks. That is, bank regulators failed to do their jobs properly not because they lacked the tools but because they were discouraged from using them. The report quotes Fed employees saying things like, 'until I know what my boss thinks I don't want to tell you,' and 'no one feels individually accountable for financial crisis mistakes because management is through consensus.'"

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Breakthrough In LED Construction Increases Efficiency By 57 Percent

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 10:37am
Zothecula writes: With LEDs being the preferred long-lasting, low-energy method for replacing less efficient forms of lighting, their uptake has dramatically increased over the past few years. However, despite their luminous outputs having increased steadily over that time, they still fall behind more conventional forms of lighting in terms of brightness. Researchers at Princeton University claim to have come up with a way to change all that by using nanotechnology to increase the output of organic LEDs by 57 percent.

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NASA Expands Commercial Space Program

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 9:55am
An anonymous reader writes: Just 10 days after NASA awarded multi-billion-dollar contracts to SpaceX and Boeing for future manned rocket launches, the agency announced today it is expanding its commercial space program to include contracts for delivery missions to the International Space Station. "Under the Commercial Resupply Services 2 RFP, NASA intends to award contracts with one or more companies for six or more flights per contract. As with current resupply flights, these missions would launch from U.S. spaceports, and the contracted services would include logistical and research cargo delivery and return to and from the space station through fiscal year 2020, with the option to purchase additional launches through 2024."

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How Did the 'Berlin Patient' Rid Himself of HIV?

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 9:10am
sciencehabit writes: Researchers are closer to unraveling the mystery of how Timothy Ray Brown, the only human cured of HIV, defeated the virus, according to a new study. Although the work doesn't provide a definitive answer, it rules out one possible explanation. [R]esearchers point to three different factors that could independently or in combination have rid Brown’s body of HIV. The first is the process of conditioning, in which doctors destroyed Brown’s own immune system with chemotherapy and whole body irradiation to prepare him for his bone marrow transplant. His oncologist, Gero Hütter, who was then with the Free University of Berlin, also took an extra step that he thought might not only cure the leukemia but also help rid Brown’s body of HIV. He found a bone marrow donor who had a rare mutation in a gene that cripples a key receptor on white blood cells the virus uses to establish an infection. (For years, researchers referred to Brown as "the Berlin patient.") The third possibility is his new immune system attacked remnants of his old one that held HIV-infected cells, a process known as graft versus host disease.

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Security Collapse In the HTTPS Market

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 8:23am
CowboyRobot writes: HTTPS has evolved into the de facto standard for secure Web browsing. Through the certificate-based authentication protocol, Web services and Internet users first authenticate one another ("shake hands") using a TLS/SSL certificate, encrypt Web communications end-to-end, and show a padlock in the browser to signal that a communication is secure. In recent years, HTTPS has become an essential technology to protect social, political, and economic activities online. At the same time, widely reported security incidents (such as DigiNotar's breach, Apple's #gotofail, and OpenSSL's Heartbleed) have exposed systemic security vulnerabilities of HTTPS to a global audience. The Edward Snowden revelations (notably around operation BULLRUN, MUSCULAR, and the lesser-known FLYING PIG program to query certificate metadata on a dragnet scale) have driven the point home that HTTPS is both a major target of government hacking and eavesdropping, as well as an effective measure against dragnet content surveillance when Internet traffic traverses global networks. HTTPS, in short, is an absolutely critical but fundamentally flawed cybersecurity technology.

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How the NSA Profits Off of Its Surveillance Technology

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 7:41am
blottsie writes: The National Security Agency has been making money on the side by licensing its technology to private businesses for more than two decades. It's called the Technology Transfer Program, under which the NSA declassifies some of its technologies that it developed for previous operations, patents them, and, if they're swayed by an American company's business plan and nondisclosure agreements, rents them out. The products include tools to transcribe voice recordings in any language, a foolproof method to tell if someone's touched your phone's SIM card, or a version of email encryption that isn't available on the open market.

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2015 Corvette Valet Mode Recorder Illegal In Some States

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 6:59am
innocent_white_lamb writes: The 2015 Corvette has a Valet Mode that records audio and video when someone other than the owner is driving the car. Activating the Valet Mode allows you to record front-facing video as well as capture audio from within the car so you can help keep your Corvette safe when it's in the hands of others. Well, it turns out that recording audio from within the car may be considered a felony in some states that require notice and consent to individuals that they are being recorded. Now GM is sending notices out to dealerships and customers alerting them to this fact as well as promising a future update to the PDR system.

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PostgreSQL Outperforms MongoDB In New Round of Tests

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 6:15am
New submitter RaDag writes: PostgreSQL outperformed MongoDB, the leading document database and NoSQL-only solution provider, on larger workloads than initial performance benchmarks. Performance benchmarks conducted by EnterpriseDB, which released the framework for public scrutiny on GitHub, showed PostgreSQL outperformed MongoDB in selecting, loading and inserting complex document data in key workloads involving 50 million records. This gives developers the freedom to combine structured and unstructured data in a single database with ACID compliance and relational capabilities.

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The Great Lightbulb Conspiracy

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 5:32am
HughPickens.com writes: Markus Krajewski reports that today, with many countries phasing out incandescent lighting in favor of more-efficient and pricier LEDs, it's worth revisiting the history of the Phoebus cartel — not simply as a quirky anecdote from the annals of technology, but as a cautionary tale about the strange and unexpected pitfalls that can arise when a new technology vanquishes an old one. Prior to the Phoebus cartel's formation in 1924, household light bulbs typically burned for a total of 1,500 to 2,500 hours; cartel members agreed to shorten that life span to a standard 1,000 hours. Each factory regularly sent lightbulb samples to the cartel's central laboratory in Switzerland for verification. If any factory submitted bulbs lasting longer or shorter than the regulated life span for its type, the factory was obliged to pay a fine. Though long gone, the Phoebus cartel still casts a shadow today because it reduced competition in the light bulb industry for almost twenty years, and has been accused of preventing technological advances that would have produced longer-lasting light bulbs. Will history repeat itself as the lighting industry is now going through its most tumultuous period of technological change since the invention of the incandescent bulb? "Consumers are expected to pay more money for bulbs that are up to 10 times as efficient and that are touted to last a fantastically long time—up to 50,000 hours in the case of LED lights. In normal usage, these lamps will last so long that their owners will probably sell the house they're in before having to change the bulbs," writes Krajewski. "Whether or not these pricier bulbs will actually last that long is still an open question, and not one that the average consumer is likely to investigate." There are already reports of CFLs and LED lamps burning out long before their rated lifetimes are reached. "Such incidents may well have resulted from nothing more sinister than careless manufacturing. But there is no denying that these far more technologically sophisticated products offer tempting opportunities for the inclusion of purposefully engineered life-shortening defects.""

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DHL Goes Live With 'Parcelcopter' Drone Delivery Service

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 4:50am
jones_supa writes: In December, Amazon announced it intends to deliver packages to customers using drones. But its initiative was widely ridiculed for being an over-hyped announcement with little to show for it. This summer, Google demonstrated its own drone-based delivery service, using a fixed-wing aircraft to deliver little packages to farmers in the Australian outback. But now, German delivery firm DHL has beaten the tech firms to the punch, announcing a regular drone delivery service for the first time, nine months after it launched its "parcelcopter" research project in December 2013. The service will use an quadcopter to deliver small parcels to the German island of Juist, a sandbar island 12km into the North Sea from the German coast, inhabited by 2,000 people. Deliveries will include medication and other urgently needed goods. Flying below 50 meters to avoid entering regulated air traffic corridors, the drone takes a fully automated route, carrying a special air-transport container that is extremely lightweight as well as weatherproof.

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China Eager To Send Its Own Mission To Mars In the Wake of Mangalyaan

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 4:07am
MarkWhittington writes The recent arrival into Mars orbit of both NASA's MAVEN and India's Mangalyaan Mars Orbiter Mission has not escaped the notice of China. The achievement of its Asian rival has especially proven galling to the Chinese. China has yet to successfully send a space probe beyond the moon. The development has elicited calls in Beijing to accelerate China's Mars program. China currently plans to send a rover to Mars in 2020 and, perhaps, do a Mars sample return mission in 2030. However, it feels that India, which China regards as its rival in an Asian space race, has stolen the spotlight and has left the Chinese behind. China is now keen to try to play catchup with its own Mars mission. One of the hold ups for a Chinese interplanetary exploration program is the delays surrounding the development of the Long March 5 rocket, which will be roughly the equivalent of the America Delta IV in its capabilities. The Chinese launch vehicle unveiling has slipped to at least 2015 because of the technological challenges it faces. The Long March 5 is also needed to launch the 20 ton modules of the Chinese space station, currently planned for later this decade.

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NSF Awards $10 Million To Protect America's Processors

Fri, 09/26/2014 - 1:34am
aarondubrow writes "The National Science Foundation and the Semiconductor Research Corporation announced nine research awards to 10 universities totaling nearly $4 million under a joint program focused on secure, trustworthy, assured and resilient semiconductors and systems. The awards support the development of new strategies, methods and tools at the circuit, architecture and system levels, to decrease the likelihood of unintended behavior or access; increase resistance and resilience to tampering; and improve the ability to provide authentication throughout the supply chain and in the field. "The processes and tools used to design and manufacture semiconductors ensure that the resulting product does what it is supposed to do. However, a key question that must also be addressed is whether the product does anything else, such as behaving in ways that are unintended or malicious," said Keith Marzullo, division director of NSF's Computer and Network Systems Division.

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BT and Coke To Offer Free Rural Wi-Fi In South Africa Through Vending Machines

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 11:07pm
An anonymous reader writes "BT Global Services is installing free Wi-Fi access points in Coca-Cola vending machines in rural parts of South Africa. "South African consumers will soon be able to quench their thirst and check their e-mail at the same time. Coca-Cola and BT Global Services have announced plans to offer free Wi-Fi Internet access in impoverished communities using Coke’s vending machines. BT – formerly British Telecom – will provide connectivity, support and business training as part of the roll-out. The pilot project has been launched in the rural Eastern Cape and in rural Mpumalanga. Sites were chosen for their accessibility to local communities, the companies said."

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Physicists Find Clue as To Why the DNA Double Helix Twists To the Right

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 9:45pm
New submitter Annanag writes Most organic molecules have left- or right-handed versions, mirror images of each other, just like gloves. For some reason, life always seems to favor one version over the other — the DNA double helix in its standard form always twists like a right-handed screw, for example. But why this preference for left or right happens has always been a mystery. Now, in an experiment that took 13 years to perfect, physicists have found hints that this asymmetry of life could have been caused by electrons from nuclear decay in the early days of evolution.

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Forest Service Wants To Require Permits For Photography

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 8:28pm
An anonymous reader points out this story about new regulations for media who wish to take pictures or video in federally designated wilderness areas. "The U.S. Forest Service has tightened restrictions on media coverage in vast swaths of the country's wild lands, requiring reporters to pay for a permit and get permission before shooting a photo or video in federally designated wilderness areas. Under rules being finalized in November, a reporter who met a biologist, wildlife advocate or whistleblower alleging neglect in 36 million acres of wilderness would first need special approval to shoot photos or videos even on an iPhone. Permits cost up to $1,500, says Forest Service spokesman Larry Chambers, and reporters who don't get a permit could face fines up to $1,000. First Amendment advocates say the rules ignore press freedoms and are so vague they'd allow the Forest Service to grant permits only to favored reporters shooting videos for positive stories.

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3D Bioprinter Creates "Living Bandage" Skin Grafts For Burn Victims

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 6:04pm
concertina226 writes Engineering students from the University of Toronto have developed a 3D bioprinter that can rapidly create artificial skin grafts from a patient's cells to help treat burn victims. In severe burn injuries, both the epidermis (outer layer of the skin) and the dermis (inner layer) are severely damaged, and it usually takes at least two weeks for skin cells to be grown in a laboratory to be grafted onto a patient. As both layers of skin are made from completely different cells that have different structures, it is very difficult for the body to regenerate itself and burn victims can die if their wounds cannot be closed quickly enough. So instead of trying to replicate a real human skin graft, the PrintAlive Bioprinter creates a type of "living bandage" from hydrogel.

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Indian Mars Mission Beams Back First Photographs

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 3:58pm
astroengine writes India's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) got straight to work as it closed in on Martian orbit on Tuesday — it began taking photographs of the Red Planet and its atmosphere and surface as it slowed down to reach its ultimate destination. After a two day wait, those first images are slowly trickling onto the Internet.

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First Shellshock Botnet Attacking Akamai, US DoD Networks

Thu, 09/25/2014 - 3:40pm
Bismillah writes The Bash "Shellshock" bug is being used to spread malware to create a botnet, that's active and attacking Akamai and Department of Defense networks. "The 'wopbot' botnet is active and scanning the internet for vulnerable systems, including at the United States Department of Defence, chief executive of Italian security consultancy Tiger Security, Emanuele Gentili, told iTnews. 'We have found a botnet that runs on Linux servers, named “wopbot", that uses the Bash Shellshock bug to auto-infect other servers,' Gentili said."

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