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Updated: 13 hours 14 min ago

Architecture That Changes Shape In Response To Heat

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 10:12pm
An anonymous reader writes "A group of students at Barcelona's Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalunya has created a functioning prototype of architecture that adapts to environmental inputs. "The project, Translated Geometries, tackles the idea by developing a new use for Shape Memory Polymers, a composite material that can deform and return to its original state when activated by cues like heat, humidity and light." The idea is this: create a wall or a roof out of a series of folded triangles. At low temperatures, the roof would be in its folded state, laying mostly flat. When exposed to heat, the creases would flex and expand, unfolding the roof and giving it a much greater surface area, thereby increasing its convective cooling. As it cools, it folds back down into a smaller shape."

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UK's National Health Service Moves To NoSQL Running On an Open-Source Stack

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 6:05pm
An anonymous reader sends this news from El Reg: The U.K.'s National Health Service has ripped the Oracle backbone from a national patient database system and inserted NoSQL running on an open-source stack. Spine2 has gone live following successful redevelopment including redeployment on new, x86 hardware. The project to replace Spine1 had been running for three years with Spine2 now undergoing a 45-day monitoring period. Spine is the NHS’s main secure patient database and messaging platform, spanning a vast estate of blades and SANs. It logs the non-clinical information on 80 million people in Britain – holding data on everything from prescriptions and payments to allergies. Spine is also a messaging hub, serving electronic communications between 20,000 applications that include the Electronic Prescription Service and Summary Care Record. It processes more than 500 complex messages a second.

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To Really Cut Emissions, We Need Electric Buses, Not Just Electric Cars

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 4:14pm
An anonymous reader writes: All the EV attention these days is going to Tesla and other sedan manufacturers, but this article makes the case that it's far more important to switch our buses over to electric power than our cars. "Last year, according to the American Public Transportation Association, buses hauled 5.36 billion passengers. While usage has fallen in recent years, thanks in part to the growth of light rail and subway systems, buses still account for more rides each year than heavy rail, light rail, and commuter rail combined—and for about half of all public transit trips." This, while managing around 4-5 miles per gallon of gas, and public buses usually average about 50,000 miles per year. The electric buses themselves are significantly more expensive, but the difference is made up dramatically lower fuel costs. And there will be difficulties: "The range—up to 30 miles—limits Proterra buses to certain routes, so it's hard for an agency to go all in. Drivers have to be trained to brake and accelerate differently, and to maneuver into the docking stations. And Doran Barnes of Foothill Transit notes that some of the cost advantage of using electricity instead of diesel can dissipate. Electric cars can be charged at night, when power prices are low. But buses have no choice but to recharge in the middle of the day, when utilities often impose higher peak usage rates."

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Report: Microsoft To Buy Minecraft Studio For $2bn+

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 3:37pm
dotarray (1747900) writes "A surprising story has emerged today that suggests Microsoft is looking to buy Minecraft developer Mojang. The reported price tag is "more than US$2 billion." The original report is at the WSJ (possibly behind a paywall). Quoting: "For Microsoft, "Minecraft" could reinvigorate the company's 13-year-old Xbox videogame business by giving it a cult hit with a legion of young fans. Mojang has sold more than 50 million copies of "Minecraft" since it was initially released in 2009 and earned more than $100 million in profits last year from the game and merchandise. "Minecraft" is already available on the Xbox, as well as Sony Corp.'s PlayStation, PCs and smartphones."

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WD Announces 8TB, 10TB Helium Hard Drives

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 2:51pm
Lucas123 writes: Western Digital's HGST subsidiary today announced it's shipping its first 8TB and the world's first 10TB helium-filled hard drive. The 3.5-in, 10TB drive also marks HGST's first foray into the use of singled magnetic recording technology, which Seagate began using last year. Unlike standard perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR), where data tracks rest side by side, SMR overlaps the tracks on a platter like shingles on a roof, thereby allowing a higher areal density. Seagate has said SMR technology will allow it to achieve 20TB drives by 2020. That company has yet to use helium, however. HGST said its use of hermetically-sealed helium drives reduces friction among moving drive components and keeps dust out. Both drives use a 7-platter configuration with a 7200 RPM spindle speed. The company said it plans to discontinue its production of air-only drives by 2017, replacing all data center models with helium drives.

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Device Boots Drones, Google Glass Off Wi-Fi

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 2:08pm
An anonymous reader writes: Amid the backlash against spy-eye drones as well as wearable cameras like Google Glass, one company is building a device to fight back. The Cyborg Unplug actively scans for drones or Google Glass on a local wireless network and blocks their traffic. They're billing it as an "anti-surveillance system" and marketing it toward businesses, restaurants, and schools. They take pains to note that it's not a jammer, instead sending copies of a de-authentication packet usually sent by a router when it disconnects a device. The device can, however, force devices to disconnect from any network, which they warn may be illegal in some places.

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3 Short Walking Breaks Can Reverse Harm From 3 Hours of Sitting

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 1:27pm
An anonymous reader writes: Medical researchers have been steadily building evidence that prolonged sitting is awful for your health. One major problem is that blood can pool in the legs of a seated person, causing arteries to start losing their ability to control the rate of blood flow. A new experimental study (abstract) has discovered it's quite easy to negate these detrimental health effects: all you need to do is take a leisurely, 5-minute walk for every hour you sit. "The researchers were able to demonstrate that during a three-hour period, the flow-mediated dilation, or the expansion of the arteries as a result of increased blood flow, of the main artery in the legs was impaired by as much as 50 percent after just one hour. The study participants who walked for five minutes for each hour of sitting saw their arterial function stay the same — it did not drop throughout the three-hour period. Thosar says it is likely that the increase in muscle activity and blood flow accounts for this."

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China's Island Factory

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 12:45pm
An anonymous reader writes: The BBC has a lengthy investigative report about China's efforts to create and expand artificial islands in the South China Sea. They've been going to coral reefs and atolls, dredging the bottom for material, and dumping it on top of the reef to create new land. On at least one of the new islands, China will build an air base large enough for fighter jets to use. This highlights one of China's main reasons for constructing these islands: sovereignty and strategic control of the surrounding area. "The U.S. government does not acknowledge China's claim, and the U.S. Pacific fleet continues to sail regularly through the South China Sea. But the Chinese navy is beginning to grow more assertive. In December 2013 China sailed its brand new aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, into the South China Sea for the first time. Shadowing it, at about 30 nautical miles, came the U.S. Navy cruiser USS Cowpens. A Chinese amphibious assault ship approached and ordered it to leave the area. The commander of the Cowpens refused, saying he was sailing in 'international waters.'"

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Intel Releases SD-Card-Sized PC, Unveils Next 14nm Chip

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 12:02pm
szczys writes: Intel is upping their bid for a place at the efficient-yet-powerful device table. They've launched their Edison board, which features an x86 based SoC running at 100 MHz. The footprint measures 35.5mm x 25.0mm and offers a 70-pin connector to break out 40 pins for add-on hardware. Also at the Intel Developer Forum today, the company demonstrated a PC running on Skylake, a new CPU microarchitecture based on the 14nm process used for Broadwell. Intel is pushing to break into both wearable devices and household devices, as it sees both as huge opportunities for growth.

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Toyota and Tesla May Work Together Again

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 11:20am
cartechboy writes: Tesla and Toyota have already worked together a few times. The factory in which Tesla builds the electric Model S? It bought that from Toyota. The Toyota RAV4 EV? The battery and software tuning was done by Tesla. Now it sounds like Tesla and Toyota might have another significant project in the pipeline in the next two or three years. Tesla CEO Musk said such a project could be "on a much higher volume level" than the firm's last project with Toyota, the RAV4 EV. Toyota currently has a 2.4 percent stake in Tesla Motors and has sold 2,130 RAV4 EVs through August. For its part, Toyota has no comment regarding Musk's statements about the future project. Given Toyota's stance on electric cars, Musk's comment is a bit confusing. So what exactly will this joint project be?

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Apple Announces Smartwatch, Bigger iPhones, Mobile Payments

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 10:31am
Today at Apple's September press conference, they announced the new iPhone 6 models. There are two of them — the iPhone 6 is 4.7" at 1334x750, and the iPhone 6 Plus is 5.5" at 1920x1080. Both phones are thinner than earlier models: 5S: 7.6mm, 6: 6.9mm, 6 Plus: 7.1mm. The phones have a new-generation chip, the 64-bit A8. Apple says the new phones have a 25% faster CPU, 50% faster GPU, and they're 50% more energy efficient (though they were careful to say the phones have "equal or better" battery life to the 5S). Apple upgrade the phones' wireless capabilities, moving voice calls to LTE and also enabling voice calls over Wi-Fi. The phones ship on September 19th, preceded by the release of iOS 8 on September 17th. Apple also announced its entry into the payments market with "Apple Pay." They're trying to replace traditional credit card payments with holding an iPhone up to a scanner instead. It uses NFC and the iPhone's TouchID fingerprint scanner. Users can take a picture of their credit cards, and Apple Pay will gather payment information, encrypt it, and store it. (Apple won't have any of the information about users' credit cards or their purchases, and users will be able to disable the payment option through Find My iPhone if they lose the device.) Apple Pay will work with Visa, Mastercard, and American Express cards to start. 220,000 stores that support contactless payment will accept Apple Pay, and many apps are building direct shopping support for it. It will launch in October as an update for iOS 8, and work only on the new phones. Apple capped off the conference with the announcement of the long-anticipated "Apple Watch." Their approach to UI is different from most smartwatch makers: Apple has preserved the dial often found on the side of analog watches, using it as a button and an input wheel. This "digital crown" enables features like zoom without obscuring the small screen with fingers. The screen is touch-sensitive and pressure sensitive, so software can respond to a light tap differently than a hard tap. The watch runs on a new, custom-designed chip called the S1, it has sensors to detect your pulse, and it has a microphone to receive and respond to voice commands. It's powered by a connector that has no exposed contacts — it magnetically seals to watch and charges inductively. The Apple Watch requires an iPhone of the following models to work: 6, 6Plus, 5s, 5c, 5. It will be available in early 2015, and will cost $349 for a base model.

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Surprising Result of NYC Bike Lanes: Faster Traffic for Cars

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 9:57am
A report at vox.com says that the implementation of bike lanes in traffic-heavy New York City has one possibly non-intuitive result: car traffic was sped up as a result. The bike lanes have caused the lanes for cars to be narrowed, but as a result of the street redesign to accomodate bikes, one big change has especially helped to keep cars moving forward more steadily: Although narrower streets can slow traffic, that doesn't seem to have happened here — perhaps because traffic in this area was crawling at around 11 miles per hour to begin with. Instead, the narrower lanes were capable of handling just as much traffic, and one major improvement to intersection design helped them handle more, while also letting bikes travel more safely. This improvement was something called a pocket lane for left-hand turns: a devoted turning lane at most intersections that takes the place of the parking lane, which gets cars out of the way of moving traffic when they're making a left.

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Research Finds No Large-Scale Exploits of Heartbleed Before Disclosure

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 9:15am
Trailrunner7 writes: In the days and weeks following the public disclosure of the OpenSSL Heartbleed vulnerability in April, security researchers and others wondered aloud whether there were some organizations – perhaps the NSA – that had known about the bug for some time and had been using it for targeted attacks. A definitive answer to that question may never come, but traffic data collected by researchers on several large networks shows no large-scale exploit attempts in the months leading up to the public disclosure. "For all four networks, over these time periods our detector found no evidence of any exploit attempt up through April 7, 2014. This provides strong evidence that at least for those time periods, no attacker with prior knowledge of Heartbleed conducted widespread scanning looking for vulnerable servers. Such scanning however could have occurred during other time periods." That result also doesn't rule out the possibility that an attacker or attackers may have been doing targeted reconnaissance on specific servers or networks. The researchers also conducted similar monitoring of the four networks, and noticed that the first attempted exploits occurred within 24 hours of the OpenSSL disclosure.

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In France, a Second Patient Receives Permanent Artificial Heart

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 8:33am
Jason Koebler (3528235) writes One of the most important goals of transhumanist medicine—possessing a perfectly healthy heart—has so far remained elusive. This week, we came a step closer when for the second time ever, a French company implanted a permanent artificial heart in a patient. More than just pumping blood, future artificial hearts will bring numerous other advantages with them. They will have computer chips and wi-fi capacity built into them. We'll control our hearts with our smart phones, tuning down its pumping capacity when we want to sleep, or tuning it up when we want to run marathons. The patient who received the first of these hearts, though he survived for 76 days, died after the heart "stopped after a short circuit, although the exact reasons behind the death were still unknown."

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Paypal Jumps Into Bitcoin With Both Feet

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 7:52am
retroworks (652802) writes The BBC, the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Forbes and several other business sites are buzzing with Paypal's incorporation of Bitcoin transactions. According to Wired, Paypal will be "the best thing ever to happen to Bitcoin." Paypal-owned Braintree not only brings 150 million active users in close contact with Bitcoin, it signals "mainstreaming" similar to cell phone app banking, perceived as experimental just a few years ago.

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Unpopular Programming Languages That Are Still Lucrative

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 7:06am
Nerval's Lobster writes In theory, learning less-popular programming languages could end up paying off big—provided the programmers who pursue them play their proverbial cards right. And as with any good card game, there's a considerable element of chance involved: In order to land a great job, you need to become an expert in a language, which involves a considerable amount of work with no guarantee of a payoff. With that in mind, do you think it's worth learning R, Scala, Haskell, Clojure, or even COBOL (the lattermost is still in use among companies with decades-old infrastructure, and they reportedly have trouble filling jobs that rely on it)? Or is it better to devote your precious hours and memory to popular, much-used languages that have a lot of use out there?

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Under the Apple Hype Machine, Amazon Drops Fire Phone Price To 99 Cents

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 6:22am
Whatever it is that Apple's going to announce a few hours from now, it seems Amazon has decided it's probably not going to send people rushing to buy its Fire phone. Amazon's cut the price of the phone from $199 to 99 cents. At that price, the Fire phone comes with free Amazon Prime membership, too -- but also a 2-year contract with (exclusive carrier) AT&T. Writes ExtremeTech: Whether that’s going to be enough to stimulate sales is an open question — $450 unlocked is still a tough sell for a device that is overmatched by products like the cheaper Nexus 5, or the recently unveiled $500 second-gen Moto X. In August, adoption data from advertising agency Chitika claimed that total Amazon Fire Phone sales were paltry, representing just 0.015-0.02% of phones in use, or fewer than 30,000 phones. That number will have doubtlessly ticked up slightly since then, and it’s true that Amazon’s partners, like AT&T, have aggressively pushed the phone in online stores.

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UN Study Shows Record-High Increases For Atmospheric CO2 In 2013

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 5:36am
Figures released Tuesday by a United Nations advisory body reveal that 2013 saw new recorded highs for both carbon dioxide and methane, as well as the largest year-over-year rise in carbon dioxide since 1984, reflecting continuing worldwide emissions from human sources but also the possibility that natural sinks (oceans and vegetation) are near their capacity for absorbing the excess. From the Washington Post's account: The latest figures from the World Meteorological Organization’s monitoring network are considered particularly significant because they reflect not only the amount of carbon pumped into the air by humans, but also the complex interaction between man-made gases and the natural world. Historically, about half of the pollution from human sources has been absorbed by the oceans and by terrestrial plants, preventing temperatures from rising as quickly as they otherwise would, scientists say. “If the oceans and the biosphere cannot absorb as much carbon, the effect on the atmosphere could be much worse,” said Oksana Tarasova, a scientist and chief of the WMO’s Global Atmospheric Watch program, which collects data from 125 monitoring stations worldwide. The monitoring network is regarded as the most reliable window on the health of Earth’s atmosphere, drawing on air samples collected near the poles, over the oceans, and in other locations far from cities and other major sources of pollution. The new figures for carbon dioxide were particularly surprising, showing the biggest year-over-year increase since detailed records were first compiled in the 1980s, Tarasova said in an interview. The jump of nearly three parts per million over 2012 levels was twice as large as the average increase in carbon levels in recent decades, she said.

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Chinese Man Sues State-Owned Cell Phone Company For Blocking Google

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 4:54am
jfruh writes China is notorious for censoring the Internet for its citizens, and access in the country became particularly spotty last year as the government tried to block any commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Tiannamen Square massacre. But now one Chinese man is striking back through the courts. A 26-year-old legal practitioner is suing his cell phone company, the government-owned China Unicom, and demanding a refund for periods in which he was unable to access Gmail or Google's Hong Kong search page.

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US Rust Belt Manufacturing Rebounds Via Fracking Boom

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 4:13am
schnell writes: A NY Times article reports that Midwestern "Rust Belt" towns and their manufacturing economies in particular have rebounded greatly due to the U.S. resurgence in fossil fuel production. This resurgence is driven by production of shale gas and natural gas from "fracking" and other new technologies that recover previously unavailable fuel but are more invasive than traditional techniques. "Both Youngstown and Canton are places which experienced nothing but disinvestment for 40 years." "They're not ghost towns anymore," according to the article. But while many have decried the loss of traditional U.S. manufacturing jobs in a globalized world and the associated loss of high-wage, blue collar jobs, do the associated environmental risks of new "tight oil" extraction techniques outweigh the benefits to these depressed economic regions?

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