sciencehabit writes "One unintended effect of the U.S. federal shutdown is that helpful press officers at government labs are not available to provide a reality check to some of the wilder stories that can catch fire on the Internet. They would have come in handy this week, when a number of outlets jumped on a report on the BBC News website. The National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, it reported, had passed a 'nuclear fusion milestone.' NIF uses the world's highest energy laser system to crush tiny pellets containing a form of hydrogen fuel to enormous temperature and pressure. The aim is to get the hydrogen nuclei to fuse together into helium atoms, releasing energy. The BBC story reported that during one experiment last month, 'the amount of energy released through the fusion reaction exceeded the amount of energy being absorbed by the fuel — the first time this had been achieved at any fusion facility in the world.' This prompted a rush of even more effusive headlines proclaiming the 'fusion breakthrough.' As no doubt NIF's press officers would have told reporters, the experiment in question certainly shows important progress, but it is not the breakthrough everyone is hoping for."
Lucas123 writes "A solar power array that covers three square miles with 3,200 mirrored parabolic collectors went live this week, creating enough energy to power 70,000 homes in Arizona. The Solana Solar Power Plant, located 70 miles southwest of Phoenix, was built at a cost of $2 billion, and financed in large part by a U.S. Department of Energy loan guarantee. The array is the world's largest parabolic trough plant, meaning it uses parabolic shaped mirrors mounted on moving structures that track the sun and concentrate its heat. A first: a thermal energy storage system at the plant can provide electricity for six hours without the concurrent use of the solar field. Because it can store electricity, the plant can continue to provide power during the night and inclement weather."
PengPod is running a crowdfunder to create a GNU Linux/Android tablet, the PengPod 1040. This is their second such product; the first was mentioned on Slashdot last year. PengPod has pledged to make all source and tools used to build the images available, so users can build their own OS top to bottom to guarantee that it's free of NSA tracking. The PengPod has previously found some success as a low-cost touch platform for industrial/commercial control systems and is partnered with ViewTouch, the original inventors of the graphical POS to offer PengPod1040s as restaurant register systems. The feature that the developers seem keenest to emphasize is that the PengPod is built to run conventional desktop Linux distros without special hacking required; Android is the default OS, but it's been tested with several others (including Ubuntu Touch) listed on their Indiegogo page.
adeelarshad82 writes "Acer officially announced its new Chromebook, C720. The C720 is 30% thinner (at 0.75 inches thick) and lighter (at 2.76 pounds) than Acer's previous Chromebook, C7. The C720 Chromebook has an 11.6-inch anti-glare widescreen, with a 1,366-by-768 resolution. Acer claims seven second boot times and up to 8.5 hours of battery life. The C720 comes with 4GB of DDR3L memory and uses an Intel Celeron 2955U processor based on Haswell technology. The system also has 16GB of local SSD storage along with 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi to get to Google's cloud-based storage. Like previous Chromebooks, the C720 Chromebook is constantly updated with the latest version of the Chrome OS and built around the Chrome browser." One thing this machine lacks is the most intriguing feature of the new ARM-based (and lower-power) Chromebook 11 from HP: charging via Micro-USB.
itwbennett writes "PC maker Lenovo accidentally posted manuals on its website showing an Android laptop called the IdeaPad A10. Lenovo spokesman Chris Millward said the company had planned on making an official announcement for the device, and that 'the product has not been canceled. It will be going out to the market.' Launch dates and pricing to come, but specs show that it could be a budget product."
Lucas123 writes "Engineers at Disney Research in Pittsburgh have developed an algorithm that creates the illusion of a 3D surface on touch screens. Using electrical impulses, the touch screen technology offers the sensation of ridges, edges, protrusions and bumps and any combination of those textures. While Disney is not alone in developing tactile response touchscreens, its researchers said the traditional approach has been to use a library of 'canned effects,' that are played back when someone touches a screen. Disney's algorithm doesn't just playback one or two responses, but it offers a set of controls that make it possible to tune tactile effects to a specific visual artifact on the fly. 'Our algorithm is concise, light and easily applicable on static images and video streams,' the researchers stated." This summer Disney unveiled AIREAL, a system designed to give tactile sensations to people using motion control devices.
An anonymous reader writes "A day after TEPCO workers mistakenly turned off cooling pumps serving the spent pool at reactor #4 at the crippled nuclear plant comes a new accident — 6 workers apparently removed the wrong pipe from a primary filtration system and were doused with highly radioactive water. They were wearing protection yet such continuing mishaps and 'small mistakes' are becoming a pattern at the facility."
ananyo writes "Fusion unleashes vast amounts of energy that might one day be used to power giant electrical grids. But the laboratory systems that seem most promising produce radiation in the form of fast-moving neutrons, and these present a health hazard that requires heavy shielding and even degrades the walls of the fusion reactor. Physicists have now produced fusion at an accelerated rate in the laboratory without generating harmful neutrons (abstract). A team led by Christine Labaune, research director of the CNRS Laboratory for the Use of Intense Lasers at the Ecole Polytechnique in Palaiseau, France, used a two-laser system to fuse protons and boron-11 nuclei. One laser created a short-lived plasma, or highly ionized gas of boron nuclei, by heating boron atoms; the other laser generated a beam of protons that smashed into the boron nuclei, releasing slow-moving helium particles but no neutrons. Previous laser experiments that generated boron fusion aimed the laser at a boron target to initiate the reaction. In the new experiment, the laser-generated proton beam produces a tenfold increase of boron fusion because protons and boron nuclei are instead collided together directly."
An anonymous reader writes "More than 90% of nuclear regulators are being sent home due to the Federal Government shutdown, as the agency announced today that it was out of funds. Without Congressional appropriations, the nuclear watchdog closes its doors for what appears to be the first time in U.S. history. CNN reports that while a skeleton crew remains to monitor the nation's 100 nuclear reactors, regulatory efforts to prevent a Fukushima-like incident in the United States have ceased."
iONiUM writes "Samsung today unveiled the Galaxy Round phone with a curved 5.7" display. It comes with a hefty $1,000 USD price tag. This is a follow-up to the 55" curved TVs it began selling in June, and is most likely an intermediate form in the development of fold-able phones. Considering the recent LG announcement of mass OLED flexible screen production, it seems we are getting close to flexible phones. One question I wonder: will Apple follow suit? So far there has been no indication they are even attempting flexible/bendable screens."
First time accepted submitter eekee writes "The targets are high, but so is the goal: releasing Verilog source code for a GPU implementation. The source will be open source, LGPL-licensed, and suitable for loading onto an FPGA. The first target is for a 2D GPU with PCI interface; perhaps not terribly interesting in itself, but the first stretch goal is much more exciting: full OpenGL and Direct3D graphics." Unlike the Open Graphics Project, this is starting from a working 2D accelerator and mostly working 3D accelerator cloning the features of the Number Nine Ticket to Ride hardware. If they get a meelion bucks they'll overhaul the chip to support something other than PCI (although you can bridge between PCI and PCIe) and implement a modern programmable rather than fixed-function chip. Also unlike OGP, they do not appear interested in producing hardware, instead focusing entirely on the core itself for use in FPGAs (anyone want to dust off the OGD1 design?)
beckman101 writes "Two years ago the Gameduino brought retro-style gaming to the Arduino. This week its successor launched on Kickstarter, still fully open-source but with a video that shows it running some contemporary-looking demos. Plus, it has a touch screen and a pretty decent 3-axis accelerometer. Farewell to the retro?"
crookedvulture writes "The first reviews of AMD's Radeon R7 and R9 graphics cards have hit the web, revealing cards based on the same GPU technology used in the existing HD 7000 series. The R9 280X is basically a tweaked variant of the Radeon HD 7970 GHz priced at $300 instead of $400, while the R9 270X is a revised version of the Radeon HD 7870 for $200. Thanks largely to lower prices, the R9 models compare favorably to rival GeForce offerings, even if there's nothing exciting going on at the chip level. There's more intrigue with the Radeon R7 260X, which shares the same GPU silicon as the HD 7790 for only $140. Turns out that graphics chip has some secret functionality that's been exposed by the R7 260X, including advanced shaders, simplified multimonitor support, and a TrueAudio DSP block dedicated to audio processing. AMD's current drivers support the shaders and multimonitor mojo in the 7790 right now, and a future update promises to unlock the DSP. The R7 260X isn't nearly as appealing as the R9 cards, though. It's slower overall than not only GeForce 650 Ti Boost cards from Nvidia, but also AMD's own Radeon HD 7850 1GB. We're still waiting on the Radeon R9 290X, which will be the first graphics card based on AMD's next-gen Hawaii GPU." More reviews available from AnandTech, Hexus, Hot Hardware, and PC Perspective.
A few weeks ago, on his way to LinuxCon, Timothy stopped by the biggest hackerspace he'd ever seen. Houston's TX/RX Labs is not just big — it's busy, and booked. Unlike some spaces we've highlighted here before (like Seattle's Metrix:CreateSpace and Brooklyn's GenSpace, TX/RX Labs has room and year-round sunshine enough to contemplate putting a multi-kilowatt solar array in the backyard. Besides an array of CNC machines, 3-D printers, and wood- and metal-working equipment, TX/RX has workbenches available for members to rent. (These are serious workspaces, made in-house of poured concrete and welded steel tubing.) There's also a classroom full of donated workstations, lounge space, a small collection of old (but working) military trucks, and a kitchen big enough for their Pancake Science Sunday breakfasts. Labs member Steve Cameron showed me around. You saw Part One of his tour last week. Today's video is Part Two.
dcblogs writes "Gartner says new technologies are decreasing jobs. In the industrial revolution — and revolutions since — there was an invigoration of jobs. For instance, assembly lines for cars led to a vast infrastructure that could support mass production giving rise to everything from car dealers to road building and utility expansion into new suburban areas. But the "digital industrial revolution" is not following the same path. "What we're seeing is a decline in the overall number of people required to do a job," said Daryl Plummer, a Gartner analyst at the research firm's Symposium ITxpo. Plummer points to a company like Kodak, which once employed 130,000, versus Instagram's 13. The analyst believes social unrest movements, similar to Occupy Wall Street, will emerge again by 2014 as the job creation problem deepens." Isn't "decline in the overall number of people required to do a job" precisely what assembly lines effect, even if some job categories as a result require fewer humans? We recently posted a contrary analysis arguing that the Luddites are wrong.
linuxwrangler writes "NSA's new Utah data-center has been suffering numerous power-surges that have caused as much as $100,000 damage per event. The root cause is 'not yet sufficiently understood' but is suspected to relate to the site's 'inability to simultaneously run computers and keep them cool.' Frustrating the analysis and repair are 'incomplete information about the design of the electrical system' and the fact that "regular quality controls in design and construction were bypassed in an effort to fast track the Utah project."" Ars Technica has a short article, too, as does ITworld.
judgecorp writes "The millionth Raspberry Pi microcomputer has been made in the Foundation's Welsh factory. Total sales so far are 1.75 million, including the initial stock made in China." (Do you have one? If so, what are you using it for?)
An anonymous reader writes "NVIDIA was caught removing features from their Linux driver and days later Linux developers have caught and confirmed AMD imposing artificial limitations on their graphics cards in the DVI-to-HDMI adapters that their driver will support. Over years AMD has quietly been adding an extra EEPROM chip to their DVI-to-HDMI adapters that are bundled with Radeon HD graphics cards. Only when these identified adapters are detected via checks in their Windows and Linux Catalyst driver is HDMI audio enabled. If using a third-party DVI-to-HDMI adapter, HDMI audio support is disabled by the Catalyst driver. Open-source Linux developers have found this to be a self-imposed limitation and that the open-source AMD Linux driver will work fine with any DVI-to-HDMI adapter."
Bismillah writes "University of Bristol researchers have come up with a way to make touch screens more touchy-feely so to speak, using ultrasound waves to produce haptic feedback. You don't need to touch the screen even, as the UltraHaptics waves can be felt mid-air. Very Minority Report, but cooler." The researchers built an ultrasonic transducer grid behind an acoustically transparent display. Using acoustic modeling of a volume above the screen, they can create multiple movable control points with varying properties. A Leap Motion controller was used to detect the hand movements.
mysqlbytes writes "The BBC is reporting the National Ignition Facility (NIF), based at Livermore in California, has succeeded in breaking even — 'During an experiment in late September, the amount of energy released through the fusion reaction exceeded the amount of energy being absorbed by the fuel — the first time this had been achieved at any fusion facility in the world.'"
sciencehabit writes "A do-it-yourself neuroscience experiment that allows students to create their own 'cyborg' insects is sparking controversy amongst scienitsts and ethicists. RoboRoach #12 is a real cockroach that a company called BackyardBrains ships to school students. The students fit the insect with a tiny backpack, which contains electrodes that feed into its antennae and receive signals by remote control — via the Bluetooth signals emitted by smartphones. A simple swipe of an iPhone can turn the insect left or right. Though some scientists say the small cyborg is a good educational tool, others say it's turning kids into psychopaths." Fitting the backpack requires poking a hole in the roach's thorax and clipping its antennae to insert electrodes.
Zothecula writes "LG today announced that it is to start mass producing flexible OLED display panels for smartphones. The company says that its technology uses plastic substrates rather than glass, and claims that a protective film on the back of the display makes it 'unbreakable' as well as bendable."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Claudia Assis writes that the US will end 2013 as the world's largest producer of petroleum and natural gas, surpassing Russia and Saudi Arabia with the Energy Information Administration estimating that combined US petroleum and gas production this year will hit 50 quadrillion British thermal units, or 25 million barrels of oil equivalent a day, outproducing Russia by 5 quadrillion Btu. Most of the new oil was coming from the western states. Oil production in Texas has more than doubled since 2010. In North Dakota, it has tripled, and Oklahoma, New Mexico, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah have also shown steep rises in oil production over the same three years, according to EIA data. Tapping shale rock for oil and gas has fueled the US boom, while Russia has struggled to keep up its output. 'This is a remarkable turn of events,' says Adam Sieminski, head of the US Energy Information Administration. 'This is a new era of thinking about market conditions, and opportunities created by these conditions, that you wouldn't in a million years have dreamed about.' But even optimists in the US concede that the shale boom's longevity could hinge on commodity prices, government regulations and public support, the last of which could be problematic. A poll last month by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that opposition to increased use of fracking rose to 49% from 38% in the previous six months. 'It is not a supply question anymore,' says Ken Hersh. 'It is about demand and the cost of production. Those are the two drivers."'"
Features of Google's next Nexus phone have finally been outed, along with confirmation that the phone will be built by LG, as a result of a leaked service manual draft; here are some of the details as described at TechCrunch: "The new Nexus will likely be available in 16 or 32GB variants, and will feature an LTE radio and an 8-megapixel rear camera with optical image stabilization (there’s no mention of that crazy Nikon tech, though). NFC, wireless charging, and that lovely little notification light are back, too, but don’t expect a huge boost in longevity — it’s going to pack a sealed 2,300mAh battery, up slightly from the 2100mAh cell that powered last year’s Nexus 4. That spec sheet should sound familiar to people who took notice of what happened with the Nexus 4. Just as that device was built from the foundation laid by the LG Optimus G, the Nexus 5 (or whatever it’s going to be called) seems like a mildly revamped version of LG’s G2."
Despite the number of companies shipping or promising them, smart watches aren't the easiest sell, and Ars Technica's review of Samsung's entry illustrates why. Despite all the processing power inside, the watch is "sluggish" even for the kind of at-a-glance convenience features that are touted as the reason to have a phone tethered to an (even smarter) phone, and for the most part seems to weakly imitate features already found on that phone. There are a few features called out as cool, like a media control app, but for the most part reviewer Rob Amadeo finds little compelling in the Galaxy Gear.
Microsoft made some confident sounding claims about sales of its first-generation Surface tablets before it became clear that the tablets weren't actually selling very well. So make what you will of the company's claim that the second version is "close to selling out." As the linked article points out, the company has "fallen short of offering any real explanation as to just how “close” to selling out the Surface 2 and Pro 2 really are – nor have they indicated how many were on hand to order in the first place."
Boston Dynamics has been making eye-catching (and sort of creepy) military-oriented robots for several years, and we've noted several times the Big Dog utility robot. The newest creation is the untethered, gas-powered Wildcat; this is definitely not something I want chasing after me. (Not as fast as the previous, tethered version — yet.)
New submitter billylo writes "Tech heavy industries are constantly looking for new sources of innovations. But where are the best place to find them? Increasingly, businesses are looking beyond universities and source ideas from savvy high schoolers. Cases in point: High school programming team finished in the Top 5 of MasterCard's NXT API challenge (3rd one down the list) last weekend in Toronto; Waterloo's Computing Contest high-school level winners [PDF] tackled complex problems like these [PDF]; the FIRST robotics competition requires design, CAD, manufacturing and programming all done by high schoolers. Do you have other good examples on how to encourage high schoolers to become young innovators? Do you have any other successful examples?"
MojoKid writes "Among the various SNAFUs and PR misfires related to the Xbox One release earlier this year, one item that had people upset was that Kinect would be used for advertising--or worse, that the Xbox One Kinect was actually designed with advertising in mind. The source was a UI designer who was expounding the capabilities of the Kinect and how it could be used to deliver interactive ads and used for native advertising. However, Microsoft Director of Product Planning Albert Penello threw cold water on much of it. 'First--nobody is working on that,' he said. 'We have a lot more interesting and pressing things to dedicate time towards.' He also stated that if Microsoft were to engage in something along those lines, users would definitely have control over it, meaning that Kinect would not be spying on you; you would have to engage with Kinect for anything to happen."
An anonymous reader writes "My wireless router just died. I have an old netbook lying around that has a wired network interface and a wireless one. The wireless card is supported in master mode by Linux, FreeBSD, and OpenBSD. What does Slashdot recommend I use to turn it into a router/wireless access point? DD-WRT? pfSense? Smoothwall? Fedora/Ubuntu/OpenBSD with a manual configuration? I'm not afraid of getting my hands dirty and I know what I'm doing, but I want as close to zero maintenance as possible."
RemyBR writes "Softpedia points to a Nvidia Developer Zone forum post revealing that the company has removed a specific Linux feature as of the v310 drivers due to the Windows platform. A BaseMosaic user on Ubuntu 12.04 noticed a change in the number of displays that can be used simultaneously after upgrading from the v295 drivers to v310. Another user, apparently working for Nvidia, gave a very troubling answer: 'For feature parity between Windows and Linux we set BaseMosaic to 3 screens.'"
cartechboy writes "The Tesla Model S fire that, to date, is either electric car Armageddon or 'no big deal' has been fun Internet theatre combined with a dose of crowd-sourced battery-pack pseudo-expertise. Now the actual car owner (and Tesla investor) weighs in with his take, which is, basically, 'nothing to see here and yes, I can't wait to get back into a Tesla.' Owner Robert Carlson wrote an email in response to contact by Tesla's vice president of sales and service, Jerome Guillen, saying he found the car had 'performed very well under such an extreme test. The batteries went through a controlled burn which the Internet images really exaggerates.' Carlson had no comment on the guy who videoed his car fire, who is now Internet infamous for shooting video in portrait mode." You can read Elon Musk's take, along with Carlson's correspondence.
DeviceGuru writes "At the Maker Faire Rome this week, Arduino announced a next-generation Arduino single board computer featuring a dual-processor architecture, and able to run a 'full Linux OS', in contrast to the lightweight OpenWRT Linux variant (Linino) buried inside the Yun's Atheros WiFi module. The Arduino TRE features a 1GHz 32-bit TI Sitara AM335x ARM Cortex-A8 SoC for running Linux software, plus an 8-bit Atmel ATmega MCU for AVR-compatible control of expansion modules (aka shields). The TRE's Sitara subsystem includes HDMI video, 100Mbps Ethernet, and 5 USB 2.0 ports, and is claimed to provide up to 100X the performance the Arduino Leonardo and Uno boards. Interestingly, the TRE's development reportedly benefited from close collaboration between Arduino and the BeagleBoard.org foundation."
An anonymous reader writes "Valve has revealed their first Steam Machines prototype details. The first 300 Steam Machine prototypes to ship will use various high-end Intel CPUs and NVIDIA GPUs while running their custom SteamOS Linux distribution. The Intel Haswell CPU + NVIDIA GPU combination should work well on Linux with the binary drivers. Using a range of CPUs/GPUs in the prototypes will allow them to better gauge the performance and effectiveness. Valve also said they will be releasing the CAD design files to their custom living room console enclosure for those who'd like to reproduce them." Valve is careful to point out that these specs aren't intended as a standard: "[T]o be clear, this design is not meant to serve the needs of all of the tens of millions of Steam users. It may, however, be the kind of machine that a significant percentage of Steam users would actually want to purchase — those who want plenty of performance in a high-end living room package. Many others would opt for machines that have been more carefully designed to cost less, or to be tiny, or super quiet, and there will be Steam Machines that fit those descriptions."
MojoKid writes "Although Intel is Chipzilla, the company can't help but extend its reach just a bit into the exciting and growing world of DIY makers and hobbyists. Intel announced its Galileo development board, a microcontroller that's compatible with Arduino software and uses the new Quark X1000 processor (400MHz, 32-bit, Pentium-class, single- core and thread) that Intel announced at the IDF 2013 keynote. The board makes use of Intel's architecture to make it easy to develop for Windows, Mac, and Linux, but it's also completely open hardware (PDF). Galileo is 10cm x 7cm (although ports protrude a bit beyond that), and there are four screw holes for secure mounting. Ports include 10/100 Ethernet, USB client/host ports, RS-232 UART and 3.5mm jack, mini PCIe slot (with USB 2.0 host support); other features include 8MB Legacy SPI Flash for firmware storage, 512KB embedded SRAM, 256MB DRAM, 11KB EEPROM programmed via the EEPROM library, and support for an additional 32GB of storage using a microSD card."
MIT research scientist John Romanishin, along with professor Daniela Rus and postdoc Kyle Gilpin, have demonstrated a swarm of modular robots with the ability to self-assemble into larger shapes. The individual robots are small and cubical, but they contain a flywheel capable of spinning at 20,000 rpm. By spinning up the flywheel and then braking abruptly, the robots use angular momentum to jump into different positions. Magnets on the edges of the cube guide them into alignment. The researchers hope to be able to shrink the cubes even further, but they think a "refined version of their system could prove useful even at something like its current scale. Armies of mobile cubes could temporarily repair bridges or buildings during emergencies, or raise and reconfigure scaffolding for building projects. They could assemble into different types of furniture or heavy equipment as needed. And they could swarm into environments hostile or inaccessible to humans, diagnose problems, and reorganize themselves to provide solutions." The cubes could also be packed with sensors, batteries, or other technologies.
First time accepted submitter starr802 writes "Scientists from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Daejeon, South Korea, have developed a 'jellyfish terminator' robot set out to detect the marine coelenterate and kill it. Scientists started developing the robots three years ago after South Korea experienced jellyfish attacks along its southwest coast, where they clogged fishing nets and ate fish eggs and plankton, Discovery News reports. The Jellyfish Elimination Robotic Swarm or JEROS has two motors that let it move forward, backwards and rotate at 360 degrees." In related news, the Oskarshamn nuclear plant in southeastern Sweden was shut down recently after moon jellyfish overwhelmed the screens and filters in cooling pipes."
crookedvulture writes "Seagate's solid-state hybrid drives have finally made it to the desktop. The latest generation of SSHDs debuted with a 2.5" notebook model that was ultimately hampered by its slow 5,400-RPM spindle speed. The Desktop SSHD has the same 8GB flash payload and Adaptive Memory caching scheme. However, it's equipped with 2TB of much faster 7,200-RPM mechanical storage. The onboard flash produces boot and load times only a little bit slower than those of full-blown SSDs. It also delivers quicker response times than traditional hard drives. That said, the relatively small cache is overwhelmed by some benchmarks, and its mechanical sidekick isn't as fast as the best traditional hard drives. The price premium is a little high, too: an extra $30 for the 1TB model and $40 for the 2TB variant, which is nearly enough to buy a separate 32GB SSD. Seagate's software-independent caching system works with any operating system and hardware platform, so it definitely has some appeal. But dual-drive setups are probably the better solution for most desktop users."
That things are bigger in Texas is sometimes more than just a cliche. A few weeks ago, on the way to LinuxCon, I stopped by what is certainly the biggest hackerspace that I've ever seen; is it the biggest in the world? Whatever the answer is to that, Houston's TX/RX Labs is not just big — it's busy, and booked. Unlike some spaces we've highlighted here before (like Seattle's Metrix:CreateSpace and Brooklyn's GenSpace), TX/RX Labs has room and year-round sunshine enough to contemplate putting a multi-kilowatt solar array in the backyard. Besides an array of CNC machines, 3-D printers, and both wood- and metal-working equipment, TX/RX has workbenches available for members to rent. (These are serious workspaces, made in-house of poured concrete and welded steel tubing.) Member Steve Cameron showed me around, but TX/RX Labs is so large that we broke the tour into two parts, with the other one set to display next week.
cartechboy writes "A Tesla Model S was involved in an accident in Washington state on Tuesday, and the car's battery pack caught fire (with some of it caught on video). The cause of the accident is pretty clear, and Tesla issued a statement that the vehicle hit 'a large metallic object in the middle of the road.' Whether that collision immediately set off a fire in the Model S's battery pack isn't known, but a report from the Regional Fire Authority of Kent, Washington went into detail on the battery pack fire saying the car's lithium-ion battery was on fire when firefighters arrived, and spraying water on it had little effect. Firefighters switched to a dry chemical extinguisher and had to puncture numerous holes into the battery pack to extinguish it completely. Aside from the details of how the battery fire happened and was handled, the big question is what effect it will have on how people view Teslas in the near and middle-term. Is this Tesla's version of 2010's high profile Prius recall issue where pundits and critics took the opportunity to stir fears of the cars new technology?"
First time accepted submitter Daniel Dern writes "There may be a better home than your basement or recycling for those beloved computers you once built and/or used — like one of the many tech-collecting/displaying museums. My ComputerWorld article, '9 museums that want your legacy tech,' looks at nine institutions that might — be sure to ask, don't just drop on their doorsteps after hours — want some of them. (Probably not everything you've got, alack.)" Look soon for a Slashdot video visit to the Goodwill Computer Museum, one of the collections mentioned.
Iddo Genuth writes "If you love to go on camping trips and want to charge your mobile phone, tablet or even camera there is a new solution on the way which can do that anywhere day or night and all you need to do is light a little fire and have a few drops of water. The FlameStower efficiently captures excess heat from a gas burner or campfire to charge almost any USB-powered device: cell phones, GPS units and even cameras by using the thermal deferential between the fire and water and the whole thing is already collecting money on Kickstarter (and if you are really handy you can even make a DIY version yourself)."
Lucas123 writes "After beginning as an art project 3 years ago in Manhattan to thwart government online spying and offer a physical depiction of our digitally-connected society, a trend of embedding USB thumb drives in walls has caught on and spread to every continent but Antarctica. Dead Drops, as the anonymous P2P files sharing network is called, now has more than 1,200 locations worldwide and has morphed as participants have become more creative in not only where they place the drives, but how they share files, including creating WiFi locations. The thumb drives, which range in size from a few megabytes to 60GB, have allowed people to share music, video, personal photos, poetry, political discourse, or artwork anonymously. Dead Drops creator, German artist Aram Bartholl, said the project is a way to 'un-cloud' file sharing."
mdsolar tips this story at the NY Times: "Every month, Hiroko Watabe, 74, returns for a few hours to her abandoned house near the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant to engage in her own small act of defiance against fate. She dons a surgical mask, hangs two radiation-measuring devices around her neck and crouches down to pull weeds. She is desperate to keep her small yard clean to prove she has not given up on her home, which she and her family evacuated two years ago after a 9.0 earthquake and a tsunami devastated the plant five miles away. Not all her neighbors are willing to take the risk; chest-high weeds now block the doorways of their once-tidy homes. 'In my heart, I know we can never live here again,' said Ms. Watabe, who drove here with her husband from Koriyama, the city an hour away where they have lived since the disaster. 'But doing this gives us a purpose. We are saying that this is still our home.' While the continuing environmental disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant has grabbed world headlines — with hundreds of tons of contaminated water flowing into the Pacific Ocean daily — a human crisis has been quietly unfolding. Two and a half years after the plant belched plumes of radioactive materials over northeast Japan, the almost 83,000 nuclear refugees evacuated from the worst-hit areas are still unable to go home."
angry tapir writes "A Japanese start-up says it has finessed a technology that could finally make consumer-grade fuel cells a reality. If successful, the company, Aquafairy, would create a business where many much larger companies have failed. Prototypes of the company's hydrogen fuel cell technology are on show this week at the Ceatec exhibition in Japan where the company's president, Mike Aizawa, said he hopes the first products will be on sale next year."
Nerval's Lobster writes "One of the largest nuclear-power plants in the world was forced to shut down temporarily Sept. 29, after pipes that bring Baltic Sea water in to cool the plant's turbines became clogged with tons of jellyfish. The sudden influx of common moon jellyfish overwhelmed the screens and filters that keep flotsam and most sea life out of the Oskarshamn nuclear plant in southeastern Sweden. The plant was forced to shut down its No. 3 reactor – the largest boiling-water reactor in the world, which generates 1,400 megawatts of electricity when it is jellyfish-free and running at full power. The reactor stayed down until early Oct. 1, after the jellyfish had been cleared out and engineers approved the cooling system as invertebrate-free. It's not easy to overwhelm the cooling system for a nuclear power plant, but Oskarshamn's is unusually resilient. There is a separate intake- and cooling system for each reactor, all of which were designed for the brackish, polluted water in that area of the Baltic Sea. Most datacenters are too far inland to worry about jellyfish in their cooling water, though green-IT-promoters Vertatique estimated that a 5,000-sq.-ft. datacenter would consume almost 9 million gallons of water for cooling. That means ocean-side datacenters that use sea water for cooling (such as Google's datacenter in Hamina, Finland — also on the Baltic Sea) are just as susceptible to jellyfish attacks as nuclear power plants."
Kristian von Bengtson writes with a link to a short guest post at Wired with an explanation of how his amateur rocket organization Copenhagen Suborbitals managed to obtain GPS receivers without U.S. military limits for getting accurate GPS information at altitude. Mostly, the answer is in recent relaxations of the rules themselves, but it was apparently still challenging to obtain non-limited GPS hardware. "I expect they only got the OK to create this software modification for us," von Bengston writes, "since we are clearly a peaceful organization with not sinister objectives – and also in a very limited number of units. Basically removing the limits is a matter of getting into the hardware changing the code or get the manufacturers to do it. Needless to say, diplomacy and trust is the key to unlock this."
richi writes "Kevin Warwick: His name raises extremes of opinion. For more than a decade, this highly controversial cybernetics professor has been making waves. His high-profile experiments — and even higher-profile claim that he's the first living cyborg — earned him column inches and unflattering nicknames. In this Forbes interview, 'Captain Cyborg' talks about exploding motorcycles, wireless power, and fish and chips."
First time accepted submitter Hallie Siegel writes "A team of students from ETH Zurich and ZHdK have developed a prototype for a robotic ship inspection unit that is capable of conducting visual inspections of ship ballasts. Ballast inspection – which involves navigating hard-to-reach spots with no line of sight, often in the presence of intense heat, humidity, and hazardous gases – is normally done by human inspectors, and represents a significant cost to ship-owners who must pay for dry-docking and who face lost income when they cannot operate their ships during the inspection period. Because robotic ship inspection can occur while the ship is in operation, it could significantly reduce dry-dock time. The Ship Inspection Robot (SIR), which was developed in conjunction with Alstom Inspection Robotics and which uses magnetic wheels to navigate the I-beams and other awkward obstacles found inside ship ballast, is relatively compact and does not require any cables for power or communication, and thus offers significant mobility improvements over other robotic ship inspection prototypes. Project leaders anticipate that a per unit production cost could be as low as €4K, enabling shipping companies to operate several units in parallel as an additional time-saving measure."