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New Type of 'Flow Battery' Can Store 10 Times the Energy of the Next Best Device ( 44

sciencehabit writes: Industrial-scale batteries, known as flow batteries, could one day usher in widespread use of renewable energy—but only if the devices can store large amounts of energy cheaply and feed it to the grid when the sun isn't shining and the winds are calm. That's something conventional flow batteries can't do. Now, researchers report that they've created a novel type of flow battery that uses lithium ion technology—the sort used to power laptops—to store about 10 times as much energy as the most common flow batteries on the market. With a few improvements, the new batteries could make a major impact on the way we store and deliver energy. The research, from the National University of Singapore, has one big flaw in particular: speed. It's 'very innovative' work, says Michael Aziz, a flow battery expert at Harvard University. But he adds that even though the novel battery has a high energy density, the rate at which it delivers that power is 10,000 times slower than conventional flow batteries, far too slow for most applications. Wang and his colleagues acknowledge the limitation, but they say they should be able to improve the delivery rate with further improvements to the membrane and the charge-ferrying redox mediators.

Video Meet Mårten Mickos, Serial Open Source CEO (Video) 23

Marten was the MySQL CEO who built the company from a small-time free software database developer into a worldwide software juggernaut he sold to Sun Microsystems. Next, he became CEO of Eucalyptus Systems, another open source operation, which Hewlett Packard bought in 2014. Now Mårten is CEO of hackerone, a company that hooks security-worried companies up with any one of thousands of ethical hackers worldwide.

Some of those hackers might be companies that grew out of university CS departments, and some of them may be individual high school students working from their kitchen tables. Would a large company Board of Directors trust a kid hacker who came to them with a bug he found in their software? Probably not. But if Mårten or one of his hackerone people contacts that company, it's likely to listen -- and set up a bug bounty program if they don't have one already.

Essentially, once again Mårten is working as an intermediary between technically proficient people -- who may or may not conform to sociey's idea of a successful person -- and corporate executives who need hackers' skills and services but may not know how to find non-mainstream individuals or even know the difference between "hackers" and "crackers." Editor's note: I have known and respected Mårten for many years. If this interview seems like a conversation between two old friends, it is.

Comet Catalina To Pass By Earth For the Final Time 54

StartsWithABang writes: Originating from the Kuiper belt and the Oort cloud, comets are generally thought of as periodic objects, with their initial trajectories having been perturbed by either Neptune, another distant object or a passing star or rogue planet. But most comets aren't periodic; they're transient instead, where a trip into the inner Solar System gives them additional gravitational perturbations, causing them to either fly into the Sun or gain enough kinetic energy to escape entirely. This latter fate is the case for Comet Catalina, which reaches perihelion on November 15th and then heads out of the Solar System after putting on one final show for observers on Earth.

Getting Small: Modular Data Center Designs Play Large Role In Edge Growth ( 5

1sockchuck writes: After years of focus on hyperscale server farms, there's new demand for data centers to serve edge content and the service provider market in smaller cities. How do you match the size of the data center to the demand profile of smaller markets? Pre-fabricated data center designs are playing a key role, deploying server space in smaller, digestible chunks. This avoids the overbuilding that led to the data center glut during the dot-com boom, but also allows customers to expand gradually. But the "data center in a box" has evolved since the Sun Blackbox, and now includes a focus on factory-built power rooms and lean construction of data halls, as well as the evolving designs for containerized solutions.
The Military

Military Blimp Breaks Free and Drifts Over the Mid-Atlantic Trailing Tether ( 196

McGruber writes: The Baltimore Sun reports that a military surveillance blimp has broken free of its mooring at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland and was last seen drifting at 16,000 ft over Pennsylvania. The 243-foot-long, helium-filled JLENS (Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System) aerostat detached from its mooring at about 11:54 a.m. Wednesday. It was trailing approximately 6,700 feet of cable. "Anyone who sees the aerostat is advised to contact 911 immediately," spokeswoman Heather Roelker said. "People are warned to keep a safe distance from the airship and tether as contact with them may present significant danger."

Morocco's Solar Power Mega-Project ( 102

An anonymous reader writes: Morocco, located along the northwestern African coast, is in prime position to take advantage of solar technology, and they've committed to one of the biggest such projects in the world. The city of Ouarzazate will host "a complex of four linked solar mega-plants that, alongside hydro and wind, will help provide nearly half of Morocco's electricity from renewables by 2020." It will be the largest concentrated solar power plant in the world. "The mirror technology it uses is less widespread and more expensive than the photovoltaic panels that are now familiar on roofs the world over, but it will have the advantage of being able to continue producing power even after the sun goes down." The first phase of the project, called Noor 1, comprises 500,000 solar mirrors that track the sun throughout the day, with a maximum capacity of 160MW. When the full project finishes, it will be able to generate up to 580MW. "Each parabolic mirror is 12 meters high and focused on a steel pipeline carrying a 'heat transfer solution' (HTF) that is warmed to 393C as it snakes along the trough before coiling into a heat engine. There, it is mixed with water to create steam that turns energy-generating turbines."

Comet Lovejoy Giving Away Alcohol ( 97 writes: Comet Lovejoy lived up to its name by releasing large amounts of alcohol as well as a type of sugar into space, according to new observations by an international team. The discovery marks the first time ethyl alcohol, the same type in alcoholic beverages, has been observed in a comet. The finding adds to the evidence that comets could have been a source of the complex organic molecules necessary for the emergence of life.

'We found that comet Lovejoy was releasing as much alcohol as in at least 500 bottles of wine every second during its peak activity,' said Nicolas Biver of the Paris Observatory, France, lead author of a paper on the discovery published Oct. 23 in Science Advances. The team found 21 different organic molecules in gas from the comet, including ethyl alcohol and glycolaldehyde, a simple sugar.

Comets are frozen remnants from the formation of our solar system. Scientists are interested in them because they are relatively pristine and therefore hold clues to how the solar system was made. Most orbit in frigid zones far from the sun. However, occasionally, a gravitational disturbance sends a comet closer to the sun, where it heats up and releases gases, allowing scientists to determine its composition.


A Tower of Molten Salt Will Deliver Solar Power After Sunset ( 139

schwit1 sends this report from IEEE Spectrum: Solar power projects intended to turn solar heat into steam to generate electricity have struggled to compete amid tumbling prices for solar energy from solid-state photovoltaic (PV) panels. But the first commercial-scale implementation of an innovative solar thermal design could turn the tide. Engineered from the ground up to store some of its solar energy, the 110-megawatt plant is nearing completion in the Crescent Dunes near Tonopah, Nev. It aims to simultaneously produce the cheapest solar thermal power and to dispatch that power for up to 10 hours after the setting sun has idled photovoltaics. ... [The system] heats a molten mixture of nitrate salts that can be stored in insulated tanks and withdrawn on demand to run the plant’s steam generators and turbine when electricity is most valuable. ... Eliminating the heat exchange between oil and salts trims energy storage losses from about 7 percent to just 2 percent. The tower also heats its molten salt to 566 degrees C, whereas oil-based plants top out at 400 degrees C.

Europe and Russia Are Headed Back To the Moon Together ( 65

MarkWhittington writes: Russia is turning its attention to the moon again for the first time in about 40 years. The first Russian mission to the moon since long before the end of the Cold War will be Luna 27, a robot lander that will touch down on the edge of the lunar South Pole as early as 2020. Russia is looking for international partners to help make Luna 27 a reality and may have found one in the European Space Agency, according to a story on the BBC. "The initial missions will be robotic. Luna 27 will land on the edge of the South Pole Aitken basin. The south polar region has areas which are always dark. These are some of the coldest places in the Solar System. As such, they are icy prisons for water and other chemicals that have been shielded from heating by the Sun. According to Dr. James Carpenter, ESA's lead scientist on the project, one of the main aims is to investigate the potential use of this water as a resource for the future, and to find out what it can tell us about the origins of life in the inner Solar System."

Neutrino 'Flip' Discovery Earns Nobel For Japanese, Canadian Researchers 58

Dave Knott writes with news that the 2015 Nobel Prize in physics has been awarded to Takaaki Kajita (of the University of Tokyo in Japan) and Arthur McDonald (of Queens University in Canada), for discovering how neutrinos switch between different "flavours." As the linked BBC article explains: In 1998, Prof Kajita's team reported that neutrinos they had caught, bouncing out of collisions in the Earth's atmosphere, had switched identity: they were a different "flavour" from what those collisions must have released. Then in 2001, the group led by Prof McDonald announced that the neutrinos they were detecting in Ontario, which started out in the Sun, had also "flipped" from their expected identity. This discovery of the particle's wobbly identity had crucial implications. It explained why neutrino detections had not matched the predicted quantities — and it meant that the baffling particles must have a mass. This contradicted the Standard Model of particle physics and changed calculations about the nature of the Universe, including its eternal expansion.

How Amazon's Robots Move Everything Around 177

dkatana writes: Amazon's drones have a long way to become reality, but the real magic of the Internet of Things (IoT) is already happening at Amazon's vast fulfillment warehouses in the US. Amazon runs a fleet of thousands of small robots moving storage pods around so orders can be fulfilled in record time. They are so efficient that they can move an entire warehouse and have ready to operate again during the weekend. All together the small robots have traveled over 93 million miles — almost the distance from Earth to the Sun.

LibreOffice Turns Five 147

An anonymous reader writes: Italo Vignoli, founding member of The Document Foundation, reflects on the project's five-year mark in an article on "LibreOffice was launched as a fork of on September 28, 2010, by a tiny group of people representing the community in their capacity as community project leaders. At the time, forking the office suite was a brave -- and necessary -- decision, because the open source community did not expect to survive for long under Oracle stewardship." The project that was does still exist, in the form of Apache Open Office, but along with most Linux distros, I've switched completely to LibreOffice, after some initial misgivings.
The Military

Don't Worry, That Blimp Isn't Watching You Much 43

According to the Baltimore Sun, and despite claims by its maker Raytheon that the system is "performing well right now," the expensive tethered-blimp observatory called JLENS (for "Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System") seems to be mostly a boondoggle. The report focuses on the JLENS installation that was launched in Maryland last year. The Sun makes much of the flight taken by disaffected postal worker Douglas Hughes last April to the White House lawn, directly in the JLENS observation area -- the success of which (to be charitable) casts doubt on the effectiveness of the flying observatory system. Beyond its evidently low utility in doing its job, JLENS seems to be a brittle system, amplying its potential costs as well as its military vulnerability with grand, expensive failures as well as everyday difficulties: in 2010, "a civilian balloon broke loose from its mooring, destroying a grounded JLENS blimp that had cost about $182 million." The article lays out some political shenanigans, too: politicians in a wide range of states have supported the project, which has a nationwide footprint of contractors and possible deployment locations. From the article: Within the Pentagon, Marine Corps Gen. James E. "Hoss" Cartwright, then vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, came to JLENS' defense, arguing that it held promise for enhancing the nation's air defenses. At Cartwright's urging, money was found in 2011 for a trial run of the technology in the skies above Washington. Cartwright retired the same year — and joined Raytheon's board of directors five months later. By the end of 2014, Raytheon had paid him more than $828,000 in cash and stock for serving as a director, Securities and Exchange Commission records show.

Making Liquid Fuels From Sun and Air 163

GregLaden writes: There is promising research on converting atmospheric CO2 and water, using sunlight as a source of energy, into burnable liquid fuels. This is not a carbon capture technique because the CO2 ultimately returns to the atmosphere after burning the fuel, but it could allow the production of enough liquid fuel to allow the rest of the motorized economy to switch to mainly electric. There are key uses for liquid fuels, even if most 'engines' become electric motors. The science of how this works is fairly interesting, and a recent writeup in Science gives some of the details.

More Time Outside Tied To Less Nearsightedness In Children 60

Bookworm09 writes: For primary school children in China, spending an extra 45 minutes per day outside in a school activity class may reduce the risk of myopia, according to a new study. In some parts of China, 90% of high school graduates have nearsightedness, and rates are lower but increasing in Europe and the Middle East, the authors write. "There were some studies suggesting the protective effect of outdoor time in the development of myopia, but most of this evidence is from cross-sectional studies (survey) data that suggest 'association' instead of causality," said lead author Dr. Mingguang He of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou. "Our study, as a randomized trial, is able to prove causality and also provide the high level of evidence to inform public policy."

Miami Installs Free Public Sunscreen Dispensers In Fight Against Cancer 210 writes: If you walk along South Beach in Miami right now, you will notice something strange, even by Florida standards: Dotting the sandscapes are sky-blue boxes that supply free sunscreen. In a novel experiment this year, the City of Miami Beach has put 50 free sunscreen dispensers in public spaces, and those dispensers are full of radiation-mitigating goo, free to any and all passersby. BBC reports that one in five people living in Florida will eventually suffer from skin cancer but the new campaign hopes that increasing people's awareness will lead to a change in behavior. "[The sunscreen dispensers'] visibility — even without additional messaging — could be a good cue to action," says Dr Richard De Visser, a psychologist who has researched health campaigns.

The sunscreen is the type that is effective at preventing cancer and premature skin aging: Broad-spectrum, water resistant, and SPF 30. You can buy a product that is labeled as higher than SPF 30, but it's almost always a waste, and potentially harmful. Above SPF 30, the difference is essentially meaningless. SPF 15 filters out about 93 percent of UV-B rays, SPF 30 filters out 97 percent, SPF 50 filters out 98 percent, and SPF 100 might get you to 99. The problem, though, is the psychology of the larger number. "We put on the "more powerful" sunscreens and then suddenly think we're Batman or some other superhero who can stay out in the sun indefinitely." says James Hamblin. "But no sunscreen is meant to facilitate prolonged exposure of bare skin to direct sunlight." Dr. Jose Lutzky, head of the melanoma program out Mount Sinai, says Florida is second behind California in incidence of melanoma but the trend is going in the wrong direction. "Unfortunately, our numbers are growing. That is really something we do not want to be first in."
United Kingdom

WWII Bomb Shelter Becomes Hi-Tech Salad Farm 122

asjk points out a story of how a World War II bomb shelter, situated 33 meters beneath the streets of London, has been turned into a high-tech hydroponic farm. "The growing system uses energy-efficient LEDs instead of sun, no pesticides, needs 70 percent less water than growing plants in open fields, and less energy than a greenhouse." The computer-controlled environment is designed to shorten the growth cycle of plants like coriander and radishes. They're currently only using about a quarter of the gear necessary to fill up the shelter, but they can produce 5,000-20,000 kilograms of food per year, depending on what they raise. Co-founder Steven Dring said, "We've got to utilize the spaces we've got. There's a finite amount of land and we can grow salads and herbs — which start losing flavor and quality as soon as you cut them — in warehouses and rooftops in cities near the people who will eat them. Use the rural land for things like carrots, potatoes and livestock."

How Close Are We, Really, To Nuclear Fusion? 399

StartsWithABang writes: The ultimate dream when it comes to clean, green, safe, abundant energy is nuclear fusion. The same process that powers the core of the Sun could also power everything on Earth millions of times over, if only we could figure out how to reach that breakeven point. Right now, we have three different candidates for doing so: inertial confinement, magnetic confinement, and magnetized target fusion. Recent advances have all three looking promising in various ways, making one wonder why we don't spend more resources towards achieving the holy grail of energy.

A "Public Health" Approach To Internet of Things Security 48

New submitter StewBeans writes: Guaranteeing your personal privacy in an era when more and more devices are connecting our daily lives to the Internet is becoming increasingly difficult to do. David Bray, CIO of the FCC, emphasizes the exponential growth we are facing by comparing the Internet we know today to a beachball, and the Internet of Everything future to the Sun. Bray says unless you plan to unplug from the Internet completely, every consumer needs to assume some responsibility for the security and overall health of the Internet of Everything. He says this might look similar to public health on the consumer side — the digital equivalent of hand washing — and involve an open, opt-in model for the rapid detection of abnormal trends across global organizations and networks.