An anonymous reader points out an article in the Wall Street Journal about how irrational fear of nuclear reactors made people worry much more about last year's incident at Fukushima than they should have. Quoting: "Denver has particularly high natural radioactivity. It comes primarily from radioactive radon gas, emitted from tiny concentrations of uranium found in local granite. If you live there, you get, on average, an extra dose of .3 rem of radiation per year (on top of the .62 rem that the average American absorbs annually from various sources). A rem is the unit of measure used to gauge radiation damage to human tissue. ... Now consider the most famous victim of the March 2011 tsunami in Japan: the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Two workers at the reactor were killed by the tsunami, which is believed to have been 50 feet high at the site. But over the following weeks and months, the fear grew that the ultimate victims of this damaged nuke would number in the thousands or tens of thousands. The 'hot spots' in Japan that frightened many people showed radiation at the level of .1 rem, a number quite small compared with the average excess dose that people happily live with in Denver. What explains the disparity? Why this enormous difference in what is considered an acceptable level of exposure to radiation?"
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sciencehabit writes "One of the biggest question marks hanging over the ITER fusion reactor project — a giant international collaboration currently under construction in France — is over what material to use for coating its interior wall. After all, the reactor has to withstand temperatures of 100,000C and an intense particle bombardment. Researchers have now answered that question by refitting the current world's largest fusion device, the Joint European Torus (JET) near Oxford, U.K., with a lining akin to the one planned for ITER. JET's new 'ITER-like wall,' a combination of tungsten and beryllium, is eroding more slowly (PDF) and retaining less of the fuel than the lining used on earlier fusion reactors, the team reports."
ackthpt writes "A network of fixed buoys and solar powered surfing robots called Wave Gliders are set to track Great White Sharks in the Pacific, off the California coast near San Francisco, between Monterey Bay and Tomales Point. According to PhysOrg, 'The self-propelled wave and solar-powered glider is part of a new network of data receivers on fixed buoys will pick up signals from acoustic tags on animals passing within 1,000 feet and transmit the data to a research team on shore, led by Stanford University Marine Sciences Prof. Barbara Block.' Related to the project is 'Shark Net,' a new iOS app 'available free of charge at the Apple app store, created by Dr. Block and her colleagues with developers from TOPP, EarthNC and Gaia GPS to enable a direct, personal connection between the public and wild marine animals and to raise public awareness of the ocean wilderness teeming with life just off North America's West Coast.'"
SternisheFan tips news of a robot designed by Harvard University researchers that can change colors to blend into its surroundings (abstract). The robot also has a soft, flexible body, and is driven by air pumped into cavities in its legs. "The team thinks the devices could have a variety of different uses. Lead author Stephen Morin said the soft machines had similarities with organs or tissues and could have medical applications. He explained: 'The idea is that if you have a system that can simulate muscle motion very well and a system that can transport fluid, by combining those you can fabricate that device to fit a specific surgical problem.' The team also said the machines could have a future in search and rescue. Prof Whitesides said: 'For that kind of application, having it be able to advertise itself, for example, in a way that stood out against the dark would be a good thing.'"
Sparrowvsrevolution writes "At the Usenix security conference in Seattle last week, a group of researchers from the University of California at Berkeley, Oxford University and the University of Geneva presented a study that hints at the darker side of a future where we control computers with our minds rather than a mouse. In a study of 28 subjects wearing brain-machine interface headsets built by companies like Neurosky and Emotiv and marketed to consumers for gaming and attention exercises, the researchers found they were able to extract hints directly from the electrical signals of the test subjects' brains that partially revealed private information like the location of their homes, faces they recognized and even sequences of numbers they recognized. For the moment, the experimental theft of users' private information from brain signals is more science fiction than a real security vulnerability, since it requires tricking the victim into thinking about the target information at a certain time, and still doesn't work reliably. (Though much better than random chance.) But as BMI gets more sophisticated and mainstream, the researchers say their study should serve as a warning about privacy issues around the technology of such interfaces."
sciencehabit writes with this mind-boggling bit from Science Magazine: "When it comes to storing information, hard drives don't hold a candle to DNA. Our genetic code packs billions of gigabytes into a single gram. A mere milligram of the molecule could encode the complete text of every book in the Library of Congress and have plenty of room to spare. All of this has been mostly theoretical—until now. In a new study, researchers stored an entire genetics textbook in less than a picogram of DNA — one trillionth of a gram — an advance that could revolutionize our ability to save data."
tad001 writes "The Daily Mail has pictures of Apple's new mini connector. The photograph, shared by French tech website nowhereelse.fr, shows two components, one of which is said to be similar to another apparently leaked picture of a part of the new iPhone. As well as the new dock connector, the part also seems to take in the headphone jack and the home button connector for the hotly awaited devices."
An anonymous reader writes "It turns out that Linux doesn't work too well on the Apple Retina MacBook Pro. Among the problems are needing special boot parameters to simply boot the Linux kernel, graphics drivers not working, no hybrid graphics support, WiFi requiring special firmware, Thunderbolt troubles, GNOME/Unity/KDE not being optimized for retina displays, and other snafus, including 20% greater power consumption with Linux over OS X. According to Michael Larabel, it will likely not be until early next year when most of the problems are ironed out for a clean 'out of the box' Linux experience on the Retina MacBook Pro."
kactusotp writes "I run a small indie game company, and since source code is kind of our lifeblood, I'm pretty paranoid about backups. Every system has a local copy, servers run from a RAID 5 NAS, we have complete offsite backups, backup to keyrings/mobile phones, and cloud backups in other countries as well. With all the talk about solar flares and other such near-extinction events lately, I've been wondering: is it actually possible to store or protect data in such a way that if such an event occurred, data survives and is recoverable in a useful form? Optical and magnetic media would probably be rendered useless by a large enough solar flare, and storing source code/graphics in paper format would be impractical to recover, so Slashdot, short of building a Faraday cage 100 km below the surface of the Moon, how could you protect data to survive a modern day Carrington event?"
Windows 8 is drawing near, and with it comes tighter integration with Microsoft's cloud storage service SkyDrive. Because of its increased visibility, Microsoft is revamping SkyDrive to a more modern design, and is updating the SkyDrive apps for desktop PCs and Android devices. "SkyDrive’s revamped home page embraces the same tile-based design aesthetic as Microsoft’s other new and upcoming products, including Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. Microsoft previously referred to that aesthetic as 'Metro,' but plans on giving it a new name at an unannounced future point. ... SkyDrive users can flick for a more detailed view of files, including dates modified, sharing status, and size. In terms of features, there’s the ability to search within SkyDrive for pretty much any term, including content within Word and other Office documents. Microsoft has also shifted common commands (creating and sharing folders, for example) to the toolbar that runs along the top of the SkyDrive interface.
An anonymous reader quotes the introduction to Inhabit's article on the upcoming launch of an art project cum satellite intended to be as different as possible from conventional space hardware: "South Korean artist Song Hojun has created his own DIY satellite from scratch – and he's planning to launch it into space this coming December. Song created the satellite from assorted junk he found in back-alley electronics stores in his home town of Seoul, and over the course of six years he has finally managed to complete his space-bound project. Song's satellite cost just over $400 to make, however the cost of launching it to space is going to be a lot, lot more – over $100,000."
crookedvulture writes "Keyboards with mechanical key switches are enjoying a renaissance of sorts. They're prized by gamers, coders, and writers alike, and Cherry's MX switches are the most popular on newer models. There are MX blue, brown, black, and red switches, each with a different tactile feel and audible note. This comparison of four otherwise identical Rosewill keyboards details how each switch type feels and sounds, complete with audio recordings of the various colors in action. Recommended reading for anyone considering a mechanical keyboard or one of the Rosewills, which cost about $100. Looks like the removable USB cord on these particular models is prone to breakage."
Qedward writes with this excerpt about the EU approach to E-waste: "A European Union law that will require all large electronic retailers to take back old equipment came into force yesterday. The new rules are part of a shake-up of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive and will gradually be implemented across the EU over the next seven years. Waste electrical and electronic equipment, or WEEE, is one the fastest growing waste streams in the EU, but currently only one-third of electrical and electronic waste is separately collected and appropriately treated. Systematic collection and proper treatment is essential for recycling materials like gold, silver, copper and rare metals in used TVs, laptops and mobile phones."
cylonlover writes "Generally speaking, the vast majority of augmented reality applications that enhance the world around us by overlaying digital content on images displayed on smartphone, tablet or computer screens are aimed squarely at the sighted user. A team from the Fluid Interfaces Group at MIT's Media Lab has developed a chunky finger-worn device called EyeRing that translates images of objects captured through a camera lens into aural feedback to aid the blind."
1sockchuck writes "JPMorgan Chase spends $500 million to build a data center, according to CEO Jamie Dimon. That figure places the firm's facilities among the most expensive in the industry, on a par with investments by Google and Microsoft in their largest data centers. Dimon discussed the firm's IT spending in an interview in which he asserts that huge data centers are among the advantages of ginormous banks. Dimon also offered a vigorous defense of the U.S. banking industry. 'Most bankers are decent, honorable people,' Dimon says. 'We're wrapped up in all this crap right now. We made a mistake. We're sorry. It doesn't detract from all the good things we've done. I am not responsible for the financial crisis.'"