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Updated: 8 min 33 sec ago

House Science Committee Approves Changes To Space Law

Sat, 16/05/2015 - 3:40am
schwit1 writes: In a series of party line votes, the House Science Committee has approved a number of changes to the laws that govern the private commercial space industry. Almost all of the changes were advocated by the industry itself, so in general they move to ease the regulatory and liability burdens that have been hampering the industry since the 2004 revisions to space law. While it is very unlikely commercial space can ever get free of strong federal regulation, these changes indicate that they can eventually get some of the worst regulations eased.

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Planetary Society Wants To Launch a Crowd-Funded Solar Sail

Sat, 16/05/2015 - 12:59am
jan_jes writes to note that The Planetary Society is attempting to crowdfund its own version of the light-powered space-craft popularized by Carl Saga as a "solar sailer." (YouTube video, with the Society's CEO Bill Nye.) The current model is a CubeSat no bigger than a breadbox with four sails. If the team manages to raise enough money, LightSail will be sent to orbit aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket in 2016. LightSail will be released into an orbit with an altitude of 720 kilometers (450 miles), high enough to escape most of the planet's atmospheric drag. Their crowdfunding goal has been far surpassed (more than $476,000 at this writing), but more can't hurt; maybe NASA could use some of the surplus.

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A Look At GTA V PC Performance and Image Quality At 4K

Fri, 15/05/2015 - 11:41pm
MojoKid writes: Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto series has been wildly successful for many years now, offering some of the edgiest story lines, game play tactics and objectives the gaming industry has ever seen. With psychopathic main characters, you are left in the depraved communities of Los Santos and Blaine County, to walk a path few would dare choose in real life. And it's rather entertaining of course, that you're tasked with leaving a virtual world worse off than you found it, consequences be damned. But what does it take to run GTA V at 4K (3840X2160) resolution? This article takes a look at that, as well as how it scales over multiple NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 GPUs, along with some screen shots that look at image quality at Ultra HD resolution. It's safe to say one strong, high-end GPU will get the job done, but two in SLI or CrossFire are better of course, if you want to max out all IQ settings.

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Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Gets Death Penalty In Boston Marathon Bombing

Fri, 15/05/2015 - 10:59pm
mpicpp writes with a link to the New York Times's version of story that a Boston jury earlier today returned a verdict of death in the Boston Marathon bombing. From that report: A federal jury on Friday condemned Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, a failed college student, to death for setting off bombs at the 2013 Boston Marathon that killed three people and injured hundreds more in the worst terrorist attack on American soil since Sept. 11, 2001. The jury of seven women and five men, which last month convicted Mr. Tsarnaev, 21, of all 30 charges against him, 17 of which carry the death penalty, took more than 14 hours to reach its decision. It was the first time a federal jury had sentenced a terrorist to death in the post-Sept. 11 era, according to Kevin McNally, director of the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel Project, which coordinates the defense in capital punishment cases.

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Ask Slashdot: What's On Your Keychain?

Fri, 15/05/2015 - 10:15pm
kuhnto writes: I was playing with my key chain and started to wonder: what does everyone on Slashdot have on their key chains? What cool things do you have that you want to share? I'll start: car key, car alarm dongle, house key, Kingston USB Drive, AAA micro flashlight, and a Swiss-tech Utili-key. To extend this a bit: what other things do you usually carry around with you, aside from the common items like phones, keyrings, and card/cash holders?

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Mechanical 'Clicky' Keyboards Still Have Followers (Video)

Fri, 15/05/2015 - 9:34pm
For a good number of years, the sound of the old IBM or other mechanical keyboard clacking away was the sound of programmers (or writers) at work on their computers. Then, according to Edgar Matias, president and cofounder of the Matias Corporation, computer companies started using membrane switches and other cheaper ways to make keyboards, which made a lot of people mutter curse words under their breath as they beat their fingers against keys that had to go all the way to the bottom of their travel to work, unlike the good old mechanical keyboards we once knew and loved. Enter Edgar Matias, who started out making the half keyboard, which is like a chorded keyboard except that you can use your QWERTY typing skills with little modification -- assuming you or your boss has $595 (!) to lay out on a keyboard. But after that Edgar started making QWERTY and Dvorak keyboards for semi-competitive prices. FYI: No Slashdot person got a free keyboard (or extra money) for making this video, but I have a Matias keyboard, and in my opinion it's far better than the cheapie it replaced. A lot of other people seem to want "real" keyboards, too, which they buy from Matias or from other companies such as Unicomp, which makes keyboards just like the classic, heavily-loved IBM Model M. Again, I've owned a Unicomp keyboard (that I bought; it was not a giveaway) and it was excellent. Both companies put out quality products that are far easier on your hands and wrists than the $10 or $20 keyboards sold by big box electronics retailers.

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Oculus Rift Hardware Requirements Revealed, Linux and OS X Development Halted

Fri, 15/05/2015 - 8:46pm
An anonymous reader writes: Oculus has selected the baseline hardware requirements for running their Rift virtual reality headset. To no one's surprise, they're fairly steep: NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD 290 equivalent or greater, Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater, and 8GB+ RAM. It will also require at least two USB 3.0 ports and "HDMI 1.3 video output supporting a 297MHz clock via a direct output architecture." Oculus chief architect Atman Binstock explains: "On the raw rendering costs: a traditional 1080p game at 60Hz requires 124 million shaded pixels per second. In contrast, the Rift runs at 2160×1200 at 90Hz split over dual displays, consuming 233 million pixels per second. At the default eye-target scale, the Rift's rendering requirements go much higher: around 400 million shaded pixels per second. This means that by raw rendering costs alone, a VR game will require approximately 3x the GPU power of 1080p rendering." He also points out that PC graphics can afford a fluctuating frame rate — it doesn't matter too much if it bounces between 30-60fps. The Rift has no such luxury, however. The last requirement is more onerous: WIndows 7 SP1 or newer. Binstock says their development for OS X and Linux has been "paused" so they can focus on delivering content for Windows. They have no timeline for going back to the less popular platforms.

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The Solution To Argentina's Banking Problems Is To Go Cashless

Fri, 15/05/2015 - 8:04pm
dkatana writes: There is no way back for Argentinian people to trust their own currency. Several governments have used the "Peso/Dollar" exchange to dig into people's savings, reward their friends and limit the freedom of citizens to use other currencies. Short of Dollarizing the economy again, the only solution for the country is going cashless. People are desperate, and they're looking for alternatives such as mobile payments, Amazon gift cards and Bitcoin to store their savings away from government control. A digital currency could help curb black market exchanges, fight corruption and restore the country's image.

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The Solution To Argentina's Banking Problems Is Go Cashless

Fri, 15/05/2015 - 8:04pm
dkatana writes: There is no way back for Argentinian people to trust their own currency. Several governments have used the "Peso/Dollar" exchange to dig into people's savings, reward their friends and limit the freedom of citizens to use other currencies. Short of Dollarizing the economy again, the only solution for the country is going cashless. People are desperate, and they're looking for alternatives such as mobile payments, Amazon gift cards and Bitcoin to store their savings away from government control. A digital currency could help curb black market exchanges, fight corruption and restore the country's image.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Larson B Ice Shelf In Antarctica To Disintegrate Within 5 Years

Fri, 15/05/2015 - 7:21pm
BarbaraHudson writes: A new study (abstract) from NASA scientists predicts an Antarctic ice shelf half the size of Rhode Island will disintegrate around 2020. The shelf has existed for roughly 10,000 years. "Ice shelves are the gatekeepers for glaciers flowing from Antarctica toward the ocean. Without them, glacial ice enters the ocean faster and accelerates the pace of global sea level rise." At its thickest point, the ice shelf remnant is a half kilometer tall, and spans approximately 1,600 square kilometers. "The glaciers' thicknesses and flow speeds changed only slightly in the first couple of years following the 2002 collapse, leading researchers to assume they remained stable. The new study revealed, however, that Leppard and Flask glaciers have thinned by 65-72 feet (20-22 meters) and accelerated considerably in the intervening years. The fastest-moving part of Flask Glacier had accelerated 36 percent by 2012 to a flow speed of 2,300 feet (700 meters) a year."

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Rust 1.0 Released

Fri, 15/05/2015 - 6:40pm
TopSpin writes: Rust 1.0 has arrived, and release parties in Paris, LA and San Francisco are taking place today. From the Rust Programming Language blog: "The current Rust language is the result of a lot of iteration and experimentation. The process has worked out well for us: Rust today is both simpler and more powerful than we originally thought would be possible. But all that experimentation also made it difficult to maintain projects written in Rust, since the language and standard library were constantly changing. The 1.0 release marks the end of that churn. This release is the official beginning of our commitment to stability, and as such it offers a firm foundation for building applications and libraries. From this point forward, breaking changes are largely out of scope (some minor caveats apply, such as compiler bugs)." You can read about specific changes in the changelog.

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Penn State Yanks Engineering Network From Internet After China-Based Attack

Fri, 15/05/2015 - 5:58pm
coondoggie writes: Penn State's College of Engineering has disconnected its network from the Internet in response to two sophisticated cyberattacks – one from a what the university called a "threat actor based in China" – in an attempt to recover all infected systems. The university said there was no indication that research data or personal information was stolen in the attacks, though usernames and passwords had been compromised.

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Here Comes the Keurig of Everything

Fri, 15/05/2015 - 5:16pm
Tekla Perry writes: Keurig made a huge business out of single-serving coffee machines. Now, as more complex machinery shrinks in size and cost, many companies are trying to duplicate that success for other types of food and drink. Startups are introducing the Keurig of cocktails, the Keurig of Jell-O shots, and the Keurig of dinner (it makes stir fries, stews, and risottos). The question is: does having a single- or limited-purpose device make really make sense for consumables that aren't coffee? Counter space is not infinite, and most people want more variety out of their lunches, dinners, and nightcaps than they do for their morning pick-me-up. (Also, let's retire this metaphor before we get a Keurig for cats.)

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MenuetOS, an Operating System Written Entirely In Assembly, Hits 1.0

Fri, 15/05/2015 - 4:34pm
angry tapir writes: MenuetOS, a GUI-toting, x86-based operating system written entirely in assembly language that's super-fast and can fit on a floppy disk, has hit version 1.0 — after almost a decade and a half of development. (And yes, it can run Doom). The developers say it's stable on all hardware with which they've tested it. In this article, they talk about what MenuetOS can do, and what they plan for the future. "For version 2.0 we'll mostly keep improving different application classes, which are already present in 1.00. For example, more options for configuring the GUI and improving the HTTP client. The kernel is already working well, so now we have more time to focus on driver and application side."

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Biologists Create Self-Healing Concrete

Fri, 15/05/2015 - 3:48pm
Mr.Intel writes: A team of microbiologists from the Delft University of Technology claims to have invented "bioconcrete" — concrete that heals cracks and breaks using bacteria. The goal was to find a type of bacteria that could live inside concrete and also produce small amount of limestone that could re-seal cracks. This is a difficult prospect because concrete is quite dry and strongly alkaline. The bacteria needed to be able to stay alive for years in those conditions before being activated by water. The bacteria also need a food source — simply adding sugar to concrete will make it weak. The scientists used calcium lactate instead, adding biodegradable capsules of it to the concrete mix. "When cracks eventually begin to form in the concrete, water enters and open the capsules. The bacteria then germinate, multiply and feed on the lactate, and in doing so they combine the calcium with carbonate ions to form calcite, or limestone, which closes up the cracks."

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Turtle Receives First-Ever 3D Printed Titanium Jaw Implant of Its Kind

Fri, 15/05/2015 - 3:05pm
ErnieKey writes: A wounded loggerhead turtle showed up in Turkey, with significant damage to its upper and lower jaws. It was taken to the Sea Turtle Research, Rescue and Rehabilitation Center at Pamukkale University (PAU) for help. The PAU team, working with BTech Innovation, was able to make a 3D printed titanium jaw implant for the turtle. The operation was a success, and the patient — the world's first sea turtle to receive a 3D printed implant — is recovering.

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How SpaceX and the Quest For Mars Almost Sunk Tesla Motors

Fri, 15/05/2015 - 2:21pm
braindrainbahrain writes: Elon Musk and his rocket company are well known to Slashdottters. This article and book excerpt tell the story of the creation of SpaceX and how it almost sank Musk's other company, Tesla Motors. Musk recalls, "I could either pick SpaceX or Tesla or split the money I had left between them. That was a tough decision. If I split the money, maybe both of them would die. If I gave the money to just one company, the probability of it surviving was greater, but then it would mean certain death for the other company." But then, at the last moment, years of work at SpaceX finally paid off: "[O]n Dec. 23, 2008, SpaceX received a wonderful shock. The company won a $1.6 billion contract for 12 NASA resupply flights to the space station. Then the Tesla deal ended up closing successfully, on Christmas Eve, hours before Tesla would have gone bankrupt. Musk had just a few hundred thousand dollars left and could not have made payroll the next day." Also, it turns out the inspiration for SpaceX was the idea of sending mice to Mars.

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College Board Puts Code.org In Charge of AP CS Program

Fri, 15/05/2015 - 1:39pm
theodp writes: "The College Board," reports GeekWire, "is endorsing Code.org as a coursework and teacher training provider for its upcoming AP Computer Science Principles course and will help Code.org fund the teacher training work required to establish new computer science classes." So what's the catch? "Schools that commit to using the [new] PSAT [8/9 assessment] to identify middle school students who have potential for success in computer science will be eligible to receive curriculum, training, and funding for programming classes." The organization is bankrolled by some of tech's wealthiest leaders and their corporations. Code.org board member Brad Smith, Microsoft's General Counsel, proposed the idea of "producing a crisis" to advance Microsoft's "two-pronged" National Talent Strategy to increase K-12 CS education and the number of H-1B visas. Just months thereafter, nonprofit organizations Code.org and Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us, which is lobbying for H-1B reform, were born.

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Kepler Observes Neptune Dancing With Its Moons

Fri, 15/05/2015 - 12:57pm
New submitter Liquid Tip writes: NASA's K2 mission has the capability to stare continuously at a single field of stars for months at time. A new video shows K2 observations spanning 70 days from November, 2014 through January, 2015 reduced to a time-lapse of 34 seconds. During this time, we see some distant members of our Solar System passing through the K2 field-of-view. This includes some asteroids and the giant outer planet Neptune, which appears at day 15. A keen-eyed observer will also notice an object circling Neptune: its large moon, Triton, which orbits every 5.8 days. The fainter moon Nereid can be seen tracing Neptune's motion.

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Galaxies Die By Slow "Strangulation"

Fri, 15/05/2015 - 12:14pm
HughPickens.com writes: BBC reports that results of a study of the spectrum of light emitted by 23,000 red, passive galaxies and 4,000 blue, star-forming ones shows that when galaxies stop making stars, their death is usually a slow process that chokes them of the necessary cool gases over about four billion years. Astronomers surveyed thousands of galaxies, living and dead, to assess whether the transition is rapid or slow. In the dead galaxies they detected high levels of metals, which build up during star formation and point to a slow strangulation process. "Metals are a powerful tracer of the history of star formation: the more stars that are formed by a galaxy, the more metal content you'll see," says Dr Yingjie Peng. "So looking at levels of metals in dead galaxies should be able to tell us how they died." Astronomer Andrea Cattaneo from the Observatoire de Paris compares this tell-tale evidence to the high levels of carbon dioxide seen in a strangled human body. "During [strangulation], the victim uses up oxygen in the lungs but keeps producing carbon dioxide, which remains trapped in the body," wrote Dr Cattaneo. "Instead of building up CO2, the strangled galaxies accumulate metals — elements heavier than helium — produced by massive stars." On average, living, star-forming galaxies were four billion years younger than the dead ones. This matches the amount of time that the astronomers calculate would be needed for the galaxies to burn up their remaining gas supply during the strangulation. "This is the first conclusive evidence that galaxies are being strangled to death," says Peng. "What's next though, is figuring out what's causing it. In essence, we know the cause of death, but we don't yet know who the murderer is, although there are a few suspects."

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