In the past few days, several readers have submitted word of a paper published on Arxiv allegedly confirming the efficacy of Andrea Rossi's "E-Cat," a device Rossi says transmutes nickel into copper, producing cheap energy in the process. (Mentioned before on Slashdot.) Ethan Siegel of ScienceBlogs takes a skeptical look at the buzz surrounding this paper, and asks some seemingly obvious questions, pointing out various ways in which the cold-fusion / cheap-energy claims could be either confirmed or debunked. First time accepted submitter CdXiminez writes with a capsule of Siegel's points: "What would it take to convince a reasonable observer that you've got a controlled nuclear reaction going on here? Things not shown in the earlier report: Show that nuclear transmutation has in fact taken place; Start the device operating by whatever means you want, then disconnect all external power to it, and allow it to run; Place a gamma-ray detector around the device; Accurately monitor the power drawn from all sources to the device at all times, while also monitoring the energy output from the device at all times."
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FuzzNugget writes "A contributor at ScienceBlogs.com has compiled and published a shockingly long list of systematic attacks on scientific research committed by the Canadian government since the conservatives came to power in 2006. This anti-scientific scourge includes muzzling scientists, shutting down research centers, industry deregulation and re-purposing the National Research Council to align with business interests instead of doing real science. It will be another two years before Canadians have the chance to go to the polls, but how much more damage will be done in the meantime?"
An anonymous reader writes "Despite warnings that a cyberattack could cripple the nation's power supply, a U.S. Congressional report (PDF) finds that power companies' efforts to protect the power grid are insufficient. Attacks are apparently commonplace, with one utility claiming they fight off some 10,000 attempted attacks every month. The report also found that while most power companies are complying with mandatory standards for protection, few do much else above and beyond that to protect the grid. 'For example, NERC has established both mandatory standards and voluntary measures to protect against the computer worm known as Stuxnet. Of those that responded, 91% of IOUs [Investor-Owned Utilities], 83% of municipally- or cooperatively-owned utilities, and 80% of federal entities that own major pieces of the bulk power system reported compliance with the Stuxnet mandatory standards. By contrast, of those that responded to a separate question regarding compliance with voluntary Stuxnet measures, only 21% of IOUs, 44% of municipally- or cooperatively-owned utilities, and 62.5% of federal entities reported compliance.'"
Lucas123 writes "U.S. Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass) is pushing a bill that would require all U.S. handgun manufacturers to include 'personalization technology' in their weapons. Tierney said he got the idea for The Personalized Handgun Safety Act of 2013 from the latest James Bond film, Skyfall. In it Bond escapes death when his handgun, which is equipped with technology that recognizes his fingerprints, becomes inoperable when a bad guy picks it up. 'This technology, however, isn't just for the movies — it's a reality,' Tierney said. Tierney pointed to a myriad of cases where the smart gun tech could prevent children from being harmed or killed in firearms accidents. Jim Wallace, executive director of the Massachusetts Gun Owners Action League, the official state association of the NRA, said he knows of no gun owners who would want smart gun technology on their weapons. Wallace said any technology that may impede the proper function of a weapon is a problem. He pointed to the fact that any integrated processor technology would also require a battery of some kind, which could pose a system failure if it lost power."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Location is everything when choosing the site of a data center. Firms such as Microsoft and Google and Facebook spend a lot of time looking into the costs of land, power, regulation and taxes before placing their respective data centers in a particular place. Sometimes, that local tax bill comes into play in a big way. Just ask the National Security Agency which learned it faces a multimillion-dollar annual state tax on the power consumed by its new data center in Camp Williams, south of Salt Lake City. The Salt Lake Tribune obtained a series of email exchanges between the feds and the state, with the NSA protesting a $2.4 million tax on its annual power expenditure, pegged at about $40 million. Harvey Davis, director of installations and logistics for the NSA, sent a letter (subsequently quoted by the newspaper) to state officials that made the logistics argument: 'Long-term stability in the utility rates was a major factor in Utah being selected as our site for our $1.5bn construction at Camp Williams. HP325 [the new law] runs counter to what we expected.'" This would be the data center William Binney et al claim is logging almost all domestic communication.
b1tbkt writes "So it seems that furniture manufacturers have not yet acknowledged the realities of modern life. Kitchen tables could benefit greatly from built-in concealable receptacles. Even more obvious is the need for electrical wiring in couches and coffee tables. I realize that there are safety (fire) concerns but as it stands most families that I know already have power cords for laptops, tables and phones draped over, under and through their couches at any given point. If someone wanted to wire their furniture with AC or some type of standardized LV DC system, what are some dangers to watch for and what, if any, specialized hardware exists for the purpose?"
Velcroman1 writes "The former island home of anti-virus software pioneer John McAfee burned down Thursday afternoon under circumstance he told FoxNews.com were 'suspicious.' It's an odd choice of words from a man whom the Belize police found suspicious, following the November 2012 murder of American expatriate Gregory Faull, a well-liked builder from Florida who was shot at his home in San Pedro Town on the island of Ambergris Caye. 'I believe that there are a select few with great power in Belize that will go to great lengths to harm me,' McAfee said. 'This fire was not just a strange coincidence.'" Watch for more from McAfee soon.
New submitter GoJays writes "An 18-year-old from Saratoga, California has won an international science fair for creating an energy storage device that can be fully juiced in 20 to 30 seconds. The fast-charging device is a so-called supercapacitor, a gizmo that can pack a lot of energy into a tiny space, charges quickly and holds its charge for a long time. What's more, it can last for 10,000 charge-recharge cycles, compared with 1,000 cycles for conventional rechargeable batteries, according to the inventor Eesha Khare." This one in particular has been used so far only to power an LED, rather than a phone or laptop, but I hope in a few years near-instant charging of portable electronics will be the norm as supercapacitors grow more common.
Nerval's Lobster writes that a survey from the Uptime Institute "suggests something it calls 'green fatigue' is setting in when it comes to making data centers greener. 'Green fatigue' is exactly as it sounds: managers are getting tired of the increasingly difficult race to chop their PUE, or Power Usage Effectiveness. The PUE is a measure of a data center's efficiency. The lower the PUE, the better — and Microsoft and Google, with nearly limitless resources, have set the bar so high (or low, depending on your perspective) that it's making less-capitalized firms frustrated. Just a few years ago, the Uptime Institute estimated that the average PUE of a data center was around 2.4, which meant for every dollar of electricity to power a data center, $1.4 dollars were spent to cool it. That dropped to 1.8 recently, an improvement to be sure. But then you have companies such as Google and Microsoft building data centers next to rivers for cheap hydroelectric power in remote parts of the Pacific Northwest and reporting insanely low PUEs (below 1.1 in some cases). The Institute latest survey of data center operators shows only 50 percent of respondents in North America said they considered energy efficiency to be very important to their companies, down from 52 percent last year and 58 percent in 2011."
New submitter TheJish writes "The RPiCluster is a 33-node Beowulf cluster built using Raspberry Pis (RPis). The RPiCluster is a little side project I worked on over the last couple months as part of my dissertation work at Boise State University. I had need of a cluster to run a distributed simulator I've been developing. The RPiCluster is the result. I've written an informal document on why I built the RPiCluster, how it was built, and how it performs as compared to other platforms. I also put together a YouTube video of it running an MPI parallel program I created to demo the RGB LEDs installed on each node as part of the build. While there have certainly been larger RPi clusters put together recently, I figured the Slashdot community might be interested in this build as I believe it is a novel approach to the rack mounting and power management of RPis."
J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot of Star Trek was wildly successful. It raked in hundreds of millions at the box office, and revitalized the Star Trek franchise, which had languished for 7 years without a new film and 4 years without a TV presence (after 18 consecutive years of new shows). It also did something no Trek movie had done before; it made Star Trek ‘cool’ in the public consciousness. Combined, those factors ensured Abrams would get another turn at the helm of a Trek movie, and sooner rather than later. With today's release of Star Trek: Into Darkness, that trend is very likely to continue. It's a movie with all the same strengths and weaknesses of its predecessor, and if it worked before, it'll work again. Read on for our review.
alancronin sends this excerpt from ZDNet: "... the trend that brutally undercut BlackBerry phones during the past five years — the 'bring your own device' movement — is now driving significant sales of BlackBerry Enterprise Service (BES), the company's backend software. 'Our customers have been asking, "Can you just take what you've done on BlackBerry and put it on iOS and Android?"' said Pete Devenyi, BlackBerry's SVP of Enterprise Software. ... Secure Work Space will be an app in the Apple App Store and Google Play, pending approval from Apple and Google, respectively. It will include secure email, calendar, contacts, tasks, and document editing. It won't allow data leakage including copy and paste between Secure Work Space and the rest of the device. IT will be able to remotely wipe everything in the Secure Work Space without affecting any of the other apps or data on the person's device, in a BYOD scenario."
sciencehabit writes "If you are one of the 20% of healthy adults who struggle with basic arithmetic, simple tasks like splitting the dinner bill can be excruciating. Now, a new study suggests that a gentle, painless electrical current applied to the brain can boost math performance for up to 6 months. Researchers don't fully understand how it works, however, and there could be side effects." We've covered various other potential benefits to having your brain shocked.
theodp writes "In 'The Design That Conquered Google,' The New Yorker's Matt Buchanan reports that 'cards' — modeled after real cards — are set to become one of the dominant ways in which Google presents certain types of information to users. The power of a card as a visual-organization metaphor according to Matias Duarte (lead designer of Android), is that 'it makes very clear the atomic unity of things; it's still flexible while creating a kind of regularity.' Hey, maybe that Bill Atkinson was really on to something with that dadgum HyperCard software of his back in the '80s!"
An anonymous reader writes "Back in April 2012, the U.S. Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple and a number of publishers for allegedly colluding to raise the price of e-books on the iBookstore. As part of its investigation into Apple's actions, the Justice Department collected evidence which it claims demonstrates that Apple was the 'ringmaster' in a price fixing conspiracy. Specifically, the Justice Department claims that Apple wielded its power in the mobile app market to coerce publishers to agree to Apple's terms for iBookstore pricing."
MTorrice writes "A low-cost chemical process can turn hemp fiber into carbon nanomaterials. Researchers used the materials to make devices called supercapacitors that provide quick bursts of electrical energy. Supercapacitors made with the hemp nanosheets put out more power than commercial devices can." According to one of the authors, "Hemp bast is a nanocomposite made up of layers of lignin, hemicellulose, and crystalline cellulose ... If you process it the right way, it separates into nanosheets similar to graphene." Perhaps the process could be applied to related plants (hops?) too.
mattOzan writes "When data centers first opened in the 1990s, the tenants paid for space to plug in their servers with a proviso that electricity would be available. As computing power has soared, so has the need for electricity, turning that relationship on its head: electrical capacity is often the central element of lease agreements, and space is secondary. While lease arrangements are often written in the language of real estate, they are essentially power deals. 'Since tenants on average tend to contract for around twice the power they need, Mr. Tazbaz said, those data centers can effectively charge double what they are paying for that power. Generally, the sale or resale of power is subject to a welter of regulations and price controls. For regulated utilities, the average "return on equity" — a rough parallel to profit margins — was 9.25 percent to 9.7 percent for 2010 through 2012.'"
MojoKid writes "For the past decade, AMD and Intel have been racing each other to incorporate more components into the CPU die. Memory controllers, integrated GPUs, northbridges, and southbridges have all moved closer to a single package, known as SoCs (system-on-a-chip). Now, with Haswell, Intel is set to integrate another important piece of circuitry. When it launches next month, Haswell will be the first x86 CPU to include an on-die voltage regulator module, or VRM. Haswell incorporates a refined VRM on-die that allows for multiple voltage rails and controls voltage for the CPU, on-die GPU, system I/O, integrated memory controller, as well as several other functions. Intel refers to this as a FIVR (Fully Integrated Voltage Regulator), and it apparently eliminates voltage ripple and is significantly more efficient than your traditional motherboard VRM. Added bonus? It's 1/50th the size." Update: 05/14 01:22 GMT by U L : Reader AdamHaun comments: "They already have a test chip that they used to power a ~90W Xeon E7330 for four hours while it ran Linpack. ... Voltage ripple is less than 2mV. Peak efficiency per cell looks like ~76% at 8A. They claim hitting 82% would be easy..." and links to a presentation on the integrated VRM (PDF).
A while ago you had the chance to ask mathematician and theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson about his work in quantum electrodynamics, nuclear propulsion, and his thoughts on the past, present, and future of science. Below you'll find his answers to your questions.
An anonymous reader writes "A recurring theme in comments on Slashdot since the 9/11 attacks has been concern about the use of government power to monitor or suppress political activity unassociated with terrorism but rather based on ideology. It has just been revealed that the IRS has in fact done that. From the story: "The Internal Revenue Service inappropriately flagged conservative political groups for additional reviews during the 2012 election . . . Organizations were singled out because they included the words 'tea party' or 'patriot' in their applications for tax-exempt status, said Lois Lerner, who heads the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups. In some cases, groups were asked for their list of donors, which violates IRS policy in most cases, she said. 'That was wrong. That was absolutely incorrect, it was insensitive and it was inappropriate. That's not how we go about selecting cases for further review,' Lerner said . . . 'The IRS would like to apologize for that,' she added. . . . Lerner said the practice was initiated by low-level workers in Cincinnati and was not motivated by political bias. . . . she told The AP that no high level IRS officials knew about the practice. Tea Party groups were livid on Friday. ... In all, about 300 groups were singled out for additional review. . . Tea Party groups weren't buying the idea that the decision to target them was solely the responsibility of low-level IRS workers. ... During the conference call it was stated that no disciplinary action had been taken by those who engaged in this activity. President Obama has previously joked about using the IRS to target people." So it's not how they choose cases for review (except when it is), and was not motivated by political bias (except that it was). Also at National Review, with more bite.