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Science

Four New Elements Finally Get Their Official Names, Added To Periodic Table (universityherald.com) 101

Scientists have updated the periodic table to add four new elements, namely: Nihonium, Moscovium, Tennessine and Oganesson. The super-heavy elements discovered by scientists from Japan, Russia, and America, complete the seventh row of the table. Their inclusion also marks the first additions since 2011. From an article on University Herald: Now that the new elements have their names, the seventh row of the periodic table is now complete. The approval was done by the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC). The elements were confirmed back in January. They were assigned temporary names and symbols: ununtrium (Uut), ununpentium (Uup), ununseptium (Uus), and ununoctium (Uuo). It was noted that the teams of Russian, American and Japanese researchers behind the discoveries were given the task of naming the elements that they uncovered. They submitted their proposals in June.
Japan

Japan Fukushima Nuclear Plant 'Clean-Up Costs Double,' Approaching $200 Billion (bbc.com) 299

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: Japan's government estimates the cost of cleaning up radioactive contamination and compensating victims of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster has more than doubled, reports say. The latest estimate from the trade ministry put the expected cost at some 20 trillion yen ($180 billion). The original estimate was for $50 billion, which was increased to $100 billion three years later. The majority of the money will go towards compensation, with decontamination taking the next biggest slice. Storing the contaminated soil and decommissioning are the two next greatest costs. The compensation pot has been increased by about 50% and decontamination estimates have been almost doubled. The BBC's Japan correspondent, Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, says it is still unclear who is going to pay for the clean up. Japan's government has long promised that Tokyo Electric Power, the company that owns the plant, will eventually pay the money back. But on Monday it admitted that electricity consumers would be forced to pay a portion of the clean up costs through higher electricity bills. Critics say this is effectively a tax on the public to pay the debt of a private electricity utility.
Japan

Japan Eyes World's Fastest-Known Supercomputer, To Spend Over $150M On It (reuters.com) 35

Japan plans to build the world's fastest-known supercomputer in a bid to arm the country's manufacturers with a platform for research that could help them develop and improve driverless cars, robotics and medical diagnostics. From a Reuters report: The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will spend 19.5 billion yen ($173 million) on the previously unreported project, a budget breakdown shows, as part of a government policy to get back Japan's mojo in the world of technology. The country has lost its edge in many electronic fields amid intensifying competition from South Korea and China, home to the world's current best-performing machine. In a move that is expected to vault Japan to the top of the supercomputing heap, its engineers will be tasked with building a machine that can make 130 quadrillion calculations per second -- or 130 petaflops in scientific parlance -- as early as next year, sources involved in the project told Reuters. At that speed, Japan's computer would be ahead of China's Sunway Taihulight that is capable of 93 petaflops. "As far as we know, there is nothing out there that is as fast," said Satoshi Sekiguchi, a director general at Japan's âZNational Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, where the computer will be built.
Robotics

Slashdot Asks: Will Farming Be Fully Automated in the Future? (bbc.com) 278

BBC has a report today in which, citing several financial institutions and analysts, it claims that in the not-too-distant future, our fields could be tilled, sown, tended and harvested entirely by fleets of co-operating autonomous machines by land and air. An excerpt from the article: Driverless tractors that can follow pre-programmed routes are already being deployed at large farms around the world. Drones are buzzing over fields assessing crop health and soil conditions. Ground sensors are monitoring the amount of water and nutrients in the soil, triggering irrigation and fertilizer applications. And in Japan, the world's first entirely automated lettuce farm is due for launch next year. The future of farming is automated. The World Bank says we'll need to produce 50% more food by 2050 if the global population continues to rise at its current pace. But the effects of climate change could see crop yields falling by more than a quarter. So autonomous tractors, ground-based sensors, flying drones and enclosed hydroponic farms could all help farmers produce more food, more sustainably at lower cost.What are your thoughts on this?
Businesses

Panasonic Invests $60 Million In World's First Laundry-Folding Robot (telegraph.co.uk) 139

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Telegraph.co.uk: Panasonic has invested tens of millions of dollars in a robot that can reduce the time it takes to wash clothes by sorting clean items and folding them into neat piles. The electronics giant will pour $60 million into the startup behind the folding robot called Laundroid, which was first unveiled in October last year. The domestic robot has been a decade in the making and is expected to finally be available to buy next year. Created by Japanese company Seven Dreamers, the Laundroid can fold a shirt in ten minutes and sort clothing into types.
Seven Dreamers is yet to say how much the robot, which is around the same size as a fridge-freezer, will cost, but Panasonic is reportedly funding just 10pc of the project. Consumers place clothes in a drawer at the bottom of the Laundroid, which it then identifies, sorts and folds using a combination of image recognition software, advanced robotics and machine learning. It can fold a range of clothing items, including shirts, skirts, shorts and trousers, according to Seven Dreamers. The company plans to release the Laundroid in March 2017, and will unveil more details at the Consumer Electronics Show in January.

Graphics

The Next iPhone Will Feature An OLED Display, Says Bloomberg (bloomberg.com) 67

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Apple Inc. has big plans to outfit its next iPhone with vibrant, energy-sipping organic LED displays, seeking to entice consumers with new technology that's already been embraced by other high-end smartphone makers. The trouble is that the four main suppliers for such components won't have enough production capacity to make screens for all new iPhones next year, with constraints continuing into 2018, people familiar with the matter said, presenting a potential challenge for the Cupertino, California-based company. OLED screens are more difficult to produce, putting Apple at the mercy of suppliers that are still working to manufacture the displays in mass quantities, the people said. The four largest producers are Samsung Display Co., LG Display Co., Sharp Corp., and Japan Display Inc. While Samsung is on track to be the sole supplier for the new displays next year, the South Korean company may not be able to make enough due to low yield rates combined with increasing iPhone demand. The supply constraints may force Apple to use OLED in just one version of the next-generation iPhone, push back adoption of the technology or cause other snags. Apple plans to ship at least one new iPhone with an OLED screen next year, the 10th anniversary of the smartphone's debut, people with knowledge of the matter said. A pair of other new iPhone models will likely feature screens that use older LCD technology, partly because there won't be enough OLED displays to satisfy anticipated demand, according to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. The OLED iPhone, at least, will have a new look that extends glass from the display to the device's back and edges, according to a person familiar with Apple's plans. This all-glass design will have a virtual Home button embedded in an edge-to-edge screen, rather than a physical button that can be pressed, the person added.
Businesses

Apple Explores Making iPhones in the US, Finds 'the Cost Will More Than Double': Nikkei (nikkei.com) 472

Apple is exploring the idea of making iPhones in the United States. But the company has realized that it will cost more than double to make the shiny new gadgets at home, according to a report on Japan-based outlet Nikkei. From the report:Key Apple assembler Hon Hai Precision Industry, also known as Foxconn Technology Group, has been studying the possibility of moving iPhone production to the U.S., sources told the Nikkei Asian Review. "Apple asked both Foxconn and Pegatron, the two iPhone assemblers, in June to look into making iPhones in the U.S.," a source said. "Foxconn complied, while Pegatron declined to formulate such a plan due to cost concerns." Foxconn, based in the gritty, industrial Tucheng district in suburban Taipei, and its smaller Taiwanese rival churn out more than 200 million iPhones annually from their massive Chinese campuses. Another source said that while Foxconn had been working on the request from Apple Inc., its biggest customer that accounts for more than 50% of its sales, Chairman Terry Gou had been less enthusiastic due to an inevitable rise in production costs. "Making iPhones in the U.S. means the cost will more than double," the source said.
Communications

176 Original Emojis Join Van Gogh and Picasso At Museum of Modern Art (latimes.com) 29

If you happen to walk through the Museum of Modern Art in New York between December to March of next year, you may see 176 emoji on display next to Van Gogh and Picasso. On Wednesday, the museum announced that Shigetaka Kurita's original pictographs would be added to its collection. Los Angeles Times reports: Nearly two decades ago, Shigetaka Kurita was given the task of designing simple pictographs that could replace Japanese words for the growing number of cellphone users communicating with text messages. Kurita, who was working for the Japanese mobile carrier NTT Docomo at the time, came up with 176 of them, including oddities like a rocking horse, two kinds of umbrellas (one open, one closed) and five different phases of the moon. He called them emojis. An estimated 74% of Americans now use emojis every day, nudging the written word to the side in favor of a medium that can succinctly and playfully convey emotions in a society often more adept at texting than talking. That marriage of design and utility prompted the art world to take notice. Museum officials say emojis are the modern-day answer to an age-old tradition of communicating with pictures. "Emojis as a concept go back in the centuries, to ideograms, hieroglyphics and other graphic characters, enabling us to draw this beautiful arch that covers all of human history," said Paola Antonelli, a senior curator at MoMA. "There is nothing more modern than timeless concepts such as these."
IOS

Apple Releases iOS 10.1 With New Portrait Mode For iPhone 7 Plus (macrumors.com) 50

Apple has released iOS 10.1 to the public today for all iOS 10 users, and with it comes several new features, a long list of bug fixes, and various other under-the-hood improvements. One of the biggest new features introduced is a new "Portrait" mode, which uses the dual cameras in the iPhone 7 Plus to create shallow depth of field portrait photos with plenty of background bokeh. MacRumors reports: To achieve the blurred look, the image signal processor in the device uses the wide-angle camera to create a depth map while the telephoto captures an image, dissecting the different layers of the photo to decide what to blur with an artful "bokeh" effect. It works on people, pets, and objects, but it does require good lighting to achieve the proper results. The update also [...] brings Transit directions to Japan for the first time. There have been some tweets to the Messages app. It's now possible to play Bubble and Screen effects in Messages with Reduce Motion enabled, something that wasn't previously possible. There's also a new option to replay Bubble and Screen effects. It's important to the note that the "Portrait" mode is still in beta, and will not work flawlessly. Mac Rumors has a full list of the changes made to iOS 10.1 embedded in their report, which you can view here.
Anime

Amazon Japan's Manga-Ready Kindle Has 8 Times the Storage (engadget.com) 82

Amazon Japan has an unusual challenge with the Kindle: it not only has to cater to your typical bookworm, but to a local fondness for image-heavy (and thus storage-intensive) manga books. What it's going to do? Release a special model just for those readers, apparently. Engadget reports: The company has introduced a manga version of the Kindle Paperwhite with 32GB of storage, or eight times as much space as the run-of-the-mill 4GB model. You could cram every single volume of Asari-chan, Kochikame and Naruto into this e-reader, Amazon says. The manga Kindle is available for pre-order now, with pricing commanding a slight premium over the usual Paperwhite. You're spending about $157 or $118.
Power

Cyber Attackers Have Successfully Hit A Nuclear Power Plant And A Lab (reuters.com) 55

Slashdot reader zootsewt1 quotes a rundown by Security Taco of two unrelated breaches at nuclear-related facilities that were recently disclosed -- one "disruptive" and the other involving the remote theft of documents: Director Yukiya Amano from the IAEA disclosed that a nuclear power generation facility came under cyber attack within the last few years. He declined to state which specific nuclear facility was involved. Mr. Amano advised that "This issue of cyber attacks on nuclear-related facilities or activities should be taken very seriously. We never know if we know everything or if it's the tip of the iceberg."

In a separate incident, a nuclear lab in the University of Toyama in Japan conducting research on tritium (used in nuclear power plants), also came under cyber attack earlier this year. The attacker appears to have been able to exfiltrate large large amounts of data, some of which was related to the Fukushima clean-up.

The Reuters article lists other data breaches and malware infections at nuclear sites over the years, and notes that the IAEA director "also cited a case in which an individual tried to smuggle a small amount of highly enriched uranium about four years ago that could have been used to build a so-called 'dirty bomb'." At the isotope research center at the University of Toyama, the attacker reportedly compressed more than 1,000 files to make them easier to transmit.
Iphone

Apple To Obsolete iPhone 4 and Late 2010 MacBook Air On October 31 (macrumors.com) 114

Apple will make all iPhone 4 models, the late 2010 13-inch MacBook Air, third-generation AirPort Extreme, and mid-2009 AirPort Time Capsule obsolete come October 31, MacRumor claims, citing a different report. From the report: Apple products on the vintage and obsolete list are no longer eligible for hardware service, beyond a few exceptions. Apple defines vintage products as those that have not been manufactured for more than five years but less than seven years ago, while obsolete products are those that were discontinued more than seven years ago. Each of the products added were released between 2009 and 2010. The report specifically pertains to Apple's vintage and obsolete products list in Japan, but the new additions will more than likely extend to the United States, Australia, Canada, and the rest of the Asia-Pacific and Europe regions.
Businesses

Foreign Investors Sue Toshiba Over Accounting Scandal (reuters.com) 17

A group of investors, mostly foreign institutions, are suing Toshiba in a Tokyo court for 16.7 billion yen ($162.3 million) in damages, over a $1.3 billion accounting scandal uncovered last year. Reuters adds: Toshiba said in a statement on Thursday that the 45 unnamed shareholders were seeking compensation for damages caused by its "inappropriate accounting". It will take an unspecified provision to cover any eventual payout, Toshiba said. The laptops-to-nuclear conglomerate has been sued by 15 groups and individuals since it first admitted to reporting inflated profits going back to 2008, including Japan's public pension fund. GPIF, the world's biggest pension fund, has been shifting into shares to attempt to boost returns. Thursday's case, however, is the largest - the remaining suits are seeking a combined 15.3 billion yen in compensation. Toshiba is still overcoming the reputational and share price hit of an investigation last year that found widespread accounting errors throughout its sprawling business, blaming a corporate culture in which employees found it difficult to question their superiors.
Sony

Sony To Return Image Sensors To Full Capacity On Smartphone Pickup (reuters.com) 9

Sony's image sensor production will return to full capacity in the October-March half-year due to a pickup in smartphone demand, having spent part of the past year running just under full strength, the head of its chip-making subsidiary said. From a Reuters report: "The business environment for our customers is improving," President Yasuhiro Ueda of Sony Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp said at a news conference on Friday, at Sony's sensor factory in the Kumamoto region of southern Japan. Sony commands about 40 percent of the market for complementary metal-oxide semiconductor (CMOS) image sensors, a type of chip that converts light into electronic signals. The sensors were central to Sony's recovery from years of losses stemming mainly from price competition in consumer electronics. A slowdown in the global smartphone market prompted Sony to cut sensor production in the October-March half of the last business year, but demand has since picked up. Ueda said combined monthly production would rise in the second half of this business year from 70,000 wafers at present to 73,000 wafers -- full capacity at Sony's five image sensor plants. The figure excludes outsourced production.
Books

Amazon's Kindle Unlimited Is a Victim of Its Success in Japan (wsj.com) 48

You really need to understand the market before you start operating there. Take Amazon's case for instance, which has found itself in the middle of a backlash with publishers in Japan. When Amazon launched its "all-you-can-read-subscription" Kindle Unlimited service in Japan, the company didn't know it would become such a big success. And yet it did. So much so that Amazon had to sharply scale back within weeks of its introduction in the country. Before Amazon introduced the feature in Japan, it partnered with Japanese publishers to offer their popular content, committing to pay them a premium through the end of this year when a customer reads at least 10 percent of a book or other content. It worked -- too well, WSJ reports. From an article: Since it's easy for readers to get through the first 10% of a magazine or photo book in just a few minutes, Amazon quickly found itself on the hook for large payments (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate source), a person at one publisher said. A person at another publisher said Amazon made an overture for talks in September saying it had hit its budget limit for the payments to publishers and wanted revisions to its contract with the publisher."
Medicine

Yoshinori Ohsumi of Japan Wins Nobel Prize In Medicine For Study of Cell Recycling (theguardian.com) 15

Dave Knott writes from a report via The Guardian: The 2016 Nobel prize in medicine has been awarded to Japanese cell biologist Yoshinori Ohsumi for discoveries on how cells break down and recycle their own components. Ohsumi uncovered "mechanisms for autophagy," a fundamental process in cells that scientists believe can be harnessed to fight cancer and dementia. Autophagy is the body's internal recycling program -- scrap cell components are captured and the useful parts are stripped out to generate energy or build new cells. The process is crucial for preventing cancerous growths, warding off infection and, by maintaining a healthy metabolism, it helps protect against conditions like diabetes. The report adds: "[Ohsumi] said he chose to focus on the cell's waste disposal system, an unfashionable subject at the time, because he wanted to work on something different. By studying the process in yeast cells, Ohsumi identified the main genes involved in autophagy and showed how the proteins they code for come together to build the autophagosome membrane. He later showed that a similar cellular recycling process occurs in human cells -- and that our cells would not survive without it."
ISS

Toyota's Kirobo Mini Companion Robot To Sell For $400 (digitaltrends.com) 62

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Trends: Three years ago a small robot called Kirobo blasted into space, headed for the International Space Station. When it arrived, the 34-cm-tall, Toyota-made android became best buddies with Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, accompanying him around the station, engaging in polite conversation, and even showing emotion according to the subject matter. Following Kirobo's successful space jaunt, the car company decided to back the development of a smaller version of the already small robot, calling it -- rather appropriately -- Kirobo Mini. It unveiled the diminutive droid at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show. Toyota announced on Monday that Kirobo Mini will go on sale in Japan next year for 39,800 yen (about $390), though a 300-yen (about $2.95) monthly subscription fee will also be necessary. Besides the robot itself, you'll also receive a "cradle" that's designed to fit inside a car's cup holder, ensuring that the robot travels in style wherever you take it. An ad (video) released by Toyota over the weekend shows Kirobo Mini hanging out with families, couples, the elderly, singletons, and students, with everyone visibly enthralled by its ability to say the right thing at the right time. However, Kirobo Mini's specific functionality, and the extent to which it'll be able to interact with humans, is yet to be revealed.
China

Chinese Media, Government Confirm Apple Research Center in Beijing Tech Corridor (appleinsider.com) 19

An anonymous reader writes:According to Chinese media, Apple is launching its first research and development center in the country, located in long-time technology incubation area Zhongguancun Science Park, Beijing. While Apple has yet to comment on the matter, a statement issued by the Zhongguancun Park Management Committee to several Chinese media outlets has identified Apple's presence in the area. According to reports collated by Digitimes, the center has a budget of about $15 million, with a long-term expenditure goal of $45 million over the next few years. The center is allegedly seeking to hire around 500 workers, with no particular focus beyond Apple products and software. The move mirrors similar setups in Japan, and Israel.
AI

Nissan Debuts 'ProPILOT' Self-Driving Chair (pcmag.com) 48

jasonbrown writes from a report via PC Magazine: The Japanese automaker Nissan this week debuted what it's calling the ProPILOT Chair -- an autonomous chair that automatically queues for you while you sit back and relax. With its built-in cameras, the high-tech chair "detects and automatically follows the chair ahead of it, maintaining a fixed distance and traveling along a set path." Standing (or sitting) in line has never been so much fun. "Nissan drew inspiration for this new chair from its ProPILOT autonomous driving technology, which has been available in the company's Serena minivan in Japan since August," the report adds. "The ProPILOT technology allows the vehicle to maintain a safe distance between the car ahead, and ensures that it stays in the center of its lane." While the product appears to be a marketing stunt, Nissan is actively looking for restaurant partners in Japan who want to offer this technology to their customers. Japanese restaurants can tweet their name and website along with the hashtags #NissanProPilotChair #Wanted in an effort to be outfitted with the technology. You can watch the joyful and jazzy launch video here.

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