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NASA X-Ray Tech Could Enable Superfast Communication In Deep Space

slashdot - Tue, 11/29/2016 - 07:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Space.com: New technology could use X-rays to transmit data at high rates over vast distances in outer space, as well as enable communications with hypersonic vehicles during re-entry, when radio communications are impossible, NASA scientists say. The technology would combine multiple NASA projects currently in progress to demonstrate the feasibility of X-ray communications from outside the International Space Station. The radio waves used by mobile phones, Wi-Fi and, of course, radios, are one kind of light. Other forms of light can carry data as well; for instance, fiber-optic telecommunications rely on pulses of visible and near-infrared light. The effort to use another type of light, X-rays, for communication started with research on NASA's proposed Black Hole Imager. That mission is designed to analyze the edges of the supermassive black holes that previous research suggested exist at the centers of most, if not all, large galaxies. One potential strategy to enable the Black Hole Imager was to develop a constellation of precisely aligned spacecraft to collect X-rays emitted from the edges of those black holes. Keith Gendreau, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, thought of developing X-ray emitters that these spacecraft could use as navigational beacons to make sure they stayed in position relative to one another. The system would keep them aligned down to a precision of just 1 micron, or about one-hundredth the average width of a human hair. Gendreau then reasoned that by modulating or varying the strength or frequency of these X-ray transmissions on and off many times per second, these navigational beacons could also serve as a communication system. Such X-ray communication, or XCOM, might, in theory, permit gigabit-per-second data rates throughout the solar system, he said. One advantage that XCOM has compared to laser communication in deep space is that X-rays have shorter wavelengths than the visible or infrared light typically used in laser communication. Moreover, X-rays can penetrate obstacles that impede radio communication.

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Great Barrier Reef Has Worst Coral Die-Off Ever, Report Finds

slashdot - Tue, 11/29/2016 - 03:30
Australia's Great Barrier Reef has suffered from its worst coral die-off ever recorded, according to a new study from the Australian Research Council Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies based at James Cook University. "Stress from the unusually warm ocean water heated by man-made climate change and the natural El Nino climate pattern caused the die-off," reports USA Today. At more than 1,400 miles long, Australia's Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef and the planet's biggest structure made by living organisms. In the northernmost section of the reef, which had been considered the most "pristine," some 67% of the coral died. The good news, scientists said, was that central and southern sections of the reef fared far better, with "only" 6% and 1% of the coral dead, respectively. Coral reefs result from the work of little polyps, creatures only a few millimeters long, budded on top of one another. Over centuries, the shells of these creatures combine to form the exotic shapes of coral reefs. Tiny differences in the anatomy of each polyp species affect the shape of their shells and produce the exotic shapes of each reef. The vibrant colors that draw thousands of tourists to the Great Barrier Reef each year come from algae that live in the corals tissue. When water temperatures become too high, coral becomes stressed and expels the algae, which leave the coral a bleached white color. Mass coral bleaching is a new phenomenon and was never observed before the 1980s as global warming ramped up. Besides their beauty, reefs shelter land from storms, and are also a habitat for myriads of species.

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Japan Fukushima Nuclear Plant 'Clean-Up Costs Double,' Approaching $200 Billion

slashdot - Tue, 11/29/2016 - 02:05
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.

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Scientists Turn Nuclear Waste Into Diamond Batteries

slashdot - Tue, 11/29/2016 - 01:25
Scientists at the University of Bristol have found a way to convert thousands of tons of nuclear waste into man-made diamond batteries that can generate a small electric current for thousands of years. New Atlas reports: How to dispose of nuclear waste is one of the great technical challenges of the 21st century. The trouble is, it usually turns out not to be so much a question of disposal as long-term storage. Disposal, therefore is more often a matter of keeping waste safe, but being able to get at it later when needed. One unexpected example of this is the Bristol team's work on a major source of nuclear waste from Britain's aging Magnox reactors, which are now being decommissioned after over half a century of service. These first generation reactors used graphite blocks as moderators to slow down neutrons to keep the nuclear fission process running, but decades of exposure have left the UK with 104,720 tons of graphite blocks that are now classed as nuclear waste because the radiation in the reactors changes some of the inert carbon in the blocks into radioactive carbon-14. Carbon-14 is a low-yield beta particle emitter that can't penetrate even a few centimeters of air, but it's still too dangerous to allow into the environment. Instead of burying it, the Bristol team's solution is to remove most of the c-14 from the graphite blocks and turn it into electricity-generating diamonds. The nuclear diamond battery is based on the fact that when a man-made diamond is exposed to radiation, it produces a small electric current. According to the researchers, this makes it possible to build a battery that has no moving parts, gives off no emissions, and is maintenance-free. The Bristol researchers found that the carbon-14 wasn't uniformly distributed in the Magnox blocks, but is concentrated in the side closest to the uranium fuel rods. To produce the batteries, the blocks are heated to drive out the carbon-14 from the radioactive end, leaving the blocks much less radioactive than before. c-14 gas is then collected and using low pressures and high temperatures is turned into man-made diamonds. Once formed, the beta particles emitted by the c-14 interact with the diamond's crystal lattice, throwing off electrons and generating electricity. The diamonds themselves are radioactive, so they are given a second non-radioactive diamond coating to act as a radiation shield.

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Morgan Stanley: Pixel Phone Will Generate Google Almost $4 Billion In Revenue Next Year

slashdot - Tue, 11/29/2016 - 00:45
An anonymous reader quotes a report from 9to5Google: With initial Pixel pre-orders exceeding expectations and promising activation numbers from Verizon, Google is on track to sell three million phones with revenues of $2 billion in 2016. The Morgan Stanley estimate comes as the Pixel reportedly captured 10% of the premium smartphone market in India. Unsurprisingly, the 128GB Pixel XL has the largest gross profit margin at 25%, while the cheapest 32GB Pixel is at 22%. Morgan Stanley also estimates that, compared to the iPhone, the Pixel will be half as profitable. Morgan Stanley expects Google to sell 5-6 million Pixel and Pixel XL devices in 2017 to the tune of $3.8 billion in revenue. Google is also expected to make money from increased usage of services like Android Pay and mobile search. Google's big gains were possibly due in part to Samsung's Note 7 debacle, with the company's marketshare falling to 23%. Apple captured the number one position at 66%. Additionally, Google benefitted from running a number of promotions, including cashback and exchange programs. The company also heavily advertised in newspapers, with billboards, and for the first time displays in large retail stores.

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'DroneGun' Can Take Down Aircraft From Over 1.2 Miles Away

slashdot - Tue, 11/29/2016 - 00:05
The more drones being sold around the world increases the likelihood of them being used as part of a criminal act. For example, ISIS has been using drones in Iraq to carry and drop explosives. In an effort to protect consumers, an Australian and U.S. company called DroneShield has announced a product called the DroneGun. The DroneGun "allows for a controlled management of drone payload, such as explosives, with no damage to common drone models or the surrounding environment," the maker says on its website, "due to the drones generally responding via a vertical controlled landing on the spot, or returning back to the starting point (assisting to track the operator)." The Next Web reports: DroneGun, a handheld anti-drone device, has a range of 1.2 miles. It also looks like an unlockable item in a first-person shooter. The "gun" uses a jammer to disable electronic communication across the 2.4 and 5.8 GHz frequencies. Blocking these frequencies cuts off communication between the drone and pilot (or GPS) and forces it to land safely or return to its operator -- which assists in tracking the offending party. At 13 pounds, it's a bit cumbersome, but still capable of being operated by one person. It's also mostly a point-and-shoot device and doesn't require specialized training to use. DroneGun isn't approved for use in the United States -- thanks, FCC. If approved the device could provide a useful tool for taking down drones at airports, over crowded spaces, and in war zones.

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EU's Law Enforcement Agency Closes 4,500 Websites Peddling Fake Brands

slashdot - Mon, 11/28/2016 - 23:20
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: In a massive crackdown, police and law enforcement agencies across Europe have seized more than 4,500 website domains trading in counterfeit goods, often via social networks, officials said on Monday. The operation came as Europol, Europe's police agency, unveiled its newest campaign dubbed "Don't F***(AKE) Up" to stop scam websites selling fake brand names online. In the crackdown, agencies from 27 countries mostly in Europe but including from the U.S. and Canada, joined forces to shut down over 4,500 websites. They were selling everything from "luxury goods, sportswear, spare parts, electronics, pharmaceuticals, toiletries and other fake products," Europol said in a statement, without saying how long the crackdown took. An annual operation run in collaboration with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Homeland Security, there was "a significant increase in the number of seized domain names compared to last year," said Europol director Rob Wainwright. As part of the crackdown, Dutch anti-fraud police arrested 12 people across The Netherlands over the past two weeks as they searched homes and warehouses. Most of the raids were prompted by online sales of counterfeit goods on social networking sites such as Facebook and Instagram. More than 3,500 items of clothing and fake luxury goods were seized in Holland, including shoes, bags and perfumes purporting to be such brands as Nike, Adidas, and Kenzo, with a market value of tens of thousands euros. Publishing a guide on how to spot fake websites and social media scams, Europol warned consumers had to be on their guard.

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AT&T Unveils DirecTV Now Streaming TV Service With Over 100 Channels

slashdot - Mon, 11/28/2016 - 22:40
ATT has officially unveiled its DirecTV Now internet TV streaming service, which launches Wednesday, November 30th, in the U.S. on iPhone, Android, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, and PC/Mac, starting at $35 per month. The Verge reports: Like its over-the-top rivals, DirecTV Now will let customers stream live programming on smartphones, tablets, and PCs -- no cable box necessary -- and requires no long-term contracts or commitments. For a limited time, ATT will offer the "Go Big" channel tier with 100 channels for $35 per month. If you sign up in time, the offer will remain valid each month until you cancel. But that $35 rate is not the long-term pricing for 100+ channels. DirecTV Now offers step-up subscriptions that include other channels and content for a higher monthly cost. ATT has signed programming agreements with nearly all major networks with the exception of CBS and Showtime; negotiations with those companies remain ongoing. DirecTV Now allows customers to watch up to two streams simultaneously. HBO and Cinemax can be added to any of these packages for just $5 extra (each) per month. DirecTV Now is "zero rated" for the company's wireless customers, so regardless of how much time they spend streaming, that activity will have no impact on data usage for their monthly bill. Importantly, while these are the subscription rates as of today, the company is being straightforward about the possibility of increases in the future. ATT also plans to air original shows including a Taylor Swift series.

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EPA Increases Amount of Renewable Fuel To Be Blended Into Gasoline

slashdot - Mon, 11/28/2016 - 22:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Last week the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its final renewable fuel standards for 2017, requiring that fuel suppliers blend an additional 1.2 billion gallons of renewable fuel into U.S. gas and diesel from 2016 levels. The rule breaks down the requirements to include quotas for cellulosic biofuels, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and traditional renewable fuel. Reuters points out that the aggressive new biofuel standards will create a dilemma for an incoming Trump administration, given that his campaign courted both the gas and corn industries. While the EPA under the Obama administration has continually increased so-called renewable fuel standards (RFS), the standards were first adopted by a majority-Republican Congress in 2005 and then bolstered in 2007 with a requirement to incorporate 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel into the fuel supply by 2022, barring "a determination that implementation of the program is causing severe economic or environmental harm," as the EPA writes. Some biofuels are controversial not just for oil and gas suppliers but for some wildlife advocates as well. Collin O'Mara, CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, said in a statement that the corn ethanol industry that most stands to benefit from the EPA's expansion of the renewable fuel standards "is responsible for the destruction of millions of acres of wildlife habitat and degradation of water quality." Still, the EPA contends that biofuels made from corn and other regenerating plants offer reductions in overall fuel emissions, if the processes used to make and transport the fuels are included. "Advanced biofuels" will offer "50 percent lifecycle carbon emissions reductions," and their share of the new standards will grow by 700 million gallons in 2017 from 2016 requirements, the EPA says. Cellulosic biofuel will be increased by 81 million gallons and biomass-based diesel will be increased by 100 million gallons. "Non-advanced or 'conventional' renewable fuel" will be increased to 19.28 billion gallons from 18.11 billion gallons in 2016. Conventional renewable fuel "typically refers to ethanol derived from corn starch and must meet a 20 percent lifecycle GHG [greenhouse gas] reduction threshold," according to EPA guidelines. Other kinds of renewable fuels include sugarcane-based ethanol, cellulosic ethanol derived from the stalks, leaves, and cobs leftover from a corn harvest, and compressed natural gas gleaned from wastewater facilities.

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Google Asked to Remove a Billion 'Pirate' Search Results in a Year

slashdot - Mon, 11/28/2016 - 21:20
Copyright holders asked Google to remove more than 1,000,000,000 allegedly infringing links from its search engine over the past twelve months, TorrentFreak reports. According to stats provided in Google's Transparency Report for the past one year, Google was asked to remove over one billion links -- or 1,007,741,143 links. From the article: More than 90 percent of the links, 908,237,861 were in fact removed. The rest of the reported links were rejected because they were invalid, not infringing, or duplicates of earlier requests. In total, Google has now processed just over two billion allegedly infringing URLs from 945,000 different domains. That the second billion took only a year, compared to several years for the first, shows how rapidly the volume of takedown requests is expanding. At the current rate, another billion will be added by the end of next summer. Most requests, over 50 million, were sent in for the website 4shared.com. However, according to the site's operators many of the reported URLs point to the same files, inflating the actual volume of infringing content.

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Some MacBook Pro, MacBook Air and Mac Mini Models Will Become Obsolete Next Month, Lose Apple Repair Support

slashdot - Mon, 11/28/2016 - 21:00
An anonymous reader writes: Apple will add certain MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac mini models to its list of vintage and obsolete products starting next month, which means the products will lose official Apple repair support through the company's retail stores and authorized resellers. Kicking in on December 31, 2016, the MacBook Pro (15-inch, Early 2011) and MacBook Pro (17-inch, Early 2011) will become vintage and obsolete in all markets where applicable, while the Mac mini (Early 2009) and MacBook (13-inch, Mid 2009) will become obsolete worldwide on the same date.

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Microsoft Confirms Its Chinese-Language Chatbot Filters Certain Topics

slashdot - Mon, 11/28/2016 - 20:40
Microsoft's Chinese-language AI chat bot filters certain topics, the company confirmed Monday, although it did not clarify whether that included interactions deemed politically sensitive. From a report on Fortune: Last week, CNNMoney and China Digital Times reported that Xiaoice would not directly respond to questions surrounding topics deemed sensitive by the Chinese state. References to the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 or "Steamed Bun Xi," a nickname of Chinese President Xi Jinping, would draw evasive answers or non sequiturs from the chat bot, according to the report. "Am I stupid? Once I answer you'd take a screengrab," read one answer to a question that contained the words "topple the Communist Party." Even the mention of Donald Trump, the American President-elect, drew an evasive response from the chat bot, according to reports. "I don't want to talk about it," Xiaoice said, reports CNN Money. In response to inquiries from Fortune, Microsoft confirmed that there was some filtering around Xiaoice's interaction. "We are committed to creating the best experience for everyone chatting with Xiaoice," a Microsoft spokesperson tells Fortune. "With this in mind, we have implemented filtering on a range of topics." The tech giant did not further elaborate to which specific topics the filtering applied.

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Amazon and eBay Sellers' VAT Fraud Rife Despite Crackdown

slashdot - Mon, 11/28/2016 - 20:00
Huge numbers of VAT fraudsters are illegally selling goods tax-free to British shoppers on Amazon and eBay, despite new government efforts to crack down on this ballooning 1bn pound VAT evasion crisis, reports the Guardian. From the article: A Guardian investigation found a wide variety of popular goods being illegally sold without VAT on Britain's leading shopping sites. They range from cheap Christmas tree lights, electric toothbrushes and thermal socks to expensive laptops, iPads, music keyboards, violins and pingpong tables. In some cases, VAT fraudsters offer unbeatable prices. Mostly, however, their prices remain in line with law-abiding competitors and the proceeds of evasion disappear overseas, often to China. Guardian investigations found many tax-evading sellers were trading without displaying VAT numbers on Amazon or eBay. Others were showing made up numbers, or numbers cloned, without authorisation, from unsuspecting legitimate businesses.

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Fearing Tighter US Visa Regime, Indian IT Firms Rush To Hire

slashdot - Mon, 11/28/2016 - 19:20
From a report on Reuters: Anticipating a more protectionist US technology visa programme under a Donald Trump administration, India's $150 billion IT services sector will speed up acquisitions in the United States and recruit more heavily from college campuses there. Indian companies including Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys, and Wipro have long used H1-B skilled worker visas to fly computer engineers to the US, their largest overseas market, temporarily to service clients. Staff from those three companies accounted for around 86,000 new H1-B workers in 2005-14. The US currently issues close to that number of H1-B visas each year. President-elect Trump's campaign rhetoric, and his pick for Attorney General of Senator Jeff Sessions, a long-time critic of the visa programme, have many expecting a tighter regime.

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48 Organizations Now Have Access To Every Brit's Browsing Hstory

slashdot - Mon, 11/28/2016 - 08:30
schwit1 quotes a report from Zero Hedge on Great Britain's newly-enacted "snoopers' charter": For those who missed our original reports, here is the new law in a nutshell: it requires telecom companies to keep records of all users' web activity for a year, creating databases of personal information that the firms worry could be vulnerable to leaks and hackers. Civil liberties groups say the law establishes mass surveillance of British citizens, following innocent internet users from the office to the living room and the bedroom. They are right. Which government agencies have access to the internet history of any British citizen? Here is the answer courtesy of blogger Chris Yuo, who has compiled the list Click through to the comments to read the entire list.

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Ask Slashdot: Has Your Team Ever Succumbed To Hype Driven Development?

slashdot - Mon, 11/28/2016 - 04:30
marekkirejczyk, the VP of Engineering at development shop Daftcode, shares a warning about hype-driven development: Someone reads a blog post, it's trending on Twitter, and we just came back from a conference where there was a great talk about it. Soon after, the team starts using this new shiny technology (or software architecture design paradigm), but instead of going faster (as promised) and building a better product, they get into trouble. They slow down, get demotivated, have problems delivering the next working version to production. Describing behind-schedule teams that "just need a few more days to sort it all out," he blames all the hype surrounding React.js, microservices, NoSQL, and that "Test-Driven Development Is Dead" blog post by Ruby on Rails creator David Heinemeier Hansson. ("The list goes on and on... The root of all evil seems to be social media.") Does all this sound familiar to any Slashdot readers? Has your team ever succumbed to hype-driven development?

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Ron Glass, Firefly's Shepherd Book, Has Died

slashdot - Mon, 11/28/2016 - 02:58
Slashdot reader tiqui tells us that Emmy-nominated actor Ron Glass has died. The actor was 71 and the family has not released more details of his death, but Firefly/Serenity fans can follow this link to the Hollywood Reporter for more information. Firefly creator Joss Whedon posted on Twitter that Glass "got there with grace, humor and enormous heart. He was, among so many other things, my Shepherd. Raise, appropriately, a glass. Rest, Ron." And Nathan Fillion, who played Captain Reynolds on Firefly, posted an appropriate quote on Instagram. ("Shepard, don't move." "Won't go far...") The actor's Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actor came in 1982, for his role on the long-running TV series Barney Miller. Interestingly, one of Glass's co-stars on that show was Abe Vigoda, who also died earlier this year at age 94 -- a full 34 years after his death was mistakenly reported by People magazine.

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Online Pranksters Mock Trump's $149 Christmas Ornament, Rename Trump Tower on Google Maps

slashdot - Mon, 11/28/2016 - 00:58
An anonymous reader quotes a Digital Trends story about a suspicious malfunction on Google Maps: At some point yesterday, Donald Trump's Fifth Avenue home was given a rather unceremonious rechristening, and a search for "Trump Tower" revealed a pin for "Dump Tower" instead. It was rather tricky to find for some, and required zooming in on the building itself at just the right angle (which is perhaps how the culprit got away with the stunt in the first place). At a separate angle, someone else (or perhaps the same person) transliterated the skyscraper's name in Russian Cyrillic, perhaps meant to be a jab at Trump's alleged ties to President Vladimir Putin and company... While the team [at Google Maps] managed to put out this first fire, another quickly arose to take its place (as is often the case on the internet), and later in the day on Saturday, Trump International Hotel and Tower in Columbus Circle was renamed Dump International Hotel and Tower. Meanwhile, another anonymous reader writes: Earlier this week Donald Trump emailed his supporters selling a $149 collectible "Make America Great Again" Christmas ornament finished with 14k gold, to raise money for both his campaign and the Republican party. But Yahoo News reports that it's now getting some suspicious negative (and politically-charged) reviews on its page on Amazon. ("One Star. "It tried to put my nativity figures into an internment camp.") And another reviewer even wrote a satirical story about how their family decided on the ornament for the tree. "During our family meeting we overwhelmingly chose the other ornament but somehow we still ended up with this one. We're not sure what happened."

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Julian Assange Could Be Time's 'Person Of The Year', And Is Also Still Not Dead

slashdot - Sun, 11/27/2016 - 23:44
Long-time Slashdot reader cstacy noticed Saturday that Julian Assange hadn't made any communications or public appearances in six weeks. But today an anonymous reader writes: Julian Assange is still not dead, reports The Inquisitr, noting "the WikiLeaks founder made his first appearance in weeks, speaking with an interviewer for a conference in Beirut" including comments about the recent death of Fidel Castro. Assange is also in the running to be chosen as "Person of the Year" in Time magazine's annual online reader's poll, and last Monday even moved briefly into first place, inching past Donald Trump. "It's worth noting that the poll presents people alphabetically," Time reported, "so Assange is the first option participants consider and Trump comes near the end of the poll." I think the poll's being hacked by state actors, since Vladimir Putin now leads with 38%, followed by Theresa May (16%) and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un (13%), and Donald Trump is locked in a tie for fourth place with India Prime Minister Narendra Modi at 9%. Time worked with Opentopic and IBM's Watson to assemble the initial list for reader's votes, which also included Apple CEO Tim Cook and FBI director James Comey. Surprisingly, a few celebrities also turned up on the list too, including comedian Samantha Bee, Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Olympic gymnast Simone Biles.

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You Can Now Rent A Mirai Botnet Of 400,000 Bots

slashdot - Sun, 11/27/2016 - 22:35
An anonymous reader writes: Two hackers are renting access to a massive Mirai botnet, which they claim has more than 400,000 infected bots, ready to carry out DDoS attacks at anyone's behest. The hackers have quite a reputation on the hacking underground and have previously been linked to the GovRAT malware, which was used to steal data from several US companies. Renting around 50,000 bots costs between $3,000-$4,000 for 2 weeks, meaning renting the whole thing costs between $20,000-$30,000. After the Mirai source code leaked, there are countless smaller Mirai botnets around, but this one is [believed to be the one] accounting for more than half of all infected IoT devices...that supposedly shut down Internet access in Liberia. The original Mirai botnet was limited to only 200,000 bots because there were only 200,000 IoT devices connected online that had their Telnet ports open. The botnet that's up for rent now has received improvements and can also spread to IoT devices via SSH, hence the 400,000 bots total. Interestingly, the article claims the botnet's creators had access \to the Mirai source code "long before it went public."

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