Science & Tech News

Han Solo To Get His Own Star Wars Movie Prequel

Slashdot Updates - 1 hour 27 min ago
New submitter alaskana writes: According to Starwars.com, Han Solo will be getting his own movie prequel. The film will purportedly tell the story of a young Han Solo and how he came to be the wily smuggler that shows up in Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope. The film is set to be directed by Christopher Miller and Phil Lord (of The Lego Movie fame) and written by Lawrence and Jon Kasdan. Get your popcorn and tickets ready, as the movie is set to debut May 25, 2018.

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New Zealand to take surprise lead in private space race

New Scientist - Breaking news - 1 hour 55 min ago
Space flight firm Rocket Lab says it will construct the world's first private launch facility in southern New Zealand









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Learning Simple Robot Programming With a 'Non-Threatening' Robot Ball (Video)

Slashdot Updates - 2 hours 9 min ago
Gobot, it says here, "is a framework for robotics, physical computing, and the Internet of Things, written in the Go programming language." And in today's video, interviewee Adrian Zankich (AKA "Serious Programming Guy at The Hybrid Group") says that an unadorned robot ball -- in this case the Sphero -- is about the least threatening robot you can possibly use to teach entry-level robot programming. Start with Go language? Cylon.js? Use whichever you prefer, Adrian says. Mix and match. It's all fun, and they're both great ways to get into programming for robotics and Internet of Things applications. Open source? You bet. Here's the Hybrid Group's gobot GitHub repository for your perusing pleasure. This (and more) is all in the video, which Tim Lord shot at the recent Solid Conference, where there was a rather high background noise level (but thankfully not high enough to make Adrian hard to understand). And besides the video, there's even more material in the transcript.

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A Real-Time Map of All the Objects In Earth's Orbit

Slashdot Updates - 2 hours 58 min ago
rastos1 writes: It started as a passion project in April for 18-year-old James Yoder, an alum of FIRST Robotics, the high school robotics competition. He wanted to learn more about 3D graphics programming and WebGL, a JavaScript API. It's stuffin.space, a real-time, 3D-visualized map of all objects looping around Earth, from satellites to orbital trash. In total, stuffin.space tracks 150,000 objects. Type in a satellite name to scope out its altitude, figure out its age, group satellites by type, and so on.

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Running a Town Over Twitter

Slashdot Updates - 3 hours 41 min ago
dkatana writes: You may call Jun an ancient town — it was founded by Romans 2,200 years ago. But Jun's mayor is known worldwide for using the latest technology to run the city. Back in 1999, when he was deputy mayor, the town declared internet a basic universal right for its citizens. And now political parties run "virtual" campaigns without printing posters. But the most impressive accomplishment of Jun's mayor is running the entire town administration and public services using Twitter. He has more followers (350 k) than the mayor of NY. A third of the 3,800 residents have Twitter accounts, and they use the platform to interact with the city administration at all levels.

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NVIDIA Hopes To Sell More Chips By Bringing AI Programming To the Masses

Slashdot Updates - 4 hours 24 min ago
jfruh writes: Artificial intelligence typically requires heavy computing power, which can only help manufacturers of specialized chip manufacturers like NVIDIA. That's why the company is pushing its Digits software, which helps users design and experiment with neural networks. Version 2 of digits moves out of the command line and comes with a GUI interface in an attempt to move interest beyond the current academic market; it also makes programming for multichip configurations possible.

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The Mob's IT Department

Slashdot Updates - 5 hours 6 min ago
An anonymous reader writes: An article at Bloomberg relates the story of two IT professionals who reluctantly teamed up with an organized criminal network in building a sophisticated drug smuggling operation. "[The criminals were] clever, recruiting Van De Moere and Maertens the way a spymaster develops a double agent. By the time they understood what they were involved in, they were already implicated." The pair were threatened, and afraid to go to the police. They were asked to help with deploying malware and building "pwnies" — small computers capable of intercepting network traffic that could be disguised as power strips and routers. In 2012, authorities lucked into some evidence that led them to investigate the operation. "Technicians found a bunch of surveillance devices on [the network of large shipping company MSC]. There were two pwnies and a number of Wi-Fi keyloggers—small devices installed in USB ports of computers to record keystrokes—that the hackers were using as backups to the pwnies. MSC hired a private investigator, who called PricewaterhouseCoopers' digital forensics team, which learned that computer hackers were intercepting network traffic to steal PIN codes and hijack MSC's containers."

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Siemens Sends Do-Not-Fly Order For Pipistrel's All-Electric Channel Crossing

Slashdot Updates - 5 hours 24 min ago
An anonymous reader links to Flyer's coverage of a squabble that seems to feature the aircraft giant Airbus aiming bad sportsmanship in the form of corporate pull against much smaller light aircraft maker Pipistrel, thereby "squashing the ambitions of light aircraft maker Pipistrel to be the first to fly an electric aircraft across the English Channel." Though Pipistrel acquired the flight permissions it anticipated needing in connection with its announced ambition to cross the channel, they've been grounded by allegedly underhanded means: Siemens, which supplies the electric motor used in the craft which was to make the journey, contacted Pipistrel to prohibit over-water flight with that motor (partly German). U.S. Pipistrel dealer Michael Coates believes he knows why (as quoted by Flyer): "Airbus managed to flex their muscle with Siemens who are supplying motors to Pipistrel and have the Pipistrel motor agreement immediately terminated," he said. "The Airbus E-Fan project does not use Siemens motors but it does have Siemens stickers over the side of their aircraft.

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Two-Pounder From Lenovo Might Be Too Light For Comfort

Slashdot Updates - 5 hours 49 min ago
MojoKid writes: With the advent of solid state storage and faster, lower-powered processors that require less complex cooling solutions, the average mainstream notebook is rather svelte. Recently, however, Lenovo announced their LaVie Z and LaVie Z 360 ultrabooks and at 1.87 and 2.04 pounds respectively, they're almost ridiculously light. Further, with Core i7 mobile processors and fast SSDs on board, these machines perform impressively well in the benchmarks and real world usage. If you actually pick one up though, both models are so light they feel almost empty, like there's nothing inside. Lenovo achieved this in part by utilizing a magnesium--lithium composite material for the casing of the machines. Though they're incredibly light, the feeling is almost too light, such that they tend to feel a little cheap or flimsy. With a tablet, you come to expect a super thin and light experience and when holding them in one hand, the light weight is an advantage. However, banging on a full-up notebook keyboard deck is a different ball of wax.

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Bolster health systems in poor countries or see another Ebola

New Scientist - Breaking news - 5 hours 55 min ago
As well as rebuilding the health systems of those countries with Ebola, we need to improve healthcare in 28 others to prevent the next infectious outbreak









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'Severe Bug' To Be Patched In OpenSSL

Slashdot Updates - 6 hours 30 min ago
An anonymous reader writes: The Register reports that upcoming OpenSSL versions 1.0.2d and 1.0.1p are claimed to fix a single security defect classified as "high" severity. It is not yet known what this mysterious vulnerability is — that would give the game away to attackers hoping to exploit the hole before the patch is released to the public. Some OpenSSL's examples of "high severity" vulnerabilities are a server denial-of-service, a significant leak of server memory, and remote code execution. If you are a system administrator, get ready to patch your systems this week. The defect does not affect the 1.0.0 or 0.9.8 versions of the library.

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Switzerland Begins Trials of Expensive Postal Drones

Slashdot Updates - 7 hours 28 min ago
An anonymous reader writes: Swiss Post has beat Amazon, Alibaba and other researchers into drone-based delivery by launching practical drops using a Matternet four-rotored drone this month. However the company says that five years of testing and negotiation with regulators lie ahead before it will be able to offer a commercial drone-based delivery service. Like Google's Project Wing, the Matternet drone in question is mooted as a potential lifeline in post-disaster situations, but from a business point of view the release notes its potential for 'express delivery of goods' — a further indicator that the future of postal drone delivery may be an exclusive and expensive one.

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Crypto Experts Blast Gov't Backdoors For Encryption

Slashdot Updates - 8 hours 9 min ago
loid_void writes with a link to a New York Times report about some of the world's best-known cryptography experts, who have prepared a report which concludes that there is no viable technical solution which "would allow the American and British governments to gain "exceptional access" to encrypted communications without putting the world's most confidential data and critical infrastructure in danger." From the article: [T]he government’s plans could affect the technology used to lock financial institutions and medical data, and poke a hole in mobile devices and the countless other critical systems — including pipelines, nuclear facilities, the power grid — that are moving online rapidly. ... “The problems now are much worse than they were in 1997,” said Peter G. Neumann, a co-author of both the 1997 report and the new paper, who is a computer security pioneer at SRI International, the Silicon Valley research laboratory. “There are more vulnerabilities than ever, more ways to exploit them than ever, and now the government wants to dumb everything down further.” The authors include Neumann, Harold Abelson, Susan Landau, and Bruce Schneier.

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Stop labelling unemployment as a psychological disorder

New Scientist - Breaking news - 8 hours 25 min ago
Joblessness has been rebranded as a mental health problem to stigmatise and punish benefit claimants, say Lynne Friedli and Robert Stearn (full text available to subscribers)









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The IT Containers That Went To War

Slashdot Updates - 8 hours 54 min ago
1sockchuck writes: Parachuting a container full of IT gear into a war zone is challenging enough. In the mountains of Afghanistan, helicopters had to deliver modular data centers in three minutes or less, lest the choppers be targeted by Taliban rockets. UK vendor Cannon recently spoke with DataCenterDynamics, sharing some of the extreme challenges and lessons learned from deploying portable data centers for military units in deserts and mountains. The same lessons (except, hopefully, with a lower chance of being shot) would apply in lots of other extreme enviroments, too.

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Bonobos use a range of tools like stone-age humans

New Scientist - Breaking news - 8 hours 55 min ago
The chimps' randy relatives have been seen using tools as shovels and levers in captivity, and even fashioning a spear to jab at a researcher









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Mystery plasma blobs lurk in deep space and no one knows why

New Scientist - Breaking news - 9 hours 20 sec ago
Dark objects affecting the radio signals from quasars and pulsars could be strangely dense blobs of plasma. But if so, how did they get there?









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Eric Holder Says DoJ Could Strike Deal With Snowden; Current AG Takes Hard Line

Slashdot Updates - 9 hours 35 min ago
cold fjord writes with the report at Yahoo that Former Attorney General Eric Holder said today that a "possibility exists" for the Justice Department to cut a deal with ... Edward Snowden that would allow him to return to the United States ... Holder said "we are in a different place as a result of the Snowden disclosures" and that "his actions spurred a necessary debate" that prompted President Obama and Congress to change policies ... "I certainly think there could be a basis for a resolution that everybody could ultimately be satisfied with. I think the possibility exists." A representative of current Attorney General Loretta Lynch, though, said that there has been no change in the government's position ("This is an ongoing case so I am not going to get into specific details but I can say our position regarding bringing Edward Snowden back to the United States to face charges has not changed."), Holder's musings aside. As the article points out, too, "any suggestion of leniency toward Snowden would likely run into strong political opposition in Congress as well as fierce resistance from hard-liners in the intelligence community."

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Hacking Team Scrambling To Limit Damage Brought On By Explosive Data Leak

Slashdot Updates - 10 hours 17 min ago
An anonymous reader writes: Who hacked Hacking Team, the Milan-based company selling intrusion and surveillance software to governments, law enforcement agencies and (as it turns out) companies? A hacker who goes by "Phineas Fisher" claims it was him (her? them?). In the meantime, Hacking Team is scrambling to minimize the damage this hack and data leak is doing to the company. They sent out emails to all its customers, requesting them to shut down all deployments of its Remote Control System software ("Galileo") — even though it seems they could do that themselves, as the customer software apparently has secret backdoors. Perhaps they chose the first route because they hoped to keep that fact hidden from the customers? And because every copy of Hacking Team's Galileo software is secretly watermarked, the leaked information could allow researchers to link a certain backdoor to a specific customer.

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Scientists Show Human Aging Rates Vary Widely

Slashdot Updates - 11 hours 19 min ago
HughPickens.com writes: Ever notice at your high school reunions how some classmates look ten years older than everybody else — and some look ten years younger. Now BBC reports that a study of people born within a year of each other has uncovered a huge gulf in the speed at which human bodies bodies age. The report tracked traits such as weight, kidney function and gum health and found that some of the 38-year-olds in the study were aging so badly that their "biological age" was on the cusp of retirement. "They look rough, they look lacking in vitality," says Prof Terrie Moffitt. The study says some people had almost stopped aging during the period of the study, while others were gaining nearly three years of biological age for every twelve months that passed. "Any area of life where we currently use chronological age is faulty, if we knew more about biological age we could be more fair and egalitarian," says Moffitt. The researchers studied aging in 954 young humans, the Dunedin Study birth cohort, tracking multiple biomarkers across three time points spanning their third and fourth decades of life. They developed and validated two methods by which aging can be measured in young adults, one cross-sectional and one longitudinal. According to Moffit the science of healthspan extension may be focused on the wrong end of the lifespan; rather than only studying old humans, geroscience should also study the young. "Eventually if we really want to slow the process of ageing to prevent the onset of disease we're going to have to intervene with young people."

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