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  • Shale: Good For Gas, Oil...and Nuclear Waste Disposal?

    Lasrick writes: Chris Neuzil is a senior scientist with the National Research Program of the U.S. Geological Survey. He thinks the qualities of shale make it the perfect rock in which to safely and permanently house high-level nuclear waste. Given the recent discovery that water is much more of an issue than originally thought for the tough rock at Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Utah, the unique qualities of shale, along with its ubiquitous presence in the U.S., could make shale rock a better choice for the 70,000 metric tons of commercial spent fuel currently sitting above ground at nuclear power facilities throughout the country. France, Switzerland, and Belgium are all considering repositories in shale, but it hasn't been studied much in the U.S. "Shale is the only rock type likely to house high-level nuclear waste in other countries that has never been seriously considered by the U.S. high-level waste program. The uncertain future of Yucca Mountain places plans for spent nuclear fuel in the United States at a crossroads. It is an opportunity to include shale in a truly comprehensive examination of disposal options."

    55 comments | 3 hours ago

  • Renewables Are Now Scotland's Biggest Energy Source

    AmiMoJo writes Government figures revealed that Scotland is now generating more power from "clean" technologies than nuclear, coal and gas. The combination of wind, solar and hydroelectric, along with less-publicized sources such as landfill gas and biomass, produced 10.3TWh in the first half of 2014. Over the same period, Scotland generated 7.8TWh from nuclear, 5.6TWh from coal and 1.4TWh from gas, according to figures supplied by National Grid. Renewable sources tend to fluctuate throughout the year, especially in Scotland where the weather is notoriously volatile, but in six-month chunks the country has consistently increased its renewable output.

    182 comments | yesterday

  • Google Should Be Broken Up, Say European MPs

    An anonymous reader is one of many to send word that the European Parliament has voted 384 to 174 in favor of unbundling search engines from other commercial services in order to ensure competition. "The European Parliament has voted in favor of breaking Google up, as a solution to complaints that it favors is own services in search results. Politicians have no power to enforce a break-up, but the landmark vote sends a clear message to European regulators to get tough on the net giant. US politicians and trade bodies have voiced their dismay at the vote. The ultimate decision will rest with EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager. She has inherited the anti-competitive case lodged by Google's rivals in 2010. Google has around 90% market share for search in Europe. The Commission has never before ordered the break-up of any company, and many believe it is unlikely to do so now. But politicians are desperate to find a solution to the long-running anti-competitive dispute with Google."

    216 comments | yesterday

  • Behind Apple's Sapphire Screen Debacle

    Frankie70 (803801) writes Apple invested more than $1 billion in an effort to make sapphire one of iPhone 6's selling point. But the iPhone 6 was released without the sapphire screen. GT Advanced Technologies, the small company chosen to supply Apple with enormous quantities of cheap sapphire, declared bankruptcy a month later. Recent documents from GT's bankruptcy proceedings, and conversations with people familiar with operations at Apple and GT, provide several clues as to what went wrong. GT said that to save costs, Apple decided not to install backup power supplies, and multiple outages ruined whole batches of sapphire. The terms Apple negotiated committed GT to supplying a huge amount of sapphire, but put Apple under no obligation to buy it. In its bankruptcy documents, GT would later accuse Apple of using "bait-and-switch" tactics, and said the terms of the deal were "onerous and massively one-sided."

    178 comments | yesterday

  • Riecoin Breaks World Record For Largest Prime Sextuplet, Twice

    An anonymous reader writes Last week, Riecoin – a project that doubles as decentralized virtual currency and a distributed computing system — quietly broke the record for the largest prime number sextuplet. This happened on November 17, 2014 at 19:50 GMT and the calculation took only 70 minutes using the massive distributed computing power of its network. This week the feat was outdone and the project beat its own record on November 24, 2014 at 20:28 GMT achieving numbers 654 digits long, 21 more than its previous record.

    46 comments | yesterday

  • Jackie Chan Discs Help Boost Solar Panel Efficiency

    wbr1 writes Apparently the pit pattern on a blu-ray disk is great at helping trap photons, rather than reflecting them. Applying this pattern to the glass in a solar panel can boost efficiency by 22%. Researchers at Northwestern tested this system with Jackie Chan discs. From the article: "To increase the efficiency of a solar panel by 22%, the researchers at Northwestern bought a copy of Police Story 3: Supercop on Blu-ray; removed the top plastic layer, exposing the recording medium beneath; cast a mold of the quasi-random pattern; and then used the mold to create a photovoltaic cell with the same pattern....The end result is a solar panel that has a quantum efficiency of around 40% — up about 22% from the non-patterned solar panel."

    188 comments | 2 days ago

  • Fly With the Brooklyn Aerodrome (Video)

    A bit of housing insulation material, a battery, a motor and propellor, a radio receiver and transmitter, and servos to control the motor and a pair of ailerons, and you're ready to fly the Brooklyn Aerodrome way. This isn't a tiny radio-controlled paper airplane, but a big bruiser with a 1:1 power to weight ratio (which means it can climb like a bat out of hell) and enough guts to fly in reasonably windy conditions while carrying a camera -- except we'd better not mention cameras, since Brooklyn Aerodrome creations, whether kits or plans, are obviously intended tohelp you build model airplanes, not drones. Timothy ran into project proponent Breck Baldwin at a maker faire near Atlanta, surrounded by a squadron of junior pilots who may someday become astronauts on the Moon - Mars run -- or at least delivery drone controllers for Amazon. (Alternate Video Link)

    19 comments | 2 days ago

  • WaveNET – the Floating, Flexible Wave Energy Generator

    Zothecula writes: Scotland's Albatern is putting a new, modular spin on renewable energy generation. WaveNET is a scalable array of floating "Squid" generator units that harvest wave energy as their buoyant arms rise and fall with the motion of the waves. Each Squid can link up to as many as three others, effectively creating a large, floating grid that's flexible in every direction. The bigger this grid gets, the more efficient it becomes at harvesting energy, and the more different wave movements it can extract energy from. Albatern's 10-year target is to have 1.25 kilometer-long floating energy farms pumping out as much as 100 megawatts by 2024.

    89 comments | 2 days ago

  • Ask Slashdot: Why Is the Power Grid So Crummy In So Many Places?

    An anonymous reader writes: I live in a relatively large college town that's within easy driving distance of several major metropolitan centers. In many ways, the infrastructure around here is top-notch. The major exception is the electrical grid. Lightning storm? Power outage. Heavy winds? Power outage. Lots of rain? Power outage. Some areas around town are immune to this — like around the hospital, for obvious reasons. But others seem to lose power at the drop of hat. Why is this? If it were a tiny village or in the middle of nowhere, it would make sense to me. What problems do the utility companies face that they can't keep service steady? Do you deal with a lot of outages where you live? I'm not sure if it's just an investment issue or a technological one. It hasn't gotten better in the decade I've lived here, and I can imagine it will only get worse as the infrastructure ages.

    509 comments | 2 days ago

  • How the World's Agricultural Boom Has Changed CO2 Cycles

    An anonymous reader writes Every year levels of carbon dioxide drop in the summer as plants "inhale," and climb again as they exhale after the growing season in the Northern Hemisphere. However, the last 50 years has seen the size of this swing has increase by as much as 50%, for reasons that aren't fully understood. A team of researchers may have the answer. They have shown that agricultural production, corn in particular, may generate up to 25% of the increase in this seasonal carbon cycle. "This study shows the power of modeling and data mining in addressing potential sources contributing to seasonal changes in carbon dioxide" program director for the National Science Foundation's Macro Systems Biology Program, who supported the research, Liz Blood says. "It points to the role of basic research in finding answers to complex problems."

    185 comments | 4 days ago

  • 2014 Hour of Code: Do Ends Justify Disney Product Placement Means?

    theodp writes "The purpose of product placement/product integration/branded entertainment," explains Disney in a job posting, "is to give a brand exposure outside of their traditional media buy." So, one imagines the folks in Disney Marketing must be thrilled that Disney Frozen princesses Anna and Elsa will be featured in the 'signature tutorial' for CSEdWeek's 2014 Hour of Code, which aims to introduce CS to 100 million schoolkids — including a sizable captive audience — in the weeks before Christmas. "Thanks to Disney Interactive," announced Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi, "Code.org's signature tutorial for the 2014 Hour of Code features Disney Infinity versions of Disney's 'Frozen' heroines Anna and Elsa!." Partovi adds, "The girl-power theme of the tutorial is a continuation of our efforts to expand diversity in computer science and broaden female participation in the field, starting with younger students." In the tutorial, reports the LA Times, "students will learn to write code to help Anna and Elsa draw snowflakes and snowmen, and perform magical 'ice craft.' Disney is also donating $100,000 to support Code.org's efforts to bring computer science education to after-school programs nationwide."

    125 comments | 5 days ago

  • The EU Has a Plan To Break Up Google

    An anonymous reader points out a report at the Financial Times (paywalled) which says the European Parliament is preparing to call for the break-up of Google. According to the draft seen by the FT, a potential solution to ongoing anti-trust concerns with Google is "unbundling search engines from other services." The article notes, "The European parliament has no formal power to split up companies, but has increasing influence on the commission, which initiates all EU legislation. The commission has been investigating concerns over Google’s dominance of online search for five years, with critics arguing that the company’s rankings favour its own services, hitting its rivals’ profits. Unbundling cannot be excluded, said Andreas Schwab, a German MEP who is one of the motion’s backers."

    332 comments | about a week ago

  • Ask Slashdot: What's the Most Hackable Car?

    An anonymous reader writes: When looking for a new (or used) car, I have readily available information regarding features, maintenance history, and potential issues for that specific model or generation. What I would really like is a car that is readily hackable on the convenience-feature level. For example, if I want to install a remote starter, or hack the power windows so holding 'up' automatically rolls it up, or install a readout on the rear of the car showing engine RPMs, what make/model/year is the best pick? Have any of you done something similar with your vehicle? Have you found certain models to be ideal or terrible for feature hacking?

    194 comments | about a week ago

  • Microsoft Rolls Out Robot Security Guards

    An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft is testing a group of five robot security guards. They contain a sophisticated sensor suite that includes 360-degree HD video, thermal imaging, night vision, LIDAR, and audio recorders. They can also detect various chemicals and radiation signatures, and do some rudimentary behavioral analysis on people they see. (And they look a bit like Daleks.) The robots are unarmed, so we don't have to worry about a revolt just yet, but they can sound an alarm and call for human officers. They weigh about 300 lbs each, can last roughly a day on a battery charge, and know to head to the charging station when they're low on power.

    140 comments | about a week ago

  • Coal Plants Get New Lease On Life With Natural Gas

    HughPickens.com writes Christina Nunez reports in National Geographic that in the past four years, at least 29 coal-fired plants in 10 states have switched to natural gas or biomass while another 54 units, mostly in the US Northeast and Midwest, are slated to be converted over the next nine years. By switching to natural gas, plant operators can take advantage of a relatively cheap and plentiful US supply. The change can also help them meet proposed federal rules to limit heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, given that electricity generation from natural gas emits about half as much carbon as electricity from coal does.

    But not everyone is happy with the conversions. The Dunkirk plant in western New York, slated for conversion to natural gas, is the focus of a lawsuit by environmental groups that say the $150 million repowering will force the state's energy consumers to pay for an unnecessary facility. "What we're concerned about is that the Dunkirk proceeding is setting a really, really bad precedent where we're going to keep these old, outdated, polluting plants on life support for political reasons," says Christopher Amato. Dunkirk's operator, NRG, wanted to mothball the plant in 2012, saying it was not economical to run. The utility, National Grid, said shutting it down could make local power supplies less reliable, a problem that could be fixed by boosting transmission capacity—at a lower cost than repowering Dunkirk. Meanwhile the citizens of Dunkirk are happy the plant is staying open. "We couldn't let it happen. We would lose our tax base, we would lose our jobs, we would lose our future," said State Sen. Catharine M. Young. "This agreement saves us. It gives us a foundation on which to build our economy. It gives us hope. This is our community's Christmas miracle!"

    142 comments | about a week ago

  • Greenwald Advises Market-Based Solution To Mass Surveillance

    Nicola Hahn writes In his latest Intercept piece Glenn Greenwald considers the recent defeat of the Senate's USA Freedom Act. He remarks that governments "don't walk around trying to figure out how to limit their own power." Instead of appealing to an allegedly irrelevant Congress Greenwald advocates utilizing the power of consumer demand to address the failings of cyber security. Specifically he argues that companies care about their bottom line and that the trend of customers refusing to tolerate insecure products will force companies to protect user privacy, implement encryption, etc. All told Greenwald's argument is very telling: that society can rely on corporate interests for protection. Is it true that representative government is a lost cause and that lawmakers would never knowingly yield authority? There are people who think that advising citizens to devolve into consumers is a dubious proposition.

    157 comments | about a week ago

  • Lessons Learned From Google's Green Energy Bust

    the_newsbeagle writes In 2007, Google boldly declared a new initiative to invent a green energy technology that produced cheaper electricity than coal-fired power plants. Sure, energy researchers had been hammering at this task for decades, but Google hoped to figure it out in a few years. They didn't. Instead, Google admitted defeat and shut down the project in 2011. In a admirable twist, however, two of the project's engineers then dedicated themselves to learning from the project's failure. What did it mean that one of the world's most ambitious and capable innovation companies couldn't invent a cheap renewable energy tech?

    222 comments | about a week ago

  • What Would Have Happened If Philae Were Nuclear Powered?

    StartsWithABang writes After successfully landing on a comet with all 10 instruments intact, but failing to deploy its thrusters and harpoons to anchor onto the surface, Philae bounced, coming to rest in an area with woefully insufficient sunlight to keep it alive. After exhausting its primary battery, it went into hibernation, most likely never to wake again. We'll always be left to wonder what might have been if it had functioned optimally, and given us years of data rather than just 60 hours worth. The thing is, it wouldn't have needed to function optimally to give us years of data, if only it were better designed in one particular aspect: powered by Plutonium-238 instead of by solar panels.

    520 comments | about a week ago

  • Republicans Block Latest Attempt At Curbing NSA Power

    Robotron23 writes: The latest attempt at NSA reform has been prevented from passage in the Senate by a margin of 58 to 42. Introduced as a means to stop the NSA collecting bulk phone and e-mail records on a daily basis, the USA Freedom Act has been considered a practical route to curtailment of perceived overreach by security services, 18 months since Edward Snowden went public. Opponents to the bill said it was needless, as Wall Street Journal raised the possibility of terrorists such as ISIS running amok on U.S. soil. Supporting the bill meanwhile were the technology giants Google and Microsoft. Prior to this vote, the bill had already been stripped of privacy protections in aid of gaining White House support. A provision to extend the controversial USA Patriot Act to 2017 was also appended by the House of Representatives.

    441 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Rooftop Solar Could Reach Price Parity In the US By 2016

    Lucas123 writes: The cost of rooftop solar-powered electricity will be on par with prices of coal-powered energy and other conventional sources in all 50 U.S. states in just two years, a leap from today where PV energy has price parity in only 10 states, according to Deutsche Bank's leading solar industry analyst. The sharp decline in solar energy costs is the result of increased economies of scale leading to cheaper photovoltaic panels, new leasing models and declining installation costs, Deutsche Bank's Vishal Shah stated in a recent report. The cost of solar-generated electricity in the top 10 states for capacity ranges from 11-15 cents per kilowatt hour (c/kWh), compared to the retail electricity price of 11-37 c/kWh. Amit Ronen, a former Congressional staffer behind legislation that created an investment tax credit for solar installations, said one of the only impediments to decreasing solar electricity prices are fees proposed by utilities on customers who install solar and take advantage of net metering, or the ability to sell excess power back to utilities.

    516 comments | about two weeks ago

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