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NASA

NASA To 'Lasso' a Comet To Hitchhike Across the Solar System 1

evilviper writes: Traveling around space can require a lot of fuel, to help fight the fuel bill NASA has a spacecraft concept that would hitch a free ride on one of the many comets and asteroids traveling across our solar system. Comet Hitchhiker, developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, would feature a reusable tether system to replace the need for propellant for entering orbit and landing on objects.

The spacecraft would first cast an extendable tether toward the object and attach itself using a harpoon attached to the tether. Next, it would reel out the tether while applying a brake that harvests energy while the spacecraft accelerates. This allows Comet Hitchhiker to accelerate and slowly match the speed of its ride, and keeping that slight tension on the line harvests energy that is stored on-board for later use, reeling itself down to the surface of the comet or asteroid. A comet hitchhiker spacecraft can obtain up to ~10 km/s of delta-V by using a carbon nanotube (CNT) tether, reaching the current orbital distance of Pluto (32.6 AU) in just 5.6 years.
United Kingdom

14-Year-Old Boy Placed On Police Register After Sending Naked Picture To Classmate 188

Ewan Palmer reports: A teenage boy in the UK has had a crime of making and distributing indecent images recorded against him after he sent a naked picture of himself to one of his female classmates. The 14-year-old was not formally arrested after he sent the explicit image to a girl of the same age via Snapchat. The police file against the boy will now remain active for 10 years, meaning any future employer conducting an advanced Criminal Records Bureau check will be aware of the incident. However, it is not clear whether a police file was recorded for the girl who saved and shared the image. Under new legislation, if she had been over 18, the girl could have been convicted under the so called 'revenge porn' law in the UK.
United Kingdom

WWII Bomb Shelter Becomes Hi-Tech Salad Farm 115

asjk points out a story of how a World War II bomb shelter, situated 33 meters beneath the streets of London, has been turned into a high-tech hydroponic farm. "The growing system uses energy-efficient LEDs instead of sun, no pesticides, needs 70 percent less water than growing plants in open fields, and less energy than a greenhouse." The computer-controlled environment is designed to shorten the growth cycle of plants like coriander and radishes. They're currently only using about a quarter of the gear necessary to fill up the shelter, but they can produce 5,000-20,000 kilograms of food per year, depending on what they raise. Co-founder Steven Dring said, "We've got to utilize the spaces we've got. There's a finite amount of land and we can grow salads and herbs — which start losing flavor and quality as soon as you cut them — in warehouses and rooftops in cities near the people who will eat them. Use the rural land for things like carrots, potatoes and livestock."
United Kingdom

UK Health Clinic Accidentally Publishes HIV Status of 800 Patients 65

An anonymous reader writes: A sexual health clinic in London accidentally disclosed the HIV positive status of almost 800 patients. The Guardian reports: "The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has ordered an inquiry into how the NHS handles confidential medical information after the “completely unacceptable” breach of the privacy of hundreds of HIV patients. The 56 Dean Street clinic in London apologized on Wednesday after sending a newsletter on Tuesday which disclosed the names and email addresses of about 780 recipients. The newsletter is intended for people using its HIV and other sexual health services, and gives details of treatments and support.
Programming

You Don't Have To Be Good At Math To Learn To Code 593

HughPickens.com writes: Olga Khazan writes in The Atlantic that learning to program involves a lot of Googling, logic, and trial-and-error—but almost nothing beyond fourth-grade arithmetic. Victoria Fine explains how she taught herself how to code despite hating math. Her secret? Lots and lots of Googling. "Like any good Google query, a successful answer depended on asking the right question. "How do I make a website red" was not nearly as successful a question as "CSS color values HEX red" combined with "CSS background color." I spent a lot of time learning to Google like a pro. I carefully learned the vocabulary of HTML so I knew what I was talking about when I asked the Internet for answers." According to Khazan while it's true that some types of code look a little like equations, you don't really have to solve them, just know where they go and what they do. "In most cases you can see that the hard maths (the physical and geometry) is either done by a computer or has been done by someone else. While the calculations do happen and are essential to the successful running of the program, the programmer does not need to know how they are done." Khazan says that in order to figure out what your program should say, you're going to need some basic logic skills and you'll need to be skilled at copying and pasting things from online repositories and tweaking them slightly. "But humanities majors, fresh off writing reams of term papers, are probably more talented at that than math majors are."
Science

Carbon Dating Shows Koran May Predate Muhammad 614

HughPickens.com writes: Brian Booker writes at Digital Journal that carbon dating suggests the Koran, or at least portions of it, may actually be older than the prophet Muhammad himself, a finding that if confirmed could rewrite early Islamic history and shed doubt on the "heavenly" origins of the holy text. Scholars believe that a copy of the Koran held by the Birmingham Library was actually written sometime between 568 AD and 645, while the Prophet Mohammad was believed to have been born in 570 AD and to have died in 632 AD. It should be noted, however, that the dating was only conducted on the parchment, rather than the ink, so it is possible that the Koran was simply written on old paper. Some scholars believe, however, that Muhammad did not receive the Koran from heaven, as he claimed during his lifetime, but instead collected texts and scripts that fit his political agenda. "This gives more ground to what have been peripheral views of the Koran's genesis, like that Muhammad and his early followers used a text that was already in existence and shaped it to fit their own political and theological agenda, rather than Muhammad receiving a revelation from heaven," says Keith Small, from the University of Oxford's Bodleian Library. "'It destabilises, to put it mildly, the idea that we can know anything with certainty about how the Koran emerged," says Historian Tom Holland. "and that in turn has implications for the history of Muhammad and the Companions." Update: 09/01 17:32 GMT by S : There was a typo in the dates used by the original linked article — in the press release from the University of Birmingham, the date range given for the parchment is between 568 AD and 645 AD, which overlaps more closely with Muhammad's lifetime. The dates and link have been fixed now in the summary. Historians say this new information highlights the uncertainty surrounding the emergence of such religious texts, rather than being a major upheaval.
Security

Six UK Teens Arrested For Being "Customers" of Lizard Squad's DDoS Service 93

An anonymous reader writes: UK officials have arrested six teenagers suspected of utilizing Lizard Squad's website attack tool called "Lizzard Stresser". Lizard Squad claimed responsibility for the infamous Christmas Day Xbox Live and PlayStation Network attacks. The teenagers "are suspected of maliciously deploying Lizard Stresser, having bought the tool using alternative payment services such as Bitcoin in a bid to remain anonymous," an NCA spokesperson wrote in an official statement on the case. "Organizations believed to have been targeted by the suspects include a leading national newspaper, a school, gaming companies, and a number of online retailers."
Censorship

Assange Says Harrods Assisting Metro Police in 'Round-the-Clock Vigil' 266

The Daily Mail reports that Julian Assange seems to have yet another foe (or at least friend of a foe) watching persistently while he stays put in the Ecuadorean embassy in London: Harrod's Department Store. The Metro Police, according to Assange, have developed a relationship with the store, and are using that relationship to facilitate their full-time observation of his roosting place in the embassy. When the founder of Wikileaks says, "We have obtained documents from Harrods [saying that] police have people stationed 24 hours a day in some of the opposing buildings Harrods controls," it seems likely that those documents actually exist.
Books

Neurologist and Author Oliver Sacks Dead at 82 30

Physician, writer and humanist Oliver Sacks has died of cancer at age 82. Sacks was famous for "The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat" and other books, including his account in "Awakenings" (later made into a well-recieved film) of administering treatment which resulted in several patients emerging from their comas. The Guardian reports: When he revealed that he had terminal cancer, Sacks quoted one of his favourite philosophers, David Hume. On discovering that he was mortally ill at 65, Hume wrote: “I now reckon upon a speedy dissolution. I have suffered very little pain from my disorder; and what is more strange, have, notwithstanding the great decline of my person, never suffered a moment’s abatement of my spirits. I possess the same ardour as ever in study, and the same gaiety in company. “I am ... a man of mild dispositions, of command of temper, of an open, social, and cheerful humour, capable of attachment, but little susceptible of enmity, and of great moderation in all my passions.”
Security

Abusing Symbolic Links Like It's 1999 53

An anonymous reader writes with this snippet from James Forshaw's recent post at Google's Project Zero, which begins For the past couple of years I've been researching Windows elevation of privilege attacks. This might be escaping sandboxing or gaining system privileges. One of the techniques I've used multiple times is abusing the symbolic link facilities of the Windows operating system to redirect privileged code to create files or registry keys to escape the restrictive execution context. Symbolic links in themselves are not vulnerabilities, instead they're useful primitives for exploiting different classes of vulnerabilities such as resource planting or time-of-check time-of-use. Click through that link to see examples of this abuse in action, but also information about how the underlying risks have been (or can be) mitigated.
NASA

In Hawaii, a 6-Person Crew Begins a Year-Long Mars Isolation Experiment 81

The BBC reports that six volunteers have begun a planned year-long stint "without fresh air, fresh food or privacy" in a NASA simulation of what life might be like for a group of Mars colonists. The volunteers are to spend the next 12 months in the dome (11 meters in diameter, 6 meters high), except for space-suited out-of-dome excursions, where they will eat space-style meals, sleep on tiny cots, and keep up a science schedule. The current mission is the fourth (and longest yet) from the Hawai'i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation; you can read more about this mission's crew here.
Wireless Networking

French Woman Gets €800/month For Electromagnetic-Field 'Disability' 456

An anonymous reader writes: If you were dismayed to hear Tuesday's news that a school is being sued over Wi-Fi sickness, you might be even more disappointed in a recent verdict by the French judicial system. A court based in Toulouse has awarded a disability claim of €800 (~$898) per month for three years over a 39-year-old woman's "hypersensitivity to electromagnetic waves." Robin Des Toits, an organization that campaigns for "sufferers" of this malady, was pleased: "We can no longer say that it is a psychiatric illness." (Actually, we can and will.) The woman has been living in a remote part of France's south-west mountains with no electricity around. She claims to be affected by common gadgets like cellphones.
Chrome

Chrome To Freeze Flash Ads On Sight From September 1 190

An anonymous reader writes: Shaun Nichols from the Register reports that unimportant Flash content will be click-to-play by default in Google Chrome from September 1. He writes, "Google is making good on its promise to strangle Adobe Flash's ability to auto-play in Chrome. The web giant has set September 1, 2015 as the date from which non-important Flash files will be click-to-play in the browser by default – effectively freezing out 'many' Flash ads in the process. Netizens can right-click over the security-challenged plugin and select 'Run this' if they want to unfreeze an ad. Otherwise, the Flash files will remain suspended in a grey box, unable to cause any harm nor any annoyance."
Medicine

Study: More Than Half of Psychological Results Can't Be Reproduced 255

Bruce66423 writes: A new study trying to replicate results reported in allegedly high quality journals failed to do so in over 50% of cases. Those of us from a hard science background always had our doubts about this sort of stuff — it's interesting to see it demonstrated — or rather, as the man says: 'Psychology has nothing to be proud of when it comes to replication,' Charles Gallistel, president of the Association for Psychological Science. Back in June a crowd-sourced effort to replicate 100 psychology studies had a 39% success rate.
Earth

Ocean Cleanup Project Completes Great Pacific Garbage Patch Research Expedition 71

hypnosec writes: The reconnaissance mission of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, dubbed the Mega Expedition by Ocean Clean, has been concluded. The large-scale cleanup of the area is set to begin in 2020. The primary goal of the Mega Expedition was to accurately determine how much plastic is floating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This was the first time large pieces of plastic, such as ghost nets and Japanese tsunami debris, have been quantified. “I’ve studied plastic in all the world’s oceans, but never seen any area as polluted as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” said Dr. Julia Reisser, Lead Oceanographer at The Ocean Cleanup. “With every trawl we completed, thousands of miles from land, we just found lots and lots of plastic.”
Advertising

Inside the Booming, Unhinged, and Dangerous Malvertising Menace 259

mask.of.sanity writes: The Register has a feature on the online malicious advertising (malvertising) menace that has become an explosively potent threat to end-user security on the internet. Experts say advertising networks and exchanges need to vet their customers, and publishers need to vet the third party content they display. Users should also consider script and ad blockers in the interim. From the article: "Ads as an attack vector was identified in 2007 when security responders began receiving reports of malware hitting user machines as victims viewed online advertisements. By year's end William Salusky of the SANS Internet Storms Centre had concocted a name for the attacks. Since then malvertising has exploded. This year it increased by more than 260 percent on the previous year, with some 450,000 malicious ads reported in the first six months alone, according to numbers by RiskIQ. Last year, security firm Cyphort found a 300 percent increase in malvertising. In 2013, the Online Trust Alliance logged a more than 200 percent increase in malvertising incidents compared to 2012, serving some 12.4 billion malvertisement impressions."
IBM

IBM Tells Administrators To Block Tor On Security Grounds 70

Mickeycaskill writes: IBM says Tor is increasingly being used to scan organizations for flaws and launch DDoS, ransomware and other attacks. Tor, which provides anonymity by obscuring the real point of origin of Internet communications, was in part created by the US government, which helps fund its ongoing development, due to the fact that some of its operations rely on the network. However, the network is also widely used for criminal purposes. A report by the IBM says administrators should block access to Tor , noting a "steady increase" an attacks originating from Tor exit nodes, with attackers increasingly using Tor to disguise botnet traffic. "Spikes in Tor traffic can be directly tied to the activities of malicious botnets that either reside within the Tor network or use the Tor network as transport for their traffic," said IBM. "Allowing access between corporate networks and stealth networks can open the corporation to the risk of theft or compromise, and to legal liability in some cases and jurisdictions."
Microsoft

Microsoft Researchers Generate 3D Models From Ordinary Smartphones 48

New submitter subh_arya writes: Engineers from Microsoft Research have unveiled the first technology to perform 3D surface reconstruction from ordinary smartphone cameras. Their computational framework creates a connected 3D surface model by continuously registering RGB input to an incrementally built 3D model. Although the reconstruction results look promising, Microsoft does not plan to release an app anytime soon.
Networking

Virgin Media To Base a Public Wi-Fi Net On Paying Customers' Routers 113

An anonymous reader writes with a story that Virgin Media "announced this month its plans to roll out a free public WiFi network this autumn, using subscribers' personal routers and existing infrastructure to distribute the service across UK cities." And while regular customers' routers are to be the basis of the new network, the publicly viewable overlay would operate over "a completely separate connection," and the company claims subscribers' performance will not be hindered. Why, then, would customers bother to pay? For one thing, because the free version is slow: 0.5Mbps, vs. 10Mbps for Virgin's customers.
United Kingdom

Met Office Loses BBC Weather Forecasting Contract 119

An anonymous reader writes: UK weather forecasts could be run on computers in New Zealand, as the BBC announced that the UK Met Office lost a forecasting contract it held for almost 100 years. The Guardian reports: "The Met Office has lost the contract it has held for close to a century to provide weather forecasts to the BBC, bringing to an end one of the longest relationships in British media. The broadcaster said it was legally required to open up the contract to outside competition in order to secure the best value for licence fee payers. The meteorological service said it was disappointed by the BBC’s decision to put out to tender the contract, which has been in place since the corporation’s first radio weather bulletin on 14 November 1922. Steve Noyes, operations and customer services director at the Met Office, said: 'Nobody knows Britain’s weather better and, during our long relationship with the BBC, we’ve revolutionised weather communication to make it an integral part of British daily life.'"