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The Military

How The Navy Tried To Turn Sharks into Torpedos (undark.org) 60

Long-time Slashdot reader v3rgEz writes: Documents recently declassified show one of the odder experimental weapons developed after World War II: Weaponized sharks. Guided by sharp electric shocks, the sharks were trained to deliver explosive payloads -- essentially turning them into living, breathing, remote-controlled torpedoes that could be put to use in the Pacific Theater.
Following years of research on "shark repellent," the Navy spent 13 years building a special head gear for sharks which sensed the shark's direction and tried to deliver shocks if the sharks strayed off-course. The journalist who tracked down details of "Project Headgear" published the recently-declassified information on MIT's journalism site Undark, noting that "The shark wasn't so much a 'torpedo' as a suicide bomber... "
Microsoft

Windows 10 Upgrade Activates By Clicking Red X Close Button In Prompt Message (bbc.co.uk) 564

Reader Raging Bool writes: In a move guaranteed to annoy many people, Microsoft has "jumped the shark" on encouraging users to upgrade to Windows 10. Microsoft has faced criticism for changing the pop-up box encouraging Windows users to upgrade to Windows 10. Clicking the red cross on the right hand corner of the pop-up box now activates the upgrade instead of closing the box. And this has caused confusion as typically clicking a red cross closes a pop-up notification. The upgrade could still be cancelled, when the scheduled time for it to begin appeared, Microsoft said The change occurred because the update is now labelled "recommended" and many people have their PCs configured to accept recommended updates for security reasons. This means dismissing the box does not dismiss the update.Brad Chacos, senior editor at the PC World wrote about this incident over the weekend, and described it as a "nasty trick".
Communications

Highly-Conductive Shark Jelly Could Inspire New Tech (gizmag.com) 45

An anonymous reader writes: Researchers from UC Santa Cruz, the University of Washington, and the Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason found shark jelly to have the highest proton conductivity ever seen in a biological material. The jelly's conductivity begins to approach that of leading proton-conducting polymers. Tiny organs in the skin of sharks, skates and rays, called the ampullae of Lorenzini, are key to the ability. Scientists believe that the jelly is what has been able to allow these animals to detect weak electric fields produced by their prey, as the organs, which are visible as pores in the skin, are connected to electrosensory cells via long, jelly-filled canals. Marco Rolandi, a co-author on a paper detailing the findings in Science Advances, sees potential use for the "shark jelly" in the development of new or enhanced materials or even the creation of new sensor technology. "The observation of high proton conductivity in the jelly is very exciting," Rolandi said. "We hope that our findings may contribute to future studies of the electrosensing function of the ampullae of Lorenzini and the organ overall, which is itself rather exceptional."
Wireless Networking

Former Employee Accuses Wireless Charging Startup uBeam of Being a Sham (ieee.org) 118

uBeam, a startup which has raised over $25 million for its transmitter that can charge phones, tablets, and other devices wirelessly, is under attack. Paul Reynolds, former VP of engineering at the company has accused the company of making false promises. Reynolds, who has more than 20 years of experience working on ultrasound devices, says uBeam has overstated its technology's capabilities, and there's no way it can deliver anything close to its claim in a working prototype later this year. In fact, he went all the way to call uBeam "the next Theranos". For the uninitiated, uBeam plans to create a charging station which utilizes sound waves to beam power to devices in the same room. The company, which has a team of more than 30 engineers and physicists, has been working on the product since 2011. Some of its investors include Marc Andreessen, Marissa Mayer, and "Shark" Mark Cuban. From an IEEE report: Physicists have long questioned the practicality of uBeam's plans to deliver electricity to mobile devices using ultrasound. Mark Suster, a prominent venture capitalist and uBeam investor has defended uBeam. IEEE report adds: In his article today, Suster writes that when Reynolds was at uBeam, the engineer gave no indication that he had any problems with the company's direction -- implying that the issues raised in Reynolds' blog were essentially out of the blue. uBeam itself has yet to respond to anything Reynolds has written. "Throughout my time working with him he reassured me we could solve the technical challenges and our approach was viable," Suster writes. But Reynolds told IEEE Spectrum that is simply not the case. He says that he was rarely allowed to communicate directly with Suster, on account of Perry's (Editor's note: Meredith Perry is the Founder and CEO at uBeam) management preferences. But Reynolds said that in two meetings with Suster during the summer of 2015, he voiced concerns about what the company was telling investors and reporters it could do.
The Military

Combat Lasers To Be Added To US Fighter Jets (nextbigfuture.com) 208

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NextBigFuture: The US Air Force plans to arm its fleet of drones and fighter jets with high-tech laser weapons.... Ground testing of a laser weapon called the High Energy Laser, or HEL, was slated to take place last year at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, service officials said...

The Air Force plans to begin firing laser weapons from larger platforms such as C-17s and C-130s until the technological miniaturization efforts can configure the weapon to fire from fighter jets such as an F-15, F-16 or F-35. Instead of flying with six or seven missiles on an aircraft, a directed energy weapons system could fire thousands of shots using a single gallon of jet fuel.

Shark

Human Limbs Evolved From Shark Fins Thanks To Sonic Hedgehog Gene (mirror.co.uk) 95

An anonymous reader shares a report at Mirror: Scientists believe human limbs evolved from the gills of sharks -- thanks to a gene named after Sonic the Hedgehog. The discovery comes from analysis of skate, a cartilaginous fish which has much in common with sharks. Limbs, like gills, grow thanks to a vital protein known as the 'Sonic hedgehog gene' -- named after the video game character. The new discovery backs up a theory suggested 138 years ago that legs and arms evolved from prehistoric fish gills. Gizmodo has more details on this.
Science

SeaWorld To End Orca Breeding Program (latimes.com) 167

An anonymous reader writes: Amusement park operator SeaWorld Entertainment announced on Thursday that it is ending its orca breeding program. The announcement comes amid growing pressure from activists who found that whales and their trainers weren't treated properly. A 2013 documentary Blackfish cited a number of violent incidents at the amusement park. In an op-ed Joel Manby, President and CEO of SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment laid bare the details on why his company is shutting down the orca breeding program. "Customers visit our marine parks, in part, to watch orcas. But a growing number of people don't think orcas belong in human care. [...] Now we need to respond to the attitudinal change that we helped to create -- which is why SeaWorld is announcing several historic changes. This year we will end all orca breeding programs -- and because SeaWorld hasn't collected an orca from the wild in almost four decades, this will be the last generation of orcas in SeaWorld's care. [...] More than 3,000 species are endangered, and hundreds are lost every year. Americans and thoughtful people everywhere need to acknowledge these fundamental problems. SeaWorld takes seriously its responsibility to preserve marine wildlife. That's why we are partnering with the Humane Society of the United States. Together, we will work against commercial whaling and seal hunts, shark finning and ocean pollution.
Australia

Australia Deploys Shark-Spotting Drones To Keep Watch Over Beachgoers (gizmag.com) 44

Zothecula writes: With tens of thousands of miles of coastline and a recent spike in shark attacks, Australia is exploring some pretty imaginative approaches to ensuring the safety of its beachgoers. Magnetic barriers and shark-tracking phone apps are a few of the tech ideas that have been floated, and the state of New South Wales is now turning to drones to help do the job. It has launched a trial of unmanned shark-spotting aircraft, which will survey the coastline for predators lurking in shallow waters.
Shark

High-Energy Laser Effector Tested On German Warship (upi.com) 71

Rheinmetall and the German armed forces have completed a recent test of their high-energy laser effector on a German warship. During the test, a 10-kilowatt high-energy laser, or HEL, was mounted on a MLG 27 light naval gun. The HEL was then used to track potential targets, which included unmanned aerial vehicles and stationary land targets. The test marked the first demonstration of the HEL on a naval platform, which Rheinmetall says revealed insights for developing future maritime HEL effectors.
The Almighty Buck

Cuban Talks Trash At Intel Extreme Masters, Drops $30K of F-Bombs For Charity (hothardware.com) 53

MojoKid writes: Dallas Mavericks owner and Shark Tank star Mark Cuban isn't known for holding his tongue, even when their are fines involved. If you thought that might change in the eSports arena, you'd be mistaken. The billionaire trash talker dropped a couple of f-bombs at the Intel Extreme Masters tournament in San Jose this past weekend, and he'll have to pay tens of thousands of dollars for doing so. Not that he minds. In fact, after being informed on stage during a post-match interview that he was was being fined $15,000 for dropping an f-bomb, and that the funds would go to charity, he promptly asked if he'd be hit with another one if he did it again. His intentional outburst meant that he'd be on the hook for $30,000, all of which will go to the Cybersmile Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides expert help and advice for cyberbullying victims and their families. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich also squared off on opposing teams in a game of League of Legends.
Shark

Australia Working On High-Tech Shark-Detection Systems (itworld.com) 81

jfruh writes: Even if you're a frequent ocean swimmer, you're much more likely to die in a car accident than from a shark attack — and yet sharks strike fear into people's hearts in ways that directly affect the economies of surf paradises like Australia. That's why the Australian government is working on a host of techologies to detect shark incursions on popular beaches, including drones and smart buoys (PDF) that can identify potential predators (PDF).
Space

Asteroid Impact Mission Sets Sights On New Laser Communications Record (esa.int) 10

Zothecula writes: Laser-based communications has the ability to beam enormous amounts of data at high speed, but the use of this technology in space is still in its infancy. To help push things along, ESA's proposed Asteroid Impact Mission (AIM) will carry out a record-setting demonstration of space laser communications across a distance of 75 million kilometers (46 million mi) while orbiting a binary asteroid.
The Internet

Video We Asked Doc Searls: Do Ad Blockers Cause Cancer? (Video) 116

A whimsical headline, but not much more of a shark-jumper than some of the talk we've heard lately from ad agencies, online publishers, and others who earn their living from online advertising. Doc Searls recently wrote a piece on his personal blog titled Beyond ad blocking — the biggest boycott in human history. Naturally, we wanted to ask Doc to expand a bit on what he's been writing about ad blocking and advertising in general. So we had a fine conversation about online advertising -- ending with a challenge to the advertising industry, which Doc says should be looking for ways to produce better, more effective, and less annoying ways to sell to us online.
Hardware Hacking

Brain-Controlled (Inflatable) Shark Attack 17

the_newsbeagle writes: This is a parlor trick, not neuroscience," writes this DIY brain hacker — but it sure is a nifty trick. The hacker put electrodes on his scalp, fed the resulting EEG data into a specialized processor that makes sense of brain signals, and modified the remote control for a helium-filled shark balloon. Soon, he and his buddies were steering the shark around the room. Why did it take his buddies, too? "EEG interpretation is not easy because, to be technical, EEG signals are a crazy mess. EEG recordings are a jumble of the signatures of many brain processes. Detecting conscious thoughts like “Shark, please swim forward” is way beyond even state-of-the-art equipment. The electrical signature of a single thought is lost in the furious chatter of 100 billion neurons." So builder Chip Audette settled on the simplest control system he could, and divvied up the actual controls (left, right, forward, etc.) among several users, so each one's brain signals could be interpreted separately.
Social Networks

Selfies Kill More People Than Shark Attacks 160

HughPickens.com writes: The Independent reports that so far this year more people have died while trying to take a 'selfie' than from shark attacks. So far, 12 people have lost their life while trying to take a photo of themselves but the number of people who have died as a result of a shark attack was only eight. Some recent selfie-fatalities: A 66-year-old tourist from Japan recently died after falling down some stairs while trying to take a photo at the Taj Mahal in India, a Mississippi woman was gored to death by a bison while visiting Yellowstone National Park, and in August a man trying to take a selfie was gored to death during a running of the bulls in Villaseca de la Sagra, Spain. Some groups have been trying to get on top of the wave. In June Disney banned selfie sticks in its amusement parks. And foreseeing the selfie crisis in a very specific way, New York State passed a bill in June 2014 to prohibit people from having their photo taken (or taking it themselves) while "hugging, patting or otherwise touching tigers."
Shark

Boeing Demonstrates Drone-Killing Laser 125

An anonymous reader writes: Boeing has successfully tested a new weapon system that tracks unmanned aircraft and shoots them down with a laser. The system is surprisingly small — it can be transported in a few medium-sized boxes, and two techs can set it up in minutes. The laser needs just a few seconds of continuous [contact] to set a drone aflame, and the tracking gimbal is precise enough to target specific parts of a drone. "Want to zap the tail so it crashes and then you can go retrieve the mostly intact drone and see who is trying to spy on you? Can do. Think it's carrying explosives and you want to completely destroy it? No problem." The laser is controlled with custom targeting software that runs on a laptop, with help from an Xbox 360 controller. Boeing expects the laser system to be ready for sale in the next year or two.
The Military

US Military Stepping Up Use of Directed Energy Weapons 83

An anonymous reader writes: At a conference on Tuesday, U.S. officials explained that all branches of the military would be increasing their use of lasers and other directed energy weapons. Lieutenant General William Etter said, "Directed energy brings the dawn of an entirely new era in defense." The Navy's laser deployment test has gone well, and they're working on a new prototype laser in the 100-150 kilowatt range. "[Navy Secretary Ray] Mabus said Iran and other countries were already using lasers to target ships and commercial airliners, and the U.S. military needed to accelerate often cumbersome acquisition processes to ensure that it stayed ahead of potential foes."
Shark

Since Receiving Satellite Tags, Some Sharks Have Become Stars of Social Media 31

Lucas123 writes: A research project that tags the world's most dangerous sharks with four different tracking devices and then offers all the data to the public has taken off, garnering hundreds of thousands of users; one shark even has more then 80,000 followers on Twitter. OCEARCH, a non-profit shark tracking project, has tagged about 130 sharks, from great whites and tigers to hammerheads and makos, and open sourced the data in the hope that it will create citizen scientists who will follow the animals and care about what happens to them. To further personify the apex predators, the researchers at OCEARCH have also given the sharks names such as Katharine and Mary Lee, two sharks that are more than 14 feet long and weight more than a ton. OCEARCH's shark tracker has garnered 10 times the traffic it had last year, and it's expected to grow 20 times more by the end of this year. Along with data from satellite, acoustic and accelerometer tags, the project expects to begin using big data analytics to offer more granular data about the animals and their lives to scientists and the public at large.
Shark

CIA Shares Julia Child's Shark Repellent Recipe 41

coondoggie writes: Sometimes some of the coolest stories get lost in history. The CIA recently noted one of them – famous French food chef and author Julia Child's critical involvement in developing a shark repellent recipe for military personnel during WWII. The CIA reports: "Julia McWilliams (better known by her married name, Julia Child) joined the newly-created OSS in 1942 in search of adventure. This was years before she became the culinary icon of French cuisine that she is known for today. In fact, at this time, Julia was self-admittedly a disaster in the kitchen. Perhaps all the more fitting that she soon found herself helping to develop a recipe that even a shark would refuse to eat....After trying over 100 different substances—including common poisons—the researchers found several promising possibilities: extracts from decayed shark meat, organic acids, and several copper salts, including copper sulphate and copper acetate. After a year of field tests, the most effective repellent was copper acetate."
Shark

Scientists Look For Patterns In North Carolina Shark Attacks 92

HughPickens.com writes: The Washington Post reports that there have been seven recent shark attacks in North Carolina. Scientists are looking for what might be luring the usually shy sharks so close to shore and among the swimmers they usually avoid. It's an unusual number of attacks for a state that recorded 25 attacks between 2005 and 2014. Even with the recent incidents, researchers emphasize that sharks are a very low-level threat to humans, compared with other forms of wildlife. Bees, for example, are much more dangerous. And swimming itself is hazardous even without sharks around.

George Burgess, director of the International Shark Attack File at the University of Florida's Florida Museum of Natural History, speculates that several environmental factors could be pushing sharks to congregate in the Outer Banks. It is a warm year, and the water has a higher level of salinity because of a low-level drought in the area. Also, a common species of forage fish — menhaden — has been abundant this year and might have attracted more sharks to the area. Burgess also says some fishermen put bait in the water near piers, which could lure the predators closer to shore; two of the encounters took place within 100 yards of a pier. "That's a formula for shark attacks," Burgess says of these conditions, taken together. "Now, does that explain seven attacks in three weeks? No, it doesn't."

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