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Researchers Create Sodium Battery In Industry Standard "18650" Format ( 191

Zothecula sends word that a French team has developed a battery using sodium ions in the usual "18650" format. Gizmag reports: "A team of researchers in France has taken a major step towards powering our devices with rechargeable batteries based on an element that is far more abundant and cheaper than lithium. For the first time ever, a battery has been developed using sodium ions in the industry standard "18650" format used in laptop batteries, LED flashlights and the Tesla Model S, among other products."

New Type of 'Flow Battery' Can Store 10 Times the Energy of the Next Best Device ( 74

sciencehabit writes: Industrial-scale batteries, known as flow batteries, could one day usher in widespread use of renewable energy—but only if the devices can store large amounts of energy cheaply and feed it to the grid when the sun isn't shining and the winds are calm. That's something conventional flow batteries can't do. Now, researchers report that they've created a novel type of flow battery that uses lithium ion technology—the sort used to power laptops—to store about 10 times as much energy as the most common flow batteries on the market. With a few improvements, the new batteries could make a major impact on the way we store and deliver energy. The research, from the National University of Singapore, has one big flaw in particular: speed. It's 'very innovative' work, says Michael Aziz, a flow battery expert at Harvard University. But he adds that even though the novel battery has a high energy density, the rate at which it delivers that power is 10,000 times slower than conventional flow batteries, far too slow for most applications. Wang and his colleagues acknowledge the limitation, but they say they should be able to improve the delivery rate with further improvements to the membrane and the charge-ferrying redox mediators.

Peter Thiel: We Need a New Atomic Age 353 writes: Peter Thiel writes in the NYT that what's especially strange about the failed push for renewables is that we already had a practical plan back in the 1960s to become fully carbon-free without any need of wind or solar: nuclear power. "But after years of cost overruns, technical challenges and the bizarre coincidence of an accident at Three Mile Island and the 1979 release of the Hollywood horror movie "The China Syndrome," about a hundred proposed reactors were canceled," says Thiel. "If we had kept building, our power grid could have been carbon-free years ago. Instead, we went in reverse."

According to Thiel, a new generation of American nuclear scientists has produced designs for better reactors. Crucially, these new designs may finally overcome the most fundamental obstacle to the success of nuclear power: high cost. Designs using molten salt, alternative fuels and small modular reactors have all attracted interest not just from academics but also from entrepreneurs and venture capitalists like me ready to put money behind nuclear power. However, none of these new designs can benefit the real world without a path to regulatory approval, and today's regulations are tailored for traditional reactors, making it almost impossible to commercialize new ones. "Both the right's fear of government and the left's fear of technology have jointly stunted our nuclear energy policy," concludes Thiel. "supporting nuclear power with more than words is the litmus test for seriousness about climate change. Like Nixon's going to China, this is something only Mr. Obama can do. If this president clears the path for a new atomic age, American scientists are ready to build it."

C.H.I.P. vs Pi Zero: Which Sub-$10 Computer Is Better? ( 122

Make Magazine weighs in on an issue that's suddenly relevant in a world where less than $10 can buy a new, (nominally) complete computer. Which one makes most sense? Both the $9 C.H.I.P and the newest, stripped-down Raspberry Pi model have pluses and minuses, but to make either one actually useful takes some additional hardware; at their low prices, it's not surprising that neither one comes with so much as a case. The two make different trade-offs, despite being just a few dollars apart in ticket price. C.H.I.P. comes with built-in storage that rPi lacks, for instance, but the newest Pi, like its forebears, has built in HDMI output. Make's upshot? The cost of owning either a C.H.I.P. or a Pi is a bit more money than the retail cost of the boards. Peripherals such as a power cable, keyboard, mouse, and monitor are necessary to accomplish any computer task on either of the devices. But it turns out the $5 Raspberry Pi Zero costs significantly more to operate than the Next Thing Co. C.H.I.P.
United Kingdom

Celebrating ARM's 25th Anniversary With the Visual ARM1 ( 37

In a slow-burn series of posts going back to 2010, the has presented diagrams and commentary on "ancient microchips," mosly based on painstaking microphotography after just-as-painstaking depackaging and cleaning of the actual chips.Today, reader trebonian writes an excerpt from their latest entry, in honor of the 25th anniversary of ARM Ltd., UK, which is somewhat different: To celebrate and honor their amazing work, we present the Visual ARM1, created in collaboration with some of ARM's founding engineers.

Designed by Sophie Wilson and Steve Furber before there was an ARM Ltd., the Acorn RISC Machine was the first of a line of processors that power our cell phones and tablets today. Unlike our projects based on microscope images, the Visual ARM was created from a resurrected .cif chip layout file, used under our license agreement with ARM. We also photographed one of the few ARM1 chips at very high resolution, and our photograph is featured at the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge.

Credit goes to ARM founding engineers John Biggs for inspiring the project, discovering the tape, and recovering a usable .cif file, Lee Smith for spotting the variable record format used to encode the file (an artifact of the VMS on Acorn's VAX that at first appeared to be widespread corruption of the file), to Cambridge University Computing Services for reading the Exabyte tape, and to ARM founder Dave Howard for help unraveling the VLSI CIF dialect. Our chip simulation and visualization was developed by Barry Silverman, Brian Silverman, Ed Spittles, and Greg James.


Russians Build Nuclear-Powered Data Center ( 58

judgecorp writes: The government-owned Russian energy company Rosenergoatom is building Russia's largest data center at its giant Kalinin nuclear power station. Most of the space will be available to customers, and the facility expects to be in demand, thanks to two factors: reliable power, and the data residency rules which require Russian citizens' data to be located within Russia. Facebook and Google don't have data centers within Russia yet — and Rosenergoatom has already invited them into the Kalinin facility.
Hardware Hacking

Raspberry Pi Unveils New $5 Mini-computer 235

An anonymous reader writes: The Raspberry Pi Foundation unveiled the Pi Zero, a new $5 mini-computer, Thursday morning. The board is the smallest Raspberry Pi yet, containing the first-gen Raspberry Pi's BCM2835 chip (safely overclocked to 1GHz) and 512MB RAM. The latest issue of The Magpi will include a free Raspberry Pi Zero and hits U.K. newsstands Thursday. The announcement came just a few days before the highly anticipated C.H.I.P. $9 mini-computer goes on sale to the public. puddingebola writes: How can they achieve this price, you may ask? "Its 40-pin GPIO header has identical pinouts, although the pads on the circuit board are "unpopulated," meaning you'll have to solder on your own connector. The same goes for the composite video output: The connection is available, but if you need a socket, you must solder it yourself." Dude, go to Radio Shack. Some relevant specs besides those mentioned above, from the blog post linked:
  • Micro-SD card slot
  • mini-HDMI socket for 1080p60 video output
  • Micro-USB sockets for data and power
  • Identical pinout to Model A+/B+/2B
  • An unpopulated composite video header
  • "Our smallest ever form factor, at 65mm x 30mm x 5mm"

New submitter graffitiwriter adds a note that the newest Pi has "already been turned into a retro gaming console. It turns out the Pi Zero is more than capable of running Retro Pie and other emulators, and even has a video output that lets you play games on an old CRT TV."


Will You Be Able To Run a Modern Desktop Environment In 2016 Without Systemd? 754

New submitter yeupou writes: Early this year, David Edmundson from KDE, concluded that "In many cases [systemd] allows us to throw away large amounts of code whilst at the same time providing a better user experience. Adding it [systemd] as an optional extra defeats the main benefit". A perfectly sensible explanation. But, then, one might wonder to which point KDE would remain usable without systemd?

Recently, on one Devuan box, I noticed that KDE power management (Powerdevil) no longer supported suspend and hibernate. Since pm-utils was still there, for a while, I resorted to call pm-suspend directly, hoping it would get fixed at some point. But it did not. So I wrote a report myself. I was not expecting much. But neither was I expecting it to be immediately marked as RESOLVED and DOWNSTREAM, with a comment accusing the "Debian fork" I'm using to "ripe out" systemd without "coming with any of the supported solutions Plasma provides". I searched beforehand about the issue so I knew that the problem also occurred on some other Debian-based systems and that the bug seemed entirely tied to upower, an upstream software used by Powerdevil. So if anything, at least this bug should have been marked as UPSTREAM.

While no one dares (yet) to claim to write software only for systemd based operating system, it is obvious that it is now getting quite hard to get support otherwise. At the same time, bricks that worked for years without now just get ruined, since, as pointed out by Edmunson, adding systemd as "optional extra defeats its main benefit". So, is it likely that we'll still have in 2016 a modern desktop environment, without recent regressions, running without systemd?

The Quest For the Ultimate Vacuum Tube ( 108

An anonymous reader writes: IEEE Spectrum reports on progress in the development of vacuum tube technology, which remains surprisingly relevant in 2015. "In the six decades since vacuum tubes lost out to solid-state devices in computers, receivers, and power supplies, vacuum technology has continued to evolve and branch out into new terrain, sustaining a small but skilled corps of engineers and scientists around the world, as well as a multibillion-dollar industry. That's because the traveling-wave tube and other vacuum devices continue to serve one purpose extremely well: as powerful sources of microwave, millimeter-wave, and submillimeter-wave radiation. And now, ongoing research into a new and potentially revolutionary kind of traveling-wave tube—the ultracompact and ultraefficient cold-cathode TWT—looks poised to deliver the first practical device by the end of this decade."

Green Light Or No, Nest Cam Never Stops Watching ( 199

chicksdaddy writes: How do you know when the Nest Cam monitoring your house is "on" or "off"? It's simple: just look at the little power indicator light on the front of the device — and totally disregard what it is telling you. The truth is: the Nest Cam is never "off" despite an effort by Nest and its parent Google to make it appear otherwise. That, according to an analysis of the Nest Cam by the firm ABI Research, which found that turning the Nest Cam "off" using the associated mobile application only turns off the LED power indicator light on the front of the device. Under the hood, the camera continues to operate and, according to ABI researcher Jim Mielke, to monitor its surroundings: noting movement, sound and other activity when users are led to believe it has powered down.

Mielke reached that conclusion after analyzing Nest Cam's power consumption. Typically a shutdown or standby mode would reduce current by as much as 10 to 100 times, Mielke said. But the Google Nest Cam's power consumption was almost identical in "shutdown" mode and when fully operational, dropping from 370 milliamps (mA) to around 340mA. The slight reduction in power consumption for the Nest Cam when it was turned "off" correlates with the disabling of the LED power light, given that LEDs typically draw 10-20mA.

In a statement to The Security Ledger, Nest Labs spokesperson Zoz Cuccias acknowledged that the Nest Cam does not fully power down when the camera is turned off from the user interface (UI). "When Nest Cam is turned off from the user interface (UI), it does not fully power down, as we expect the camera to be turned on again at any point in time," Cuccias wrote in an e-mail. "With that said, when Nest Cam is turned off, it completely stops transmitting video to the cloud, meaning it no longer observes its surroundings." The privacy and security implications are serious. "This means that even when a consumer thinks that he or she is successfully turning off this camera, the device is still running, which could potentially unleash a tidal wave of privacy concerns," Mielke wrote.

The Internet

One Family Suffering Through Years-Long Trolling Campaign ( 256

blottsie writes: Since 2010, the Straters have been under assault from an online campaign of ever-increasing harassment — prank deliveries, smear attacks, high-profile hacks, and threats of violence against schools and law enforcement officials in their name — and it's slowly torn them apart. Masterminding it all is a teenage Lizard Squad hacker from Finland, at war with their son, Blair, over a seemingly minor dispute. "When the family started getting notices about their utilities being disconnected, they realized things were escalating out of control. Utility provider Commonwealth Edison once called the house to iron out the details about a request to have the power turned off after a supposed move. Something similar happened with their trash service. On Halloween 2013, Comcast shut off their cable and Internet service."

Blue Origin "New Shepherd" Makes It To Space... and Back Again ( 121

Geoffrey.landis writes: Blue Origin's "New Shepherd" suborbital vehicle made its first flight into space (defined as 100 km altitude)... and successfully landed both the capsule (by parachute) and the booster rocket (vertical landing under rocket power). This is the first time that a vehicle has made it into space and had all components fully recovered for reuse since the NASA flights of the X-15 in the 1960s. Check out the videos at various places on the web.

Sabotage Blacks Out Millions In Crimea 156 writes: In a preview of what the U.S. may one day face with cyberattacks on the U.S. power grid, Ivan Nechepurenko reports at the NY Times that power lines in southern Ukraine that supply Crimea have been knocked down by saboteurs, leaving millions without electricity. Four local power plants, including two nuclear ones, scaled back production because they had no means to distribute electricity. More than 1.6 million people still lacked power on Monday morning, Russia's Energy Ministry said in a statement. Local power plants in Crimea, as well as backup generators, were being used to provide power to hospitals, schools and other vital facilities. The Crimean authorities declared Monday a day off for non-government workers and declared a state of emergency, which can last as long as one month.

It was not immediately clear who destroyed the main electric pylons on Friday and Sunday, but the blasted-away stump of at least one tower near the demonstrators was wrapped in the distinctive blue Crimean Tatar flag with a yellow trident in the upper left-hand corner. Tatar activists blockaded the site, saying they would prevent repairs until Russia released political prisoners and allowed international organizations to monitor human rights in Crimea. The activists claim that the 300,000-member minority has faced systematic repression since Russia annexed the peninsula in March 2014. In the meantime Russia is building an "energy bridge" to Crimea that officials hope will supply most of the peninsula's need and its first phase will begin operating by the end of this year.

Defending the power grid in the United States is challenging from an organizational point of view. There are about 3,200 utilities, all of which operate a portion of the electricity grid, but most of these individual networks are interconnected. The latest version of The Department of Defense's Cyber Strategy has as its third strategic goal, "Be prepared to defend the U.S. homeland and U.S. vital interests from disruptive or destructive cyberattacks of significant consequence."

New Spectroscope Perfect For Asteroid Mining, Planetary Research ( 56

Science_afficionado writes: Scientists at Fisk and Vanderbilt Universities are developing a new generation of gamma-ray spectroscope that is light weight, compact and don't require much power but have the capability for detecting veins of gold, platinum, rare earths and other valuable materials hidden within asteroids, comets, moons and other airless objects floating about the solar system. "A gamma-ray spectroscope records the intensity and wavelengths of the gamma rays coming from a surface. This spectrum can be analyzed to determine the concentration of a number of important, rock-forming elements ... The key to the new instrument is a recently discovered material, europium-doped strontium iodide (SrI2). This is a transparent crystal that can act as an extremely efficient gamma-ray detector. It registers the passage of gamma rays by giving off flashes of light that can be detected and recorded."

French ITER Fusion Project To Take At Least 6 Years Longer Than Planned ( 193

sciencehabit writes: The multibillion dollar ITER fusion project under construction in France will take at least an additional 6 years to complete, compared with the current schedule, a meeting of the governing council was told this week. ITER management has also asked the seven international partners which are backing the project for additional funding to finish the job. Under recent estimates, ITER was expected to cost some $13 billion and not begin operations until 2019. The new start date would be 2025.
The Military

ISIS's Hunt For a Bogus Superweapon 330

schnell writes: The New York Times Magazine has a fascinating story about ISIS efforts to get their hands on a mysterious and powerful superweapon called Red Mercury. The problem is that by consensus among scientific authorities, Red Mercury doesn't exist. And yet that hasn't stopped the legend of Red Mercury, touted by sources from Nazi conspiracy theorists to former Manhattan Project scientists, as having magical properties. Middle East weapons traders have even spun elaborate stories for its properties (ranging from thermonuclear explosive properties to sexual enhancement) and origins and sources (from Soviet weapons labs to Roman graveyards). What can account for the enduring myth of Red Mercury — is it rampant scientific illiteracy, the power of urban legend and shared myth, or something else?

AMD Launches Radeon R9 380X, Fastest GPU Under $250 ( 110

MojoKid writes: Although AMD's mid-range GPU line-up has been relatively strong for a while now, the company is launching the new Radeon R9 380X today with the goal of taking down competing graphics cards like NVIDIA's popular GeForce GTX 960. The Radeon R9 380X has a fully-functional AMD Tonga GPU with all 32 compute units / 2048 shader processors enabled. AMD's reference specifications call for 970MHz+ engine clock with 4GB of 1425MHz GDDR5 memory (5.7 Gbps effective). Typical board power is 190W and cards require a pair of supplemental 6-pin power feeds. The vast majority of the Radeon R9 380X cards that will hit the market, however, will likely be custom models that are factory overlcocked and look nothing like AMD's reference design. The Radeon R9 380X, or more specifically the factory overclocked Sapphire Nitro R9 380X tested, performed significantly better than AMD's Radeon R9 285 or NVIDIA's GeForce GTX 960 across the board. The 380X, however, could not catch more powerful and more expensive cards like the GeForce GTX 970. Regardless, the Radeon R9 380X is easily the fastest graphics card on the market right now, under $250.
United Kingdom

UK's Coal Plants To Be Phased Out Within 10 Years ( 109

AmiMoJo writes: The UK's remaining coal-fired power stations will be shut by 2025, Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has announced. They will mostly be replaced with gas. Currently, coal provides 28% of the UK's electricity. Japanese/European nuclear plants built in the UK are also expected to contribute. The big question is how to ensure gas plants are built to replace it. Only one large plant is under construction today. Another, which secured a subsidy last year, is struggling to find investors. The government cut renewable energy subsidies earlier this year, which led to questions about the government's commitment to tackle climate change.

Drone Makers Add Geofencing To Keep Drones Out of Restricted Airspace ( 91

An anonymous reader writes: Two of the biggest drone manufacturers, DJI and 3D Robotics, are adding geofencing systems to their products to keep them out of restricted airspace. DJI's Geospatial Environment Online will be available on current versions of the Phantom, Inspire and Matrice drones, providing updated data on restricted flight zones due to regulation or safety concerns, including forest fires, major stadium events, VIP travel and other circumstances. GEO will also include restrictions around areas such as prisons, power plants and more. GEO, by default, will not allow DJI drones to fly in restricted areas. However, DJI is allowing its users to "temporarily unlock or self-authorize" flights in some locations. 3D Robotics will add the safety information software to its Solo smart drone app, containing basic information about federal guidelines (stay five miles from an airport, for example), national parks, airbases and more.

Daimler Builds Massive Industrial Energy Storage Systems From Used EV Batteries ( 73

Lucas123 writes: German carmaker Daimler AG is building large battery storage systems for industrial use from the used lithium-ion batteries of its all-electric and hybrid vehicles. The first of Daimler's "2nd use battery storage units" will consist of 1,000 smart electric drive vehicle batteries and have a 13MWh of capacity. It is expected to be connected to the electrical grid in Lünen, Germany early next year. All of Daimler's battery storage units are currently planned to be greater than a megawatt in capacity, meaning they'll only be for commercial, not residential use, but the company said it does expect those batteries to be cost competitive with the ones Tesla announced earlier this year.