First time accepted submitter Noctis-Kaban writes "Scientists in China have built and tested a radical new space drive. Although the thrust it produces may not be enough to lift your mobile phone, it looks like it could radically change the satellite industry. Satellites are just the start: with superconducting components, this technology could generate the thrust to drive everything from deep space probes to flying cars. And it all started with a British engineer whose invention was ignored and ridiculed in his home country."
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Zothecula writes "Use digital technology long enough and you start to become dependent upon it for such mundane tasks as spell checking. That means when you pick up a garden variety ballpoint pen you're back in dictionary and 'I before E except after C' territory. The creators of the Lernstiftdigital pen hope to bring handwriting into the 21st century by having the pen vibrate to indicate when the writer makes spelling and grammatical errors or exhibits poor penmanship."
sciencehabit writes "The ancestor of all placental mammals—the diverse lineage that includes almost all species of mammals living today, including humans—was a tiny, furry-tailed creature that evolved shortly after the dinosaurs disappeared, a new study suggests. The hypothetical creature, not found in the fossil record but inferred from it, probably was a tree-climbing, insect-eating mammal that weighed between 6 and 245 grams—somewhere between a small shrew and a mid-sized rat. It was furry, had a long tail, gave birth to a single young, and had a complex brain with a large lobe for interpreting smells and a corpus callosum, the bundle of nerve fibers that connects the left and right hemispheres of the brain. The period following the dinosaur die-offs could be considered a 'big bang' of mammalian diversification, with species representing as many as 10 major groups of placentals appearing within a 200,000-year interval."
astroengine writes "The Earth has one permanent moon — you know, 'The Moon' — but at any given time there are thought to be two temporary interlopers that were once asteroids, but get captured by our planet's gravity to become mini-moons for a few months or even years. They eventually get flung back out into interplanetary space. This ultimate 'catch and release' provides an interesting opportunity for any future asteroid mission. So now astronomers want to find them, possibly using the newly-minted Hubble-class spy telescopes donated to NASA by the National Reconnaissance Office."
First time accepted submitter Hamsterdan writes "If you're tired of finding that your stuff has been smashed during shipping after opening your package, this device is for you. 'Called DropTag, the gadget combines a battery, a low-energy Bluetooth transmitter, an accelerometer and a memory chip. Stuck on a parcel as it leaves an e-commerce warehouse, it logs any g-forces above a set risky shock level that it experiences. The idea is that when the courier puts it in your hands, you turn on Bluetooth on a smartphone running a DropTag app and scan it before you sign for it.'"
New submitter markfeffer, Senior Editor at Dice, writes "Red Hat's hired about 600 people in its last three fiscal quarters, and it's going to keep hiring – about 900 to 1,000 more this year. The company's primarily looking for software and technical support engineers, along with salespeople who can help strengthen its cloud-technology capabilities. They want people with strong technical skills, of course, but the company puts a premium on those who've taken the time to research its business and send in a resume that's custom-tailored to the job opening."
stox writes "For the 64 percent of Americans whose internet service provider imposes a broadband cap, and for those lucky enough to have a meter, I have some bad news. The president of the firm who audits many of the country's broadband meters says that he can't certify the measurements produced by five out of seven of his clients' meters because they don't count your bits correctly
First time accepted submitter Sagan's Pie writes "I'm starting to look for a laptop for college, and the only thing I seem to find are laptops or tablets that have Windows 8. I have used Windows 7 for a long time now, and would not have a problem giving it up, but not for Windows 8. After visiting many major online retail sites, I've found that finding either a Windows 7 laptop, or even a laptop without an operating system is nearly impossible. So where should I go if looking for laptops sans os, or at the very least sans Windows 8?"
astroengine writes "By focusing the Green Bank radio telescope on stars hosting (candidate) exoplanets identified by NASA's Kepler space telescope, it is hoped that one of those star systems may also play host to a sufficiently evolved alien race capable of transmitting radio signals into space. But in a study headed by ex-SETI chief Jill Tarter, the conclusion of this first attempt is blunt: 'No signals of extraterrestrial origin were found.' But this is the just first of the 'directed' SETI searches that has put some very important limits on the probability of finding sufficiently advanced alien civilizations in our galaxy."
clustro writes "Deloitte predicts that 8-character passwords will become insecure in 2013. Humans have trouble remembering passwords with more than seven characters, and it is difficult to enter long, complex passwords into mobile devices. Users have not adapted to increased computing power available to crackers, and continue to use bad practices such as using common and short passwords, and re-using passwords across multiple websites. A recent study showed that using the 10000 most common passwords would have cracked >98% of 6 million user accounts. All of these problems have the potential for a huge security hazard. Password vaults are likely to become more widely used out of necessity. Multifactor authentication strategies, such as phone texts, iris scans, and dongles are also likely to become more widespread, especially by banks."
First time accepted submitter LiteWait writes "My son is heading off to college next year and although he is bright kid with a great background in math and science, he has indicated that he'd like learn some introductory programming skills this summer. The courses at the local universities are pretty sparse and most of the CS101-type courses I've seen offered are too general to meet his needs. Even though he is a self-starter I think he would benefit from actual courses/code camps/etc rather than just slogging through online samples and tutorials. I'd like some advice on possible options for code camps, online courses, or developer training."
Michael Ross writes "Web designers, graphics artists, and others who create and edit digital images, have a number of commercial image-manipulation packages from which they can choose — such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Fireworks (originally developed by Macromedia). Yet there are also many alternatives in the open-source world, the most well-known being GNU Image Manipulation Program. GIMP is available for all major operating systems, and supports all commonly-used image formats. This powerful application is loaded with features, including plug-ins and scripting. Yet detractors criticize it as being complicated (as if Photoshop is intuitively obvious). Admittedly, anyone hoping to learn it could benefit from a comprehensive guide, such as The Book of GIMP." Keep reading for the rest of Michael's review.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Software developer Jeff Cogswell is back with an extensive under-the-hood breakdown of Facebook's Graph Search, trying to see if peoples' privacy concerns about the social network's search engine are entirely justified. His conclusion? 'Some of the news articles I've read talk about how Graph Search will start small and slowly grow as it accumulates more information. This is wrong—Graph Search has been accumulating information since the day Facebook opened and the first connections were made in the internal graph structure,' he writes. 'People were nervous about Google storing their history, but it pales in comparison to the information Facebook already has on you, me, and roughly a billion other people.' There's much more at the link, including a handy breakdown of graph theory."
One of the more interesting conversations Tim Lord had at CES this year was with Ubuntu Community Manager Jono Bacon, who was showing off the Ubuntu Phone that is supposed to be released later this year. According to the Ubuntu website, it "delivers a magical phone that is faster to run, faster to use and fits perfectly into the Ubuntu family." Big words, but if Ubuntu parent Canonical can live up to them, the mobile phone market may soon have an interesting new operating system competitor to shake things up.
Frequent contributor Bennett Haselton is still thinking about prediction markets, and giving away money. He writes: "In an article last December I described a problem with prediction markets, where even markets with cap on betting limits could be manipulated by a single trader willing to spend a lot of money to distort the marketplace odds. So I offered a $100 cash prize to be split between readers who collectively came up with the best solution to the problem. Here's an idea that I think would work." Read on for the rest.