Science

Physicists Have Created the Brightest Light Ever Recorded (vice.com) 92

Jason Koebler writes: A group of physicists at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Extreme Light Laboratory announced Monday that they have created the brightest light ever produced on Earth using Diocles, one of the most powerful lasers in the United States. When this high intensity laser pulse, which is one billion times brighter than the surface of the sun, strikes the electron, it causes it to behave differently. By firing this laser at individual electrons, the researchers found that past a certain threshold, the brightness of light will actually change an object's appearance rather than simply making it brighter. The x-rays that are produced in this fashion have an extremely high amount of energy, and Umstadter and his colleagues think this could end up being applied in a number of ways. For starters, it could allow doctors to produce x-ray medical images on the nanoscale, which would allow them to detect tumors and other anomalies that regular x-rays might have missed. Moreover, it could also be used for more sophisticated x-ray scanning at airports and other security checkpoints.
Space

ESA Approves Gravitational-Wave Hunting Spacecraft For 2034 (newscientist.com) 49

The European Space Agency has approved the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna mission designed to study gravitational waves in space. The spacecraft is slated for launch in in 2034. New Scientist reports: LISA will be made up of three identical satellites orbiting the sun in a triangle formation, each 2.5 million kilometers from the next. The sides of the triangle will be powerful lasers bounced to and fro between the spacecraft. As large objects like black holes move through space they cause gravitational waves, ripples which stretch and squeeze space-time. The LISA satellites will detect how these waves warp space via tiny changes in the distance the laser beams travel. In order to detect these minuscule changes, on scales less than a trillionth of a meter, LISA will have to shrug off cosmic rays and the particles and light from the sun. The LISA Pathfinder mission, a solo probe launched in December 2015, proved that this sensitivity was possible and galvanized researchers working to realize the full LISA mission.
Space

NASA Finds Evidence Of 10 New Earth-sized Planets (usatoday.com) 63

NASA said Monday it has found new evidence of 219 planets outside our Solar System. Ten of those exoplanets appear to be similar to the size of the Earth and orbit their stars in the habitable zone. From a report: The new planets' existence must still be double-checked. But Kepler's latest haul -- which includes a planet that is only slightly larger than Earth and receives the same amount of energy from its sun as Earth -- is the latest triumph for Kepler, which has spotted roughly 80 percent of the planets orbiting stars other than our sun. Because of their potential for hosting life, the 10 Earth-size planets are the most glamorous of the newly announced planets from Kepler. But those 10 were joined by an additional 209 more garden-variety planets that are unlikely to be hospitable to life because they are too gassy, too hot, too cold or otherwise unlike the only known planet to host life: Earth.
China

Chinese Satellite Breaks Distance Record For Quantum-Key Exchange (sciencemag.org) 42

slew writes: Science Magazine reports a team of physicists using the Chinese Micius satellite (launched back in August 2016) have sent quantum-entangled photons from a satellite to ground stations separated by 1200 kilometers, smashing the previous world record. Sending entangled photons through space instead of optical fiber networks with repeaters has long been the dream of those promoting quantum-key exchange for modern cryptography. Don't hold your breath yet, as this is only an experiment. They were only able to recover about 1000 photons out of about 6 billion sent and the two receiving stations were on Tibetan mountains to reduce the amount of air that needed to be traversed. Also the experiment was done at night to minimize interference from the sun. Still, baby steps... Next steps for the program: a bigger satellite for more power and moving to quantum teleportation instead of simple key exchange. The results of the experiment were published in the journal Science.
Space

New Evidence That All Stars Are Born In Pairs (phys.org) 90

InfiniteZero shares a report from Phys.Org: Did our sun have a twin when it was born 4.5 billion years ago? Almost certainly yes -- though not an identical twin. And so did every other sun-like star in the universe, according to a new analysis by a theoretical physicist from UC Berkeley and a radio astronomer from the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory at Harvard University. The new assertion is based on a radio survey of a giant molecular cloud filled with recently formed stars in the constellation Perseus, and a mathematical model that can explain the Perseus observations only if all sunlike stars are born with a companion. "We ran a series of statistical models to see if we could account for the relative populations of young single stars and binaries of all separations in the Perseus molecular cloud, and the only model that could reproduce the data was one in which all stars form initially as wide (more than 500 astronomical units) binaries," said co-author Steven Stahler, a UC Berkeley research astronomer. "These systems then either shrink or break apart within a million years." The study has been published in April on the arXiv server.
Facebook

Facebook Wants To Spy On People Using Their Phone's Camera and Analyze Facial Emotions (thesun.co.uk) 104

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Sun: The social network applied for a patent to capture pictures of a user through their smartphone. The creepy designs, which date back to 2015, were discovered by software company CBI Insight, which has been analyzing Mark Zuckerberg's "emotion technology." Patent documents contain illustrations showing a person holding a smartphone with a camera taking a picture from which "emotion characteristics" like smiling or frowning are detected. If the person appears to like what they're seeing, Facebook could place more of the same type of content in front of them. Patents don't always make it through to the end product, so it's not clear whether Facebook will bring out this new feature. Researchers at CBI Insights warned that the plans could put a lot of people off using the service. Facebook appears to have tested out similar technology to work out which emoji to send to people using a selfie.
Space

Astronomers Discover Alien World Hotter Than Most Stars (vanderbilt.edu) 59

Science_afficionado writes: An international team of astronomers has discovered a planet like Jupiter zipping around its host star every day and a half, boiling at temperatures hotter than most stars and sporting a giant, glowing gas tail like a comet. From a report via Vanderbilt University: "With a day-side temperature peaking at 4,600 Kelvin (more than 7,800 degrees Fahrenheit), the newly discovered exoplanet, designated KELT-9b, is hotter than most stars and only 1,200 Kelvin (about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit) cooler than our own sun. In fact, the ultraviolet radiation from the star it orbits is so brutal that the planet may be literally evaporating away under the intense glare, producing a glowing gas tail. The super-heated planet has other unusual features as well. For instance, it's a gas giant 2.8 times more massive than Jupiter but only half as dense, because the extreme radiation from its host star has caused its atmosphere to puff up like a balloon. Because it is tidally locked to its star -- as the moon is to Earth -- the day side of the planet is perpetually bombarded by stellar radiation and, as a result, it is so hot that molecules such as water, carbon dioxide and methane can't form there." The findings have been published in the journal Nature.
Space

Third Gravitational Wave Detected From Black-Hole Merger 3 Billion Light Years Away (bbc.com) 83

sycodon quotes a report from The New York Times (Warning: may be paywalled; alternate source): Astronomers said Thursday that they had felt space-time vibrations known as gravitational waves from the merger of a pair of mammoth black holes resulting in a pit of infinitely deep darkness weighing as much as 49 suns, some 3 billion light-years from here. This is the third black-hole smashup that astronomers have detected since they started keeping watch on the cosmos back in September 2015, with LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory. All of them are more massive than the black holes that astronomers had previously identified as the remnants of dead stars. The latest detection was made at 10:11 GMT on January 4, and is described in a paper accepted for publication in the journal Physical Review Letters. "The analysis suggests the two black holes that coalesced had starting masses that were just over 31 times and 19 times that of our Sun," reports BBC. "And when they finally came together, they produced a single object of a little under 49 solar masses. It means the unison radiated a simply colossal quantity of pure energy."
NASA

A NASA Spacecraft Will Head Straight For the Sun -- Farther Than Any Probe Before It (abc.net.au) 78

A US spacecraft will swoop inside the Sun's corona, its superheated outer atmosphere, on a pathfinding mission to learn more about how stars work. Nasa's $1.5bn Parker Solar Probe, which will be protected by a shield that can withstand temperatures of 1,400C, will journey within 6m km of the Sun's surface, seven times closer than any previous spacecraft. From a report: Set to kick off next July, the plan is to plunge the Parker Solar Probe into the Sun's corona -- the hazy bit you can see around the edges of the Sun during a total solar eclipse -- to study this phenomenon. The car-sized spacecraft will get closer to the Sun than any other mission ever has. Travelling at the dizzying speed of more than 720,000 kilometres per hour, the probe will eventually come within less than 6.4 million kilometres of the Sun's surface. We've been studying the Sun for thousands of years, and even though we now have remote sensing observatories and spacecraft that examine it in spectacular detail, many questions still remain. The two big ones are: 1. Why is the corona on the outside of the Sun at least 300 times hotter than the surface? 2. Why does the solar wind speed up?
PlayStation (Games)

Sony Ships Its Last Ever PlayStation 3 In Japan (engadget.com) 64

After 11 years, Sony has stopped shipping the PlayStation 3 to retailers in Japan. The country stopped production on the 500GB model in December last year, but now a recent update on PlayStation Japan's website suggests that the other lingering units have all been shipped as well. It's only a matter of time before the console stops being produced altogether in other parts of the world. Engadget reports: Selling over 70 million units in just seven years, the PlayStation 3 was certainly a console to be reckoned with. Yet, for all its achievements, the long-surviving gaming machine initially made a name for itself for all the wrong reasons. With Sony riding high on the PlayStation 2's market-leading sales numbers, its successor launched at the eye-watering price of $499 -- and consumers weren't too happy about it. Luckily for Sony, publishers stuck with the pricey console, and exclusive games like Uncharted, Heavy Rain, The Last Of Us and Metal Gear Solid 4 helped to right the course of Sony's initially water-riddled ship. With the sun-setting on the aging console in the East, the news doesn't bode well for the future of the PlayStation 3 across the rest of the world. Sony has previously announced that PS Now will soon move exclusively to PS4 and PC. While few players will be mourning the loss of the pricey service, there are many PS3 owners still benefitting from free games on PlayStation Plus and downloading new content from the PS Store. As Sony slowly begins to start winding the console down, it's unlikely that gamers will be able to continue to use these services for much longer on the aging gaming system.
Cloud

Is Amazon's AWS Hiring 'Demolishing The Cult Of Youth'? (redmonk.com) 173

Tech analyst James Governor argues that Amazon's cloud business is "demolishing the cult of youth." It just announced it is hiring James Gosling, one of the original inventors of Java... Meanwhile James Hamilton continues to completely kick ass in compute, network, and data center design for AWS... He's in his 50s. Tim Bray, one of the inventors of XML, joined Amazon in 2014. He's another Sun alumni. He's 61 now. He still codes. When you sit down with one of the AWS engineering teams you're sitting down with grownups... Adrian Cockcroft joined AWS in October 2016. He graduated in 1982, not 2002. He is VP Cloud Architecture Strategy at AWS, a perfect role for someone that helped drive Netflix's transition from on-prem Java hairball to serious cloud leadership.

Great engineering is not maths -- it involves tradeoffs, wisdom and experience... The company puts such a premium on independent groups working fast and making their own decisions it requires a particular skillset, which generally involves a great deal of field experience. A related trend is hiring seasoned marketing talent from the likes of IBM. Some other older companies have older distinguished engineers because they grew up with the company. AWS is explicitly bringing that experience in. It's refreshing to the see a different perspective on value.

In a later post the analyst acknowledges engineering managers are generally older than their reports, but adds that "If AWS sees value in hiring engineering leadership from folks that are frankly a bit older than the norm in the industry, isn't that worth shining a light on?" In response to the article, XML inventor Tim Bray suggested a new acronym: GaaS. "Geezers as a service," while Amazon CTO Werner Vogels tweeted "There is no compression algorithm for experience."
Power

New Solar Plane Plans Non-Stop Flight Around The World (bloomberg.com) 35

An anonymous reader quotes Bloomberg: [A] Russian tycoon and his Renova Group plan a record-breaking effort to send a plane around the world nonstop using only the power of the sun. If all goes well, a single pilot will fly for five days straight at altitudes of up to 10 miles, about a third higher than commercial airliners. The project isn't just a stunt. The glider-style airplane with a 36-meter (120-foot) wingspan will be a test of technologies that are set to be used to build new generations of autonomous craft for the military and business, say aerospace experts. They will fly continuously, have far greater reach and control than satellites and expand broadcast, communication and spying capabilities around the globe... "Our flight should prove that it's possible to make long-distance flights using solar energy," said Mikhail Lifshitz, Renova's director of high-tech asset development and a qualified pilot-instructor. A "flying laboratory" test-plane will be ready by year-end, Lifshitz said in an interview.
The plane will conserve power by slowly gliding down from the high altitudes at night -- without ever touching the ground. In comparison a solar plane (partially funded by Google) already circled the earth last year -- but it took 22 days, and made 17 different stops.
NASA

NASA To Make Announcement About First Mission To Touch Sun (nasa.gov) 85

NASA published the following media advisory moments ago: NASA will make an announcement about the agency's first mission to fly directly into our sun's atmosphere during an event at 11 a.m. EDT Wednesday, May 31, from the University of Chicago's William Eckhardt Research Center Auditorium. The event will air live on NASA Television and the agency's website. The mission, Solar Probe Plus, is scheduled to launch in the summer of 2018. Placed in orbit within four million miles of the sun's surface, and facing heat and radiation unlike any spacecraft in history, the spacecraft will explore the sun's outer atmosphere and make critical observations that will answer decades-old questions about the physics of how stars work. The resulting data will improve forecasts of major space weather events that impact life on Earth, as well as satellites and astronauts in space.
The Internet

Manchester Attack Could Lead To Internet Crackdown (independent.co.uk) 384

New submitter boundary writes: The UK government looks to be about to put the most egregious parts of the Investigative Powers Act into force "soon after the election" (which is in a couple of weeks) in the wake of the recent bombing in Manchester. "Technical Capability Orders" require tech companies to break their own security. I wonder who'll comply? The Independent reports: "Government will ask parliament to allow the use of those powers if Theresa May is re-elected, senior ministers told The Sun. 'We will do this as soon as we can after the election, as long as we get back in,' The Sun said it was told by a government minister. 'The level of threat clearly proves there is no more time to waste now. The social media companies have been laughing in our faces for too long.'"
Software

DJI Threatens To 'Brick' Its Copters Unless Owners Agree To Share Their Details (thesun.co.uk) 192

schwit1 quotes a report from The Sun: A top drone manufacturer has warned that customers' expensive gadgets will be crippled if they don't register their details on its website. DJI drones -- which cost between $1,200 and $3,000 -- won't be able to fly to their full potential or beam back footage if their owners don't sign up next week, the company warned. Those who splashed out for the snazzy gadgets will find they are limited to a teensy 50m radius and it won't be flying higher than 30m if they don't play ball. The company said on its website: "DJI will soon introduce a new application activation process for international customers. This new step, to take effect at the end of next week, ensures you will use the correct set of geospatial information and flight functions for your aircraft, as determined by your geographical location and user profile. All existing flight safety limitations, such as geofencing boundaries and altitude limits, remain the same. Even if you have registered when activating your aircraft upon purchase, you will have to log in once when you update the new version of DJI GO or GO 4 App."
Programming

Java Creator James Gosling Joins Amazon Web Services (geekwire.com) 90

The legendary computer scientist and founder of Java, James Gosling, is joining forces with Amazon Web Services. Gosling made the announcement today on Facebook saying that he's "starting a new Adventure" with the cloud computing juggernaut as a Distinguished Engineer. GeekWire reports: Gosling wrote Java, one of the most widely used programming languages in the history of computing, while at Sun Microsystems in the early 1990s. After leaving Sun following its acquisition by Oracle, Gosling did a short stint at Google before settling in for almost six years at Liquid Robotics, which is working on an autonomous boat called the Wave Glider. He likely ruffled a few feathers in Seattle last year after speaking out about fears of cloud vendor lock-in. "You get cloud providers like Amazon saying: 'Take your applications and move them to the cloud.' But as soon as you start using them you're stuck in that particular cloud," he said at IP Expo according to The Inquirer, echoing the sentiment of some skeptical IT organizations burned by enterprise vendors in the past.
Security

UK Tabloids Doxxed the 'Hero' Hacker Who Stopped a Global Cyberattack (theoutline.com) 164

The UK-based security researcher, who "accidentally" halted the spread of the ransomware Wanna Decryptor over the weekend, has been doxxed by UK tabloids. From a report: [...] Journalists have published his name against his will, bringing him unwanted attention and sending a signal to privacy-sensitive researchers that no good deed goes unpunished. The researcher, writing under the username MalwareTechBlog, published a blog post on his personal site with findings about the virus, explaining how it was stopped and what would have to be done to prevent it from coming back. News outlets, including the Daily Mail, The Guardian, and CNN called the anonymous researcher a hero. The researcher was initially responsive to press inquiries. He told reporters that he was 22, lived in the south of England with his parents, and worked for an L.A. security firm. However, he told The Guardian that he wanted to remain anonymous "because it just doesn't make sense to give out my personal information, obviously we're working against bad guys and they're not going to be happy about this." It took about a day for UK papers, including The Mail, The Sun, The Telegraph, and The Mirror, to suss out the researcher's name and publish photos of him, show up at his house, and track down his friends and associates for interviews. "It's caused a fair bit of stress," he told Forbes. "I don't want fame."
Social Networks

Social Media Giants Sued For Helping ISIS (torontosun.com) 135

Long-time Slashdot reader nnet quotes the Toronto Sun: Social media giants Twitter, Google and Facebook are being sued by the families of victims of the San Bernardino terror attacks. The lawsuit claims those companies aided ISIS by letting them build their online profile and bolster recruitment. Fourteen people were killed in the December 2015 attacks by twisted husband-wife Islamist extremists Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik. "Without defendants Twitter, Facebook and Google (YouTube), the explosive growth of IS over the last few years into the most feared terrorist group in the world would not have been possible," the suit, filed Wednesday in Los Angeles, alleges.
Power

UK's Newest Tokamak Fusion Reactor Has Created Its First Plasma (futurism.com) 308

After being switched on for the first time last Friday, the UK's newest fusion reactor has successfully generated a molten mass of electrically-charged gas, or plasma, inside its core. Futurism reports: Called the ST40, the reactor was constructed by Tokamak Energy, one of the leading private fusion energy companies in the world. The company was founded in 2009 with the express purpose of designing and developing small fusion reactors to introduce fusion power into the grid by 2030. Now that the ST40 is running, the company will commission and install the complete set of magnetic coils needed to reach fusion temperatures. The ST40 should be creating a plasma temperature as hot as the center of the Sun -- 15 million degrees Celsius (27 million degrees Fahrenheit) -- by Autumn 2017. By 2018, the ST40 will produce plasma temperatures of 100 million degrees Celsius (180 million degrees Fahrenheit), another record-breaker for a privately owned and funded fusion reactor. That temperature threshold is important, as it is the minimum temperature for inducing the controlled fusion reaction. Assuming the ST40 succeeds, it will prove that its novel design can produce commercially viable fusion power.
Earth

Large Near-Earth Astroid Will Fly Past Earth On April 19 (phys.org) 44

William Robinson quotes a report from Phys.Org: A relatively large (650 meters) near-Earth asteroid discovered nearly three years ago will fly safely past Earth on April 19 at a distance of about 1.1 million miles (1.8 million kilometers), or about 4.6 times the distance from Earth to the moon. The asteroid will approach Earth from the direction of the sun and will become visible in the night sky after April 19. It is predicted to brighten to about magnitude 11, when it could be visible in small optical telescopes for one or two nights. For comparison, Chelyabinsk meteor was 20m. Small asteroids pass within this distance of Earth several times each week, but this upcoming close approach is the closest by any known asteroid of this size, or larger, since asteroid Toutatis , a 3.1-mile (five-kilometer) asteroid, which approached within about four lunar distances in September 2004. The April 19 encounter provides an outstanding opportunity to study this asteroid, and astronomers plan to observe it with telescopes around the world to learn as much about it as possible.

Slashdot Top Deals