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Scientists Explore Paths to Better Batteries

Soylent New - 53 min 51 sec ago

Battery technology advances seem to come every other month, all of them seem to be the proverbial 5 years away. But by and large, these developments are simply nibbling around the edges of current battery technology, making minor improvements.

ArsTechnica reports that at the recent meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, scientists explain that what is needed to make battery technology suitable for use in motor vehicles and grid storage is to triple capacity, AND cut price by nearly 70%. This would require raising the energy density of batteries from its present 200 W-hr/kg to about 600 W-hr/kg.

The way forward is to step out side the familiar battery chemistry we've been working with.

Electrodes play a key role in batteries in that they're where charge carriers—lithium in today's batteries—are held. Their ability to store lithium therefore becomes a key determinant of the storage density of a battery. Right now, carbon electrodes require six atoms of carbon for each lithium atom stored. Elements further down that column in the periodic table, like silicon and germanium, however, have a more complicated electronic structure, which can interact with more lithium atoms. As a result, you can store 4.4 lithium atoms for each silicon atom—a significant boost in capacity.

The article goes on to explain the issues with silicon. Lithium atoms cause silicon to expand, damaging the battery. Using, amorphous silicon beads and a polymer they've achieved 360 W-hr/kg version working in the lab. Still far short of the goal.

Jumping beyond silicon, the scientists explored Lithium-sulfur batteries, which have a theoretical capacity of 2,500 W-hr/kg. This would be an ideal material for electrodes, because it is cheap and plentiful. The article explains the struggle to get sulfur to remain where its needed. It has a nasty habit of forming polysulfides that can leak away from the electrode and undergo reactions elsewhere in the battery. A couple of different approaches to solving the wandering sulfur problem appear to be promising, yielding batteries in the lab that exhibit charge-discharge cycle counts comparable with today's lithium technology.

Are they ready for market yet? Of course not. In fact the researchers aren't even sure these chemistries are the right approach. Costs of production may still be too high. But the results are good enough to demonstrate that the major jumps in battery energy density are possible, and we may be able to blow right by the the goal of tripling energy density.

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How Do You Handle the Discovery of a Web Site Disclosing Private Data?

/. - 2 hours 6 min ago
An anonymous reader writes I recently discovered that a partner web site of a financial institution I do business with makes it trivially easy to view documents that do not belong to me. As in, change the document ID in a URL and view someone else's financial documents. This requires no authentication, only a document URL. (Think along the lines of an online rebate center where you upload documents including credit card statements.) I immediately called customer service and spoke with a perplexed agent who unsurprisingly didn't know what to do with my call. I asked to speak with a supervisor who took good notes and promised a follow-up internally. I asked for a return call but have not yet heard back. In the meantime, I still have private financial information I consider to be publicly available. I'm trying to be responsible and patient in my handling of this, but I am second guessing how to move forward if not quickly resolved. So, Slashdot, how would you handle this situation?

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Ikea Unveils Furniture That Charges Your Smartphone Wirelessly

/. - 3 hours 12 min ago
pbahra writes Swedish furniture maker Ikea unveiled a new range of furniture that it says can wirelessly charge some mobile devices. The Swedish furniture giant made the announcement on Sunday at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Ikea's introduction of wireless charging functionality on some of its new furniture heats up the battle for a global wireless charging standard, of which there are currently three, all struggling to become the global leader.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Ex-Employees Sue Microsoft in Whistleblower Case

Soylent New - 4 hours 51 sec ago

Two former high-level managers at Microsoft have sued the company, claiming their terminations were in retaliation for raising questions about a well-connected subordinate's expense reports. The subordinate, who is not named in the complaint, allegedly submitted expenses in excess of $22,000 while entertaining Microsoft business partners at South Korean "hostesses bars".

The complaint (embedded in the GeekWire story) provides details. Eric Engstrom and Ted Stockwell both worked for Microsoft throughout the 1990's (the complaint credits Engstrom as being one of the three inventors of the DirectX API), left the company in 1998 or 1999, and returned in 2008 to work in Microsoft's Online Services Division, which was headed by Qi Lu. Engstrom was hired to lead Bing Mobile Program Management; Engstrom hired Stockwell to run a new organization called Bing Mobile International.

Engstrom and Stockwell allegedly created the blueprint for the "Bing as a Platform" (BaaP) initiative within Microsoft in 2010. Shortly thereafter, the unnamed employee ("John Doe") was loaned to Stockwell's fledgling organization by Harry Shum, EVP of Technology and Research; Doe was known to have personal connections to an important Microsoft business partner in Korea. John Doe's expense reports from Korea were submitted to Stockwell for approval.

More down the page...

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Google Wants To Rank Websites Based On Facts Not Links

/. - 4 hours 17 min ago
wabrandsma writes about Google's new system for ranking the truthfulness of a webpage. "Google's search engine currently uses the number of incoming links to a web page as a proxy for quality, determining where it appears in search results. So pages that many other sites link to are ranked higher. This system has brought us the search engine as we know it today, but the downside is that websites full of misinformation can rise up the rankings, if enough people link to them. Google research team is adapting that model to measure the trustworthiness of a page, rather than its reputation across the web. Instead of counting incoming links, the system – which is not yet live – counts the number of incorrect facts within a page. 'A source that has few false facts is considered to be trustworthy,' says the team. The score they compute for each page is its Knowledge-Based Trust score. The software works by tapping into the Knowledge Vault, the vast store of facts that Google has pulled off the internet. Facts the web unanimously agrees on are considered a reasonable proxy for truth. Web pages that contain contradictory information are bumped down the rankings."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Samsung Officially Unpacks Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge At MWC

/. - 5 hours 22 min ago
MojoKid writes Today, at Mobile World Congress, Samsung took the veil off of its much-anticipated Galaxy S6, and also the Galaxy S6 edge. As has been heavily rumored, the S6 foregoes the plastic shell of its predecessor and integrates metal and glass instead, resulting in a far more premium feel, a thickness of 6.8mm, and a weight of 138g on the normal S6 and 132g on the edge. Samsung made it a point to mention that the metal it uses in the S6 is 50% stronger than other smartphones- a Apple bendgate jab, perhaps? Both the S6 and S6 edge share the same hardware, which includes a 5.1-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED display. That gives us a resolution of 2560x1440, and a high pixel density of 577 ppi. The new phones also include an octa-core processor (2.1GHz quad + 1.5GHz quad), 3GB of DDR4 memory, and LTE cat 6 (300/50Mbps) support. Also of note is the phone's rear 16 megapixel f/1.9 camera, which Samsung says will launch in less than a second (0.6 seconds, to be exact). The front camera is no slouch either, also boasting an aperture of f/1.9, and coming in at 5 megapixels. The company says that the phone can add 4 hours of battery-life after a mere 10 minutes of charging, and when compared to the iPhone, it charges up to full in half the time. The S6 also has built-in wireless charging as well.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Ultra-Low Power Radio Transceiver Enables Truly Wireless Earbuds

/. - 6 hours 3 min ago
First time accepted submitter irl_4795 writes At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona NXP Semiconductors will demonstrate Near Field Magnetic Induction technology in a truly wireless earbud including wireless audio streaming from ear to ear. From the article: "The wireless technology being used to enable truly wireless earbuds is based on Near Field Magnetic Induction (NFMI). NFMI features important properties such as ultra-low power consumption and the ability to create a very reliable network in and around the human body, with both high-quality audio and data streaming supported over small distances. An additional integration advantage is also that it requires few external components. NFMI is a short range technology and as such also creates a private network, making it is much less susceptible to interference than 2.4 GHz transceivers.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

20-Year-Old Military Weather Satellite Explodes In Orbit

/. - 6 hours 24 min ago
schwit1 writes A 20-year-old U.S. military weather satellite apparently exploded for no obvious reason. The incident has put several dozen pieces of space junk into orbit. From the article: "A 20-year-old military weather satellite apparently exploded in orbit Feb. 3 following what the U.S. Air Force described as a sudden temperature spike. The “catastrophic event” produced 43 pieces of space debris, according to Air Force Space Command, which disclosed the loss of the satellite Feb. 27 in response to questions from SpaceNews. The satellite, Defense Meteorological Satellite Program Flight 13, was the oldest continuously operational satellite in the DMSP weather constellation."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Ultra-Low Power Radio Transceiver Enables Truly Wireless Earbuds

/. - 6 hours 55 min ago
First time accepted submitter irl_4795 (4020741) writes At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona NXP Semiconductors will demonstrate Near Field Magnetic Induction technology in a truly wireless earbud including wireless audio streaming from ear to ear. From the article: "The wireless technology being used to enable truly wireless earbuds is based on Near Field Magnetic Induction (NFMI). NFMI features important properties such as ultra-low power consumption and the ability to create a very reliable network in and around the human body, with both high-quality audio and data streaming supported over small distances. An additional integration advantage is also that it requires few external components. NFMI is a short range technology and as such also creates a private network, making it is much less susceptible to interference than 2.4 GHz transceivers.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Ikea Integrating Wireless Charging into Furniture

Soylent New - 6 hours 58 min ago

Reported at Techradar is the news that swedish flat-pack furniture company Ikea will incorporate wireless charging into some new product ranges.

Starting April, Ikea will begin to roll out a new series of furniture including bedside tablets, desks and lamps that will double up as charging spots using the Qi standard.

The Qi Charging standard is a publicly available standard for charging via electromagnetic induction (up to 5W), and claims to be "the most widely deployed wireless power standard".

Additional coverage available at The Telegraph and International Business Times. A press release is also available at CNBC.

Read more of this story at SoylentNews.

Spacewalking Astronauts Finish Extensive, Tricky Cable Job

/. - 7 hours 57 min ago
An anonymous reader writes news about a three-day cable job completed outside the International Space Station. "Spacewalking astronauts successfully completed a three-day cable job outside the International Space Station on Sunday, routing several-hundred feet of power and data lines for new crew capsules commissioned by NASA. It was the third spacewalk in just over a week for Americans Terry Virts and Butch Wilmore, and the quickest succession of spacewalks since NASA's former shuttle days. The advance work was needed for the manned spacecraft under development by Boeing and SpaceX. A pair of docking ports will fly up later this year, followed by the capsules themselves, with astronauts aboard, in 2017."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Physicists May Be One Step Closer To Explaining High-Temp Superconductivity

/. - 9 hours 1 min ago
sciencehabit writes For years some physicists have been hoping to crack the mystery of high-temperature superconductivity—the ability of some complex materials to carry electricity without resistance at temperatures high above absolute zero—by simulating crystals with patterns of laser light and individual atoms. Now, a team has taken—almost—the next-to-last step in such 'optical lattice' simulation by reproducing the pattern of magnetism seen in high-temperature superconductors from which the resistance-free flow of electricity emerges.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Brush Up Your Markov Chains

Soylent New - 9 hours 16 min ago

[Submitted via IRC]

Many of you will know about Markov chains. Named after Andrey Markov, [they] are mathematical systems that hop from one "state" (a situation or set of values) to another. For example, if you made a Markov chain model of a baby's behavior, you might include "playing," "eating", "sleeping," and "crying" as states, which together with other behaviors could form a 'state space': a list of all possible states. In addition, on top of the state space, a Markov chain tells you the probability of hopping, or "transitioning," from one state to any other state---e.g., the chance that a baby currently playing will fall asleep in the next five minutes without crying first.

Victor Powell and Lewis Lehe have produced a 'visual explanation' of how to produce Markov chains showing how they are used in a variety of disciplines; they are useful to computer scientists and engineers and many others. As they point out:

In the hands of meteorologists, ecologists, computer scientists, financial engineers and other people who need to model big phenomena, Markov chains can get to be quite large and powerful.

If you've not seen Markov chains in use before, or perhaps your knowledge is just a little rusty, then take a look at the link and see it they can be of any use to you.

Read more of this story at SoylentNews.

Pharming Attack Targets Home Router DNS Settings

/. - 10 hours 3 min ago
msm1267 (2804139) writes Pharming attacks are generally network-based intrusions where the ultimate goal is to redirect a victim's web traffic to a hacker-controlled webserver, usually through a malicious modification of DNS settings. Some of these attacks, however, are starting to move to the web and have their beginnings with a spam or phishing email. Proofpoint reported on the latest iteration of this attack, based in Brazil. The campaign was carried out during a five-week period starting in December when Proofpoint spotted phishing messages, fewer than 100, sent to customers of one of the country's largest telecommunications companies.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Research Suggests That Saunas Help You Live Longer

/. - 11 hours 2 min ago
jones_supa writes A study of Finnish men suggests that frequent sauna baths may help you live longer. Previous research has suggested that saunas might improve blood vessel function and exercise capacity, or even lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension. The new study links long, hot sauna baths with more benefits, including fewer deaths from heart attacks, strokes, various heart-related conditions and other causes. The study tracked 2315 Finnish men for nearly 20 years on average. Most participants used saunas at least once weekly. Those who used them four to seven times weekly received the greatest benefits. The study published in JAMA Internal Medicine wraps up by saying that further studies are warranted to establish the potential mechanism that links sauna bathing and the aforementioned cardiovascular benefits.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

42 Artificial Intelligences Are Going Head To Head In "Civilization V"

/. - 12 hours 51 sec ago
rossgneumann writes The r/Civ subreddit is currently hosting a fascinating "Battle Royale" in the strategy game Civilization V, pitting 42 of the game's built-in, computer-controlled players against each other for world domination. The match is being played on the largest Earth-shaped map the game is capable of, with both civilizations that were included in the retail version of the game and custom, player-created civilizations that were modded into it after release.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Modern Communications Denied to Half of Arizona after Single Cable Maliciously Cut

Soylent New - 12 hours 24 min ago

Someone knocked out much of Arizona's Internet using detailed knowledge of the location of a single crtitical data line, some digging equipment, and a hacksaw. Freebeacon.com has the story:

Cellphone, Internet, and telephone services across half of Arizona went dark on Wednesday after vandals sliced a sensitive fiber optic cable

In addition to the question of "why?", this event also highlights the fragility of modern US infrastructure and the consequences of such fragility for both private individuals and government agencies alike.

Read more of this story at SoylentNews.

Craig Brittain (Revenge Porn King) Sues For Use of Image

/. - 12 hours 59 min ago
retroworks writes "Washington Post reporter Caitlin Dewey leads with, "Revenge-porn impresario Craig Brittain is learning the hard way that karma is a real witch." The report states that the Federal Trade Commission has settled a complaint against Brittain, whose defunct site, "Is Anybody Down" was accused of unfair business practices. From the article: "The site paid its bills by soliciting women's nude photos on Craigslist and/or from their exes, publishing the photos without the women's permission (and often with their names and phone numbers attached), and then charging fees of $200 to $500 to take the photos down." Brittain agreed to destroy the image and never operate a revenge porn site again. However, On Feb. 9, "Brittain filed a takedown request to Google, demanding that the search engine stop linking to nearly two dozen URLs — including a number of news articles, and files on the case from the FTC — because they used photos of him and information about him without his permission." Ars Technica explains. "In this instance, fair use and general First Amendment principles are on Google's and the media's side."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Xfce 4.12 Released

/. - 14 hours 51 sec ago
motang writes: After two years of hard work (and much to the dismay of naysayers who worried the project has been abandoned), the Xfce team has announced the release of Xfce 4.12. Highlights include improvements to the window switcher dialog, intelligent hiding of the panel, new wallpaper settings, better multi-monitor support, improved power settings, additions to the file manager, and a revamped task manager. Here is a quick tour, the full changelog, and the download page. I have been running it since Xubuntu 15.04 beta 1 was released two days ago. It is much improved over 4.10, and the new additions are great."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Ask Slashdot: How Does One Verify Hard Drive Firmware?

/. - 16 hours 50 min ago
An anonymous reader writes: In light of recent revelations from Kaspersky Labs about the Equation Group and persistent hard drive malware, I was curious about how easy it might be to verify my own system's drives to see if they were infected. I have no real reason to think they would be, but I was dismayed by the total lack of tools to independently verify such a thing. For instance, Seagate's firmware download pages provide files with no external hash, something Linux distributions do for all of their packages. Neither do they seem to provide a utility to read off the current firmware from a drive and verify its integrity. Are there any utilities to do such a thing? Why don't these companies provide verification software to users? Has anyone compiled and posted a public list of known-good firmware hashes for the major hard drive vendors and models? This seems to be a critical hole in PC security. I did contact Seagate support asking for hashes of their latest firmware; I got a response stating, "...If you download the firmware directly from our website there is no risk on the file be tampered with." (Their phrasing, not mine.) Methinks somebody hasn't been keeping up with world events lately.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.