astroengine writes "The site where NASA's Mars rover Curiosity landed last year contains at least one lake that would have been perfectly suited for colonies of simple, rock-eating microbes found in caves and hydrothermal vents on Earth. Analysis of mudstones in an area known as Yellowknife Bay, located inside the rover's Gale Crater landing site, show that fresh water pooled on the surface for tens of thousands — or even hundreds of thousands — of years. 'The results show that the lake was definitely a habitable environment,' Curiosity lead scientist John Grotzinger, with the California Institute of Technology, told Discovery News. The finding was announced at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco."
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SternisheFan writes "Monday's Google Doodle honors computing genius Grace Hopper (remembered as a great pioneer in computing, as well as in women's achievements in science and engineering), on what would have been her 107th birthday, doodling her right where she spent much of her time – at the helm of one of the world's first computers."
Zothecula writes "Industrial robots have proven useful in reducing production costs in large factories, with major enterprises enlisting their services to execute repetitive tasks. The Factory-in-a-Day project, which kicked off in October, aims to also make robotic technology beneficial to small and medium enterprises (SMEs), by developing adaptable robots that can be integrated with workplace systems within 24 hours."
An anonymous reader writes in with news that some NSA agents were trying to dig up info by joining the horde. "To the National Security Agency analyst writing a briefing to his superiors, the situation was clear: their current surveillance efforts were lacking something. The agency's impressive arsenal of cable taps and sophisticated hacking attacks was not enough. What it really needed was a horde of undercover Orcs. That vision of spycraft sparked a concerted drive by the NSA and its UK sister agency GCHQ to infiltrate the massive communities playing online games, according to secret documents disclosed by whistleblower Edward Snowden.....The agencies, the documents show, have built mass-collection capabilities against the Xbox Live console network, which has more than 48 million players. Real-life agents have been deployed into virtual realms, from those Orc hordes in World of Warcraft to the human avatars of Second Life. There were attempts, too, to recruit potential informants from the games' tech-friendly users."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Will Xbox One and PS4 emulators hit your favorite download Websites within the next few years? Emulators have long been popular among gamers looking to relive the classic titles they enjoyed in their youth. Instead of playing Super Mario Bros. on a Nintendo console, one can go through the legally questionable yet widespread route of downloading a copy of the game and loading it with PC software that emulates the Nintendo Entertainment System. Emulation is typically limited to older games, as developing an emulator is hard work and must usually be run on hardware that's more powerful than the original console. Consoles from the NES and Super NES era have working emulators, as do newer systems such as Nintendo 64, GameCube and Wii, and the first two PlayStations. While emulator development hit a dead end with the Xbox 360 and PS3, that may change with the Xbox One and PS4, which developers are already exploring as fertile ground for emulation. The Xbox 360 and PS4 feature x86 chips, for starters, and hardware-assisted virtualization can help solve some acceleration issues. But several significant obstacles stand in the way of developers already taking a crack at it, including console builders' absolute refusal to see emulation as even remotely legal."
mrspoonsi writes "BBC reports: Leading global technology firms have called for 'wide-scale changes' to US government surveillance. Eight firms, Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, AOL, Microsoft, LinkedIn, and Yahoo, have formed an alliance called Reform Government Surveillance group. The group has written a letter to the US President and Congress arguing that current surveillance practice 'undermines the freedom' of people. It comes after recent leaks detailed the extent of surveillance programs. 'We understand that governments have a duty to protect their citizens. But this summer's revelations highlighted the urgent need to reform government surveillance practices worldwide,' the group said in an open letter published on its website."
sfcrazy writes "A giant exoplanet that is in the most distant orbit ever seen around its host star, has been recently discovered. Dubbed HD 106906 b, the newly discovered planet is relatively young (13 million years old, compare this to our 4.5 billion years old Earth) and bigger than any other planet discovered till date. It is 11 times the size of Jupiter, and that's what makes it a most singular discovery."
angry tapir writes "In the race to deliver online shopping purchases faster, drones don't impress eBay's CEO. 'We're not focusing on long-term fantasies, we're focusing on things we can do today,' John Donahue said in an interview. He was reacting to an interview Jeff Bezos, CEO of e-commerce rival Amazon, gave last weekend in which he said Amazon is investigating the use of drones for package delivery."
An anonymous reader writes "Despite how much people might say they like creative thinking, they don't, at least according to studies. 'We think of creative people in a heroic manner, and we celebrate them, but the thing we celebrate is the after-effect,' says Barry Staw, a researcher at the University of California–Berkeley business school who specializes in creativity. 'As much as we celebrate independence in Western cultures, there is an awful lot of pressure to conform,' he says."
An anonymous reader writes "Scientists have discovered huge freshwater reserves beneath the seabed on continental shelves off the coast of Australia, North America, China and South Africa. 'The volume of this water resource is a hundred times greater than the amount we've extracted from the Earth's sub-surface in the past century since 1900. Fresh water on our planet is increasingly under stress and strain so the discovery of significant new stores off the coast is very exciting. It means that more options can be considered to help reduce the impact of droughts and continental water shortages' says Dr Vincent Post of the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training (NCGRT) and the School of the Environment at Flinders University."
An anonymous reader writes in with this link about the advances in China's lunar program. "A $30 million Google-backed competition to land a spacecraft on the moon may be about to be scooped. China's Chang'e 3 probe successfully put itself into lunar orbit on Friday in preparation for an attempted touchdown around Dec. 14. China won't be winning the prize money, which is reserved for privately funded, previously enrolled teams, not government agencies."
theodp writes "The weeklong Hour of Code kicks off tomorrow, with Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates doing their part to address a declared nationwide CS crisis by ostensibly teaching the nation's schoolchildren how to code. But a recent NY Times Op-Ed by economist Paul Collier criticizing Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC as self-serving advocacy (echoing earlier criticism) serves as a reminder that Zuckerberg and Gates' Code.org and Hour of Code involvement is the Yin to their H-1B visa lobbying Yang. The two efforts have been inextricably linked together for Congress, if not for the public. And while Zuckerberg argues it's 'the right thing to do', Collier argues that there are also downsides to the tech giants' plans to shift more bright, young, enterprising people from the poorest countries to the richest. 'An open door for the talented would help Facebook's bottom line,' Collier concludes, 'but not the bottom billion.'"
walterbyrd writes "A team of engineers at Microsoft Research have developed a high-tech bra that's intended to monitor women's stress levels and dissuade them from emotional over-eating. The undergarment has sensors that track the user's heart rate, respiration, skin conductance and movement — all of which can indicate the type of stressful emotions that lead to over-eating, according to Microsoft researchers. The data is sent to a smartphone app, which then alerts users about their mood."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Ellen Nakashima reports at the Washington Post that morale has taken a hit at the National Security Agency in the wake of controversy over the agency's surveillance activities and officials are dismayed that President Obama has not visited the agency to show his support. 'It is not clear whether or when Obama might travel the 23 miles up the Baltimore-Washington Parkway to visit Fort Meade, the NSA's headquarters in Maryland,' writes Nakashima, 'but agency employees are privately voicing frustration at what they perceive as White House ambivalence amid the pounding the agency has taken from critics.' Though Obama has asserted that the NSA's collection of virtually all Americans' phone records is lawful and has saved lives, the administration has not endorsed legislation that would codify it. And his recent statements suggest Obama thinks some of the NSA's activities should be constrained. 'The agency, from top to bottom, leadership to rank and file, feels that it is had no support from the White House even though it's been carrying out publicly approved intelligence missions,' says Joel Brenner, NSA inspector general from 2002 to 2006. 'They feel they've been hung out to dry, and they're right.' Former officials note how President George W. Bush paid a visit to the NSA in January 2006, in the wake of revelations by the New York Times that the agency engaged in a counterterrorism program of warrantless surveillance on U.S. soil beginning after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. 'Bush came out and spoke to the workforce, and the effect on morale was tremendous,' Brenner said. 'There's been nothing like that from this White House.' Morale is 'bad overall' says another former NSA official. 'It's become very public and very personal. Literally, neighbors are asking people, 'Why are you spying on Grandma?'"
Taco Cowboy writes in with a link about the remnants of some well-aged wine recently uncovered in Israel. "Scientists have uncovered a 3,700-year-old wine cellar in the ruins of a Canaanite palace in Israel, chemical analysis from the samples from the ceramic jars suggest they held a luxurious beverage that was evidently reserved for banquets. The good stuff contains a blend of ingredients that may have included honey, mint, cedar, tree resins and cinnamon bark. The discovery confirms how sophisticated wines were at that time, something suggested only by ancient texts. The wine cellar was found this summer in palace ruins near the modern town of Nahariya in northern Israel. Researchers found 40 ceramic jars, each big enough to hold about 13 gallons, in a single room. There may be more wine stored elsewhere, but the amount found so far wouldn't be enough to supply the local population, which is why the researchers believe it was reserved for palace use. The unmarked jars are all similar as if made by the same potter, chemical analysis indicates that the jars held red wine and possibly white wine. There was no liquid left, analysis were done on residues removed from the jars. An expert in ancient winemaking said the discovery 'sheds important new light' on the development of winemaking in ancient Canaan, from which it later spread to Egypt and across the Mediterranean."
An anonymous reader writes "High-temperature superconductors exhibit a frustratingly varied catalog of odd behavior, such as electrons that arrange themselves into stripes or refuse to arrange themselves symmetrically around atoms. Now two physicists propose that such behaviors – and superconductivity itself – can all be traced to a single starting point, and they explain why there are so many variations. Most subatomic particles have a tiny magnetic field – a property physicists call 'spin' – and electrical resistance happens when the fields of electrons carrying current interact with those of surrounding atoms. Two electrons can join like two bar magnets, the north pole of one clamping to the south pole of the other, and this 'Cooper pair' is magnetically neutral and can move without resistance. Lee and Davis propose that this 'antiferromagnetic' interaction is the universal cause not only for superconductivity but also for all the observed intertwined ordering. They show how their 'unified' theory can predict the phenomena observed in copper-based, iron-based and so-called 'heavy fermion' materials."
First time accepted submitter prajendran writes "James Hansen, the former director of the Goddard Institute of Space Sciences, has been a strong defender of using nuclear energy to replace coal and renewable energy. He and three other researchers had written a letter, arguing just this. In this interview with rediff.com, an Indian news site, he was asked to address some concerns surrounding the issue, especially given the strong feelings generated by it. It may not be Hansen's best interview, but it did bring out his passionate side."
Fnord666 writes in with this link about one the development of a new unmanned toy for the U.S. Air Force. "A large, classified unmanned aircraft developed by Northrop Grumman is now flying—and it demonstrates a major advance in combining stealth and aerodynamic efficiency. Defense and intelligence officials say the secret unmanned aerial system (UAS), designed for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, is scheduled to enter production for the U.S. Air Force and could be operational by 2015. Funded through the Air Force's classified budget, the program to build this new UAS, dubbed the RQ-180, was awarded to Northrop Grumman after a competition that included Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The aircraft will conduct the penetrating ISR mission that has been left unaddressed, and under wide debate, since retirement of the Lockheed SR-71 in 1998."
An anonymous reader writes "The Hackaday writer Mathieu Stephan (alias limpkin) has just launched a new open source/hardware project together with the Hackaday community. The concept behind this product is to minimize the number of ways your passwords can be compromised, while generating long and complex random passwords for the different websites people use daily. It consists of a main device where users' credentials are encrypted, and a PIN locked smartcard containing the encryption key. Simply visit a website and the device will ask for confirmation to enter your credentials when you need to login. All development steps will be documented and all resources available for review."