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  • Nuclear Missile Command Drops Grades From Tests To Discourage Cheating

    An anonymous reader writes: Earlier this year, just over half of the military officers put in charge of U.S. nuclear launch facilities were implicated in an exam cheating scandal. The Air Force conducted regular exams to keep officers current on the protocols and skills required to operate some of the world's most dangerous weapons. But the way they graded the test caused problems. Anything below a 90% score was a fail, but the remaining 10% often dictated how a launch officer's career progressed. There might not be much functional difference between a 93% and a 95%, but the person scoring higher will get promoted disproportionately quicker. This inspired a ring of officers to cheat in order to meet the unrealistic expectations of the Air Force. Now, in an effort to clean up that Missile Wing, the Air Force is making the exams pass/fail. The officers still need to score 90% or higher (since it's important work with severe consequences for failure), but scores won't be recorded and used to compete for promotions anymore. The Air Force is also making an effort to replace or refurbish the aging equipment that runs these facilities.

    120 comments | yesterday

  • Hackers Plundered Israeli Defense Firms That Built 'Iron Dome' Missile Defense

    An anonymous reader writes: Brian Krebs reports on information from Columbia, Md.-based threat intelligence firm Cyber Engineering Services Inc. that attackers thought to be operating out of China hacked into the corporate networks of three top Israeli defense technology companies. The attackers were seeking technical documents related to Iron Dome, Israel's air defense system. "IAI was initially breached on April 16, 2012 by a series of specially crafted email phishing attacks. ... Once inside the IAI’s network, [the attackers] spent the next four months in 2012 using their access to install various tools and trojan horse programs on systems throughout company’s network and expanding their access to sensitive files, CyberESI said. The actors compromised privileged credentials, dumped password hashes, and gathered system, file, and network information for several systems. The actors also successfully used tools to dump Active Directory data from domain controllers on at least two different domains on the IAI’s network. All told, CyberESI was able to identify and acquire more than 700 files — totaling 762 MB total size — that were exfiltrated from IAI’s network during the compromise. The security firm said most of the data acquired was intellectual property and likely represented only a small portion of the entire data loss by IAI." Most of the stolen material pertained to Arrow III missiles, UAVs, and ballistic rockets.

    173 comments | yesterday

  • Gaza's Only Power Plant Knocked Offline

    necro81 (917438) writes "Gaza's only power plant (see this profile at IEEE Spectrum — duct tape and bailing wire not included) has been knocked offline following an Israeli strike. Reports vary, but it appears that Israeli tank shells caused a fuel bunker at the plant to explode. Gaza, already short on electricity despite imports from Israel and Egpyt, now faces widening blackouts."

    829 comments | 2 days ago

  • Google's Mapping Contest Draws Ire From Indian Government

    hypnosec writes with news that India's Central Bureau of Investigation has ordered a preliminary enquiry (PE) against Google for violating Indian laws by mapping sensitive areas and defence installations in the country. As per the PE, registered on the basis of a complaint made by the Surveyor General of India's office to the Union Home Ministry, Google has been accused of organizing a mapping competition dubbed 'Mapathon' in February-March 2013 without taking prior permission from Survey of India, country's official mapping agency. The mapping competition required citizens to map their neighbourhoods, especially details related to hospitals and restaurants. The Survey of India (SoI), alarmed by the event, asked the company to share its event details. While going through the details the watchdog found that there were several coordinates having details of sensitive defence installations which are out of the public domain."

    95 comments | 3 days ago

  • Satellite Images Show Russians Shelling Ukraine

    U.S. officials today made public satellite imagery which they say proves that Russian forces have been shelling eastern Ukraine in a campaign to assist rebel groups fighting Ukraine’s government. The U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which released the civilian-taken satellite images Sunday, said they show visual evidence that Russia has been firing shells across the border at Ukrainian military forces. Officials also said the images show that Russia-backed separatists have used heavy artillery, provided by Russia, in attacks on Ukrainian forces from inside Ukraine. One image dated July 25/26 shows what DNI claims is “ground scarring” on the Russian side of the border from artillery aimed at Ukrainian military units in Ukraine, as well as the resultant ground craters on the Ukrainian side of the border:

    569 comments | 3 days ago

  • The Army Is 3D Printing Warheads

    Jason Koebler writes: In its latest bid to kill more people, more efficiently, and at less cost, the army is planning to print warhead components, according to the latest issue of Army Technology (PDF). "3D printing of warheads will allow us to have better design control and utilize geometries and patterns that previously could not be produced or manufactured," James Zunino, a researcher at the Armament Research, Engineering and Design Center said. "Warheads could be designed to meet specific mission requirements whether it is to improve safety to meet an Insensitive Munitions requirement, or it could have tailorable effects, better control, and be scalable to achieve desired lethality."

    140 comments | 5 days ago

  • 'Optical Fiber' Made Out of Thin Air

    Dave Knott writes: Scientists from the University of Maryland say they have turned thin air into an "optical fiber" that can transmit and amplify light signals without the need for any cables. As described in the research, this was accomplished by generating a laser with its light split into a ring of multiple beams forming a pipe. Very short and powerful pulses from the laser are used to heat the air molecules along the beam extremely quickly. Such rapid heating produces sound waves that take about a microsecond to converge to the center of the pipe, creating a high-density area surrounded by a low-density area left behind in the wake of the laser beams. The lower density region of air surrounding the center of the air waveguide has a lower refractive index, keeping the light focused, and allowing the higher-density region (with its correspondingly higher index of refraction) to act like an optical fiber. The findings, reported in the journal Optica, have applications in long range laser communications, high-resolution topographic mapping, air pollution and climate change research, and could also be used by the military to make laser weapons.

    115 comments | about a week ago

  • MIT's Ted Postol Presents More Evidence On Iron Dome Failures

    Lasrick (2629253) writes In a controversial article last week, MIT physicist Ted Postol again questioned whether Israel's vaunted Iron Dome rocket defense system actually works. This week, he comes back with evidence in the form of diagrams, photos of Iron Dome intercepts and contrails, and evidence on the ground to show that Iron Dome in fact is effective only about 5% of the time. Postol believes the real reason there are so few Israeli casualties is that Hamas rockets have very small warheads (only 10 to 20 pounds), and also Israel's outstanding civil defense system, which includes a vast system of shelters and an incredibly sophisticated rocket attack warning system (delivered through smart phones, among other ways).

    454 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Preparing For Satellite Defense

    Taco Cowboy sends a report into China's development of anti-satellite technology, and efforts by the U.S. and Japan to build defenses for this new potential battleground. Last year, China launched what they said was a science space mission, but they did so at night and with a truck-based launch system, which are not generally used for science projects. Experts believe this was actually a missile test for targets in geostationary orbit. U.S. and Japanese analysts say China has the most aggressive satellite attack program in the world. It has staged at least six ASAT missile tests over the past nine years, including the destruction of a defunct Chinese weather satellite in 2007. ... Besides testing missiles that can intercept and destroy satellites, the Chinese have developed jamming techniques to disrupt satellite communications. In addition, ... the Chinese have studied ground-based lasers that could take down a satellite's solar panels, and satellites equipped with grappling arms that could co-orbit and then disable expensive U.S. hardware. To defend themselves against China, the U.S. and Japan are in the early stages of integrating their space programs as part of negotiations to update their defense policy guidelines. ... Both countries have sunk billions of dollars into a sophisticated missile defense system that relies in part on data from U.S. spy satellites. That's why strategists working for China's People's Liberation Army have published numerous articles in defense journals about the strategic value of chipping away at U.S. domination in space.

    118 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Russia Prepares For Internet War Over Malaysian Jet

    An anonymous reader writes The investigation of a Malaysian passenger jet shot down over Ukrainian rebel held territory is heating up. U.S. and U.K. news organizations are studiously trying to spread the blame, Russian ITAR, which, just earlier today was celebrating the downing of a large aircraft by rebel missiles in Torez (Google cache) is reporting that the rebels do not have access to the missiles needed for such attacks. The rebel commander who earlier today reported the downing of the aircraft has also issued a correction to earlier reports that they had captured BUK air defense systems with Russian sources now stating that the rebels do not posses such air defenses. The Ukrainian president has been attempting to frame the incident as a "terrorist attack". President Obama made contact with Vladimir Putin and has been instead treating it as an accident, calling it a "terrible tragedy" and saying that the priority is investigating whether U.S. citizens were involved. With control of the black box and its own internet propaganda army Russia may be in a good position to win the propaganda war.

    503 comments | about two weeks ago

  • US Marines Demonstrate Ultra Heavy-Lift Amphibious Connector Prototype

    Zothecula writes In a recent demonstration carried out during RIMPAC 2014, the US Marines displayed and tested a fully-functional, half-scale prototype of its new amphibious transport vehicle. The proposed full-size version of the Ultra Heavy-Lift Amphibious Connecter (UHAC) is designed to power across the water with a payload of nearly 200 tons at up to 20 knots and be capable of driving up on to the shore and over the top of obstructions up to 10ft high.

    91 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Manuel Noriega Sues Activision Over Call of Duty

    mrspoonsi sends this BBC report: Manuel Noriega, the former dictator of Panama, is suing Call of Duty's video games publisher. The ex-military ruler is seeking lost profits and damages after a character based on him featured in Activision's 2012 title Black Ops II. The 80-year-old is currently serving a jail sentence in Panama for crimes committed during his time in power, including the murder of critics. One lawyer said this was the latest in a growing trend of such lawsuits. "In the U.S., individuals have what's called the right to publicity, which gives them control over how their person is depicted in commerce including video games," explained Jas Purewal, an interactive entertainment lawyer. "There's also been a very well-known action by a whole series of college athletes against Electronic Arts, and the American band No Doubt took action against Activision over this issue among other cases. "It all focuses upon the American legal ability for an individual to be only depicted with their permission, which in practice means payment of a fee. "But Noriega isn't a US citizen or even a resident. This means that his legal claim becomes questionable, because it's unclear on what legal basis he can actually bring a case against Activision."

    83 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Interviews: Juan Gilbert Answers Your Questions

    Last week you had a chance to ask the Associate Chair of Research in the Computer & Information Science & Engineering Department at the University of Florida, Juan Gilbert, about the Human Centered Computing Lab, accessibility issues in technology, and electronic voting. Below you'll find his answers to your questions.

    18 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Public To Vote On Names For Exoplanets

    An anonymous reader writes In response to the increased interest by the public in astronomy, the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the world authority that names objects in space, is giving the public a chance to name up to 30 planets from a pre-selected group of 305 exoplanets. "Before you get excited about naming HAT-P-7b after your first pet goldfish, it's worth taking a look at the restrictions the IAU places on its minor planet names. The 16 characters or less must be 'pronounceable (in as many languages as possible)' and non-offensive in any language or culture. The names of living persons are verboten, pet names are 'discouraged,' and you can't use a name that is commercial or has political, military, or religious connotations." The proposed names can be submitted by astronomy clubs and non-profit organizations interested in astronomy and votes will be cast by the public from across the world.

    127 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Texas Town Turns To Treated Sewage For Drinking Water

    Scientific American reports that Wichita Falls, Texas has taken an unusual step, precipitated by the years-long drought that Texas has faced: it's using treated sewage for drinking water. From the article: To launch what it calls its "Direct Potable Reuse Project," the city pipes water 12 miles from its wastewater treatment plant to this treatment facility where it goes through microfiltration. A pump pulls water through a module filled with fibers that removes most of the impurities. Then it is forced through a semi-permeable membrane that can remove dissolved salts and other contaminants. The process, called reverse osmosis, is used by the U.S. military, in ships and in the manufacture of silicon chips. The water then gets blended with lake water before going through the regular water treatment system. ... At 60 cents per 1,000 gallons, it's far cheaper than any other source of water, [Wichita Falls' public works director Russell] Schreiber said. ... He said there have been few complaints so far. A glass of the finished product, sampled at a downtown restaurant, tasted about average for West Texas.

    242 comments | about three weeks ago

  • A Skeptical View of Israel's Iron Dome Rocket Defense System

    Lasrick (2629253) writes It isn't as if real analysis of Israel's "Iron Dome" isn't available, but invariably, whenever Israel has a skirmish the media is filled with glowing reports of how well the system works, and we always find out months later that the numbers were exaggerated. John Mecklin at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists looks at the coverage of Iron Dome in the recent exchanges between Israel and Hamas and finds the pattern is repeating itself. However, 'Ted Postol, an MIT-based missile defense expert and frequent Bulletin contributor, provided a dose of context to the Iron Dome coverage in a National Public Radio interview Wednesday. "We can tell, for sure, from video images and even photographs that the Iron Dome system is not working very well at all,"' Includes a good explanation of the differences between Iron Dome (a 'rocket defense system') and missile defense systems pushed by the U.S.

    379 comments | about three weeks ago

  • After NSA Spying Flap, Germany Asks CIA Station Chief to Depart

    The Washington Post reports that Gemany's government has asked the CIA station chief in that country to leave. From the article, which points out the move comes after several high-profile instances of U.S. spying on German citiens, including Chancellor Angela Merkl:. "A day earlier, federal prosecutors in Germany said police had searched the office and apartment of an individual with ties to the German military who is suspected of working for U.S. intelligence. Those raids followed the arrest of an employee of Germany’s foreign intelligence service who was accused of selling secrets to the CIA. ... For years, Germany has sought to be included in a group of countries with which the United States has a non-espionage pact. Those nations include Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The Obama administration and that of George W. Bush both resisted such entreaties, in part because many U.S. intelligence officials believe that there are too many areas where German and U.S. security interests diverge."

    219 comments | about three weeks ago

  • Today In Year-based Computer Errors: Draft Notices Sent To Men Born In the 1800s

    sandbagger (654585) writes with word of a Y2K-style bug showing up in Y2K14: "The glitch originated with the Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles during an automated data transfer of nearly 400,000 records. The records of males born between 1993 and 1997 were mixed with those of men born a century earlier. The federal agency didn't know it because the state uses a two-digit code to indicate birth year." I wonder where else two-digit years are causing problems; I still see lots of paper forms that haven't made the leap yet to four digits.

    205 comments | about three weeks ago

  • The Pentagon's $399 Billion Plane To Nowhere

    schwit1 writes with an update on the U.S. government's troubled F-35 program, the cost of which keeps rising while the planes themselves are grounded. A fire in late June caused officials to halt flights for the entire fleet of $112 million vehicles last week. Despite this, Congress is still anxious to push the program forward, and Foreign Policy explains why: Part of that protection comes from the jaw-dropping amounts of money at stake. The Pentagon intends to spend roughly $399 billion to develop and buy 2,443 of the planes. However, over the course of the aircrafts' lifetimes, operating costs are expected to exceed $1 trillion. Lockheed has carefully hired suppliers and subcontractors in almost every state to ensure that virtually all senators and members of Congress have a stake in keeping the program — and the jobs it has created — in place. "An upfront question with any program now is: How many congressional districts is it in?" said Thomas Christie, a former senior Pentagon acquisitions official. Counting all of its suppliers and subcontractors, parts of the program are spread out across at least 45 states. That's why there's no doubt lawmakers will continue to fund the program even though this is the third time in 17 months that the entire fleet has been grounded due to engine problems."

    364 comments | about three weeks ago

  • A Brain Implant For Synthetic Memory

    the_newsbeagle (2532562) writes "People who have experienced traumatic brain injuries sometimes lose the ability to form new memories or recall old ones. Since many veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan suffered TBIs, the U.S. military is funding research on an implantable device that could do the job of damaged brain cells." Lofty goals: "To start, DARPA will support the development of multi-scale computational models with high spatial and temporal resolution that describe how neurons code declarative memories — those well-defined parcels of knowledge that can be consciously recalled and described in words, such as events, times, and places. Researchers will also explore new methods for analysis and decoding of neural signals to understand how targeted stimulation might be applied to help the brain reestablish an ability to encode new memories following brain injury. ... Building on this foundational work, researchers will attempt to integrate the computational models ... into new, implantable, closed-loop systems able to deliver targeted neural stimulation that may ultimately help restore memory function."

    87 comments | about three weeks ago

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