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Businesses

Amazon Looking To Abandon UPS, FedEx In Favor of Its Own Delivery Service (arstechnica.com) 10

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A report by The Wall Street Journal claims that Amazon is building its own shipping service to replace FedEx and UPS, giving it more control over its packages and possibly allowing it to ship packages from other retailers. Amazon has said its own delivery services would be meant to increase its capacity during busier times of the year, like the upcoming holiday season. However, "current and former Amazon managers and business partners" claim that the company's plans are bigger than that. The initiative dubbed "Consume the City" will eventually let Amazon "haul and deliver" its own packages and those of other retailers and consumers. That delivery network would also directly compete with the likes of UPS and FedEx. It makes sense that Amazon would want to sell, ship, and deliver orders on its own. The report estimates that the company spent $11.5 billion on shipping just last year, amounting to 10.8 percent of sales. The shipping process is currently a bit convoluted: packages from Amazon warehouses get sent to one of two shipping routes, either FedEx or UPS, or to a sorting facility that lumps all packages with similar zip codes together. FedEx and UPS handle its shipments and deliver them to customers, while the packages at the sorting facilities either get delivered via USPS or by Amazon employees themselves. If Amazon were to have control over its shipments over longer distances, it's estimated that the company could save about $3 per package -- about $1.1 billion annually.
Businesses

D-Wave's 2,000-Qubit Quantum Annealing Computer Now 1,000x Faster Than Previous Generation (tomshardware.com) 24

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Tom's Hardware: D-Wave, a Canadian company developing the first commercial "quantum computer," announced its next-generation quantum annealing computer with 2,000 qubits, which is twice as many as its previous generation had. One highly exciting aspect of quantum computers of all types is that beyond the seemingly Moore's Law-like increase in number of qubits every two years, their performance increases much more than just 2x, unlike with regular microprocessors. This is because qubits can hold a value of 0, 1, or a superposition of the two, making quantum systems able to deal with much more complex information. If D-Wave's 2,000-qubit computer is now 1,000 faster than the previous 1,000-qubit generation (D-Wave 2X), that would mean that, for the things Google tested last year, it should now be 100 billion times faster than a single-core CPU. The new generation also comes with control features, which allows users to modify how D-Wave's quantum system works to better optimize their solutions. These control features include the following capabilities: The ability to tune the rate of annealing of individual qubits to enhance application performance; The ability to sample the state of the quantum computer during the quantum annealing process to power hybrid quantum-classical machine learning algorithms that were not previously possible; The ability to combine quantum processing with classical processing to improve the quality of both optimization and sampling results returned from the system. D-Wave's CEO, Vern Brownell, also said that D-Wave's quantum computers could also be used for machine learning task in ways that wouldn't be possible on classical computers. The company is also training the first generation of programmers to develop applications for D-Wave quantum systems. Last year, Google said that D-Wave's 1,000 qubit computer proved to be 100 million times faster than a classical computer with a single core: "We found that for problem instances involving nearly 1,000 binary variables, quantum annealing significantly outperforms its classical counterpart, simulated annealing. It is more than 10^8 times faster than simulated annealing running on a single core," said Hartmut Neven, Google's Director of Engineering.
Cellphones

Verizon Technician Is Accused of Selling Customers' Call Records and Location Data To Private Investigator (ap.org) 22

A former Verizon technician who worked in Alabama is being accused of selling customers' private call records and location data to an unnamed private investigator. Authorities said the data was sold for more than four years, from 2009 to 2014. The Associated Press reports: [Daniel Eugene Traeger] logged into one Verizon computer system to gain access to customers' call records, authorities said. He used another company system known as Real Time Tool to "ping" cellphones on Verizon's network to get locations of the devices, according to the plea agreement. He then compiled the data in spreadsheets, which he sent to the private investigator for years, the court records show. "Between April 2009 and January 2014, the defendant was paid more than $10,000 in exchange for his provision of confidential customer information and cellular location data to the PL, an unauthorized third party," court records state. Though Traeger was based in the Birmingham area, the court records do not indicate whether the information that was sold involved Verizon Wireless customers in Alabama or elsewhere. He faces up to five years in prison, but prosecutors are recommending a lesser sentence since he accepted responsibility, according to terms of the plea agreement.
HP

HP To Issue 'Optional Firmware Update' Allowing 3rd-Party Ink (arstechnica.com) 41

Soon after the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) issued a letter to HP, calling for them to apologize to customers for releasing firmware that prevents the use of non-HP ink cartridges and refilled HP cartridges, the company has responded with a temporary solution. HP "will issue an optional firmware update that will remove the dynamic security feature" for certain OfficeJet printers. Ars Technica reports: HP made its announcement in a blog post titled "Dedicated to the best printing experience." "We updated a cartridge authentication procedure in select models of HP office inkjet printers to ensure the best consumer experience and protect them from counterfeit and third-party ink cartridges that do not contain an original HP security chip and that infringe on our IP," the company said. The recent firmware update for HP OfficeJet Pro, and OfficeJet Pro X printers "included a dynamic security feature that prevented some untested third-party cartridges that use cloned security chips from working, even if they had previously functioned," HP said. For customers who don't wish to be protected from the ability to buy less expensive ink cartridges, HP said it "will issue an optional firmware update that will remove the dynamic security feature. We expect the update to be ready within two weeks and will provide details here." This customer-friendly move may just be a one-time thing. HP said it will continue to use security features that "protect our IP including authentication methods that may prevent some third-party supplies from working." Without the optional firmware update, printers will only be able to use third-party ink cartridges that have an "original HP security chip," the company said.
Microsoft

Vladimir Putin Is Replacing Microsoft Programs With Domestic Software (bloomberg.com) 231

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Moscow city will replace Microsoft Corp. programs with domestic software on thousands of computers in answer to President Vladimir Putin's call for Russia's authorities to reduce dependence on foreign technology amid tensions with the U.S. and Europe. The city will initially replace Microsoft's Exchange Server and Outlook on 6,000 computers with an e-mail system installed by state-run carrier Rostelecom PJSC, Artem Yermolaev, head of information technology for Moscow, told reporters Tuesday. Moscow may expand deployment of the new software, developed by Russia's New Cloud Technologies, to as many as 600,000 computers and servers, and may also consider replacing Windows and Office, Yermolaev said. Putin is urging state entities and local companies to go domestic amid concerns over security and reliability after U.S. firms shut down paid services in Crimea following Russia's 2014 annexation. The plan poses a challenge to the likes of Microsoft, SAP SE and Oracle Corp. in the country's $3 billion software market. Adding to pressure, Putin's internet czar German Klimenko wants to raise taxes on U.S. technology companies to help Russian competitors such as Yandex NV and Mail.ru Group Ltd.
AI

Nissan Debuts 'ProPILOT' Self-Driving Chair (pcmag.com) 48

jasonbrown writes from a report via PC Magazine: The Japanese automaker Nissan this week debuted what it's calling the ProPILOT Chair -- an autonomous chair that automatically queues for you while you sit back and relax. With its built-in cameras, the high-tech chair "detects and automatically follows the chair ahead of it, maintaining a fixed distance and traveling along a set path." Standing (or sitting) in line has never been so much fun. "Nissan drew inspiration for this new chair from its ProPILOT autonomous driving technology, which has been available in the company's Serena minivan in Japan since August," the report adds. "The ProPILOT technology allows the vehicle to maintain a safe distance between the car ahead, and ensures that it stays in the center of its lane." While the product appears to be a marketing stunt, Nissan is actively looking for restaurant partners in Japan who want to offer this technology to their customers. Japanese restaurants can tweet their name and website along with the hashtags #NissanProPilotChair #Wanted in an effort to be outfitted with the technology. You can watch the joyful and jazzy launch video here.
Cellphones

DJI Unveils the Mavic Pro, a Foldable and Ultra-Portable Camera Drone (petapixel.com) 55

It didn't take long for DJI to respond to GoPro's voice-controlled Karma drone. Today, the company has unveiled the Mavic Pro, an ultra-portable drone that can fold up into roughly the "size of a standard water bottle," DJI says. Of course, it also features a high-resolution camera and several autonomous software tricks. PetaPixel reports: Despite its petite form factor, the drone packs a punch: there's a 4K camera on the front, a visual navigation system, a 4.3-mile (7km) range, and a 27-minute flight time. By comparison, the Karma has a range of 0.62 miles (1km) and a flight time of 20 minutes. The Mavic Pro can be operated with a remote controller for long-range uses, or simply with your smartphone if you're not planning to fly it far. For the latter, the drone can go from folded up to in flight in less than a minute. In the Mavic Pro is a new FlightAutonomy system, which uses 5 cameras, GPS and GLONASS navigation, 2 ultrasonic rangefinders, redundant sensors, and 24 computing cores to serve as the drone's "brain and nervous system." Using FlightAutonomy, the Mavic Pro can follow positions and routes while avoiding obstacles at 22mph (36kph), allowing you to create advanced flights with minimal input and flying skills. What's more, the drone can even be controlled with your physical gestures, making it easy to shoot an aerial selfie if you so desire. A new compact remote controller has been designed for the Mavic Pro, and it features an LCD screen with essential data, dedicated buttons (e.g. Return-to-Home, Intelligent Flight pause), and a OcuSync video link system that provides live view at 1080p resolution. DJI is also announcing DJI Goggles to go along with the Mavic Pro. Wearing the goggles allows you to fly the drone with an immersive 85-degree view in full 1080p, viewing the world through the eyes of the drone. The DJI Mavic Pro will be available starting October 15th, 2016, with a price tag of $749 for just the drone and $999 with a remote controller bundled in. The DJI Mavic introduction video can be viewed here.
Mars

Elon Musk Proposes Spaceship That Can Send 100 People To Mars In 80 Days (theverge.com) 448

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Today, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk unveiled the Mars vehicle -- the spaceship his company plans to build to transport the first colonists to Mars. It will have a diameter of 17 meters. The plan is to send about 100 people per trip, though Musk wants to ultimately take 200 or more per flight to make the cost cheaper per person. The trip can take as little as 80 days or as many as 150 depending on the year. The hope is that the transport time will be only 30 days "in the more distant future." The rocket booster will have a diameter of 12 meters and the stack height will be 122 meters. The spaceship should hold a cargo of up to 450 tons depending on how many refills can be done with the tanker. As rumored, the Mars vehicle will be reusable and the spaceship will refuel in orbit. The trip will work like this: First, the spaceship will launch out of Pad 39A, which is under development right now at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida. At liftoff, the booster will have 127,800 kilonewtons of thrust, or 28,730,000 pounds of thrust. Then, the spaceship and booster separate. The spaceship heads to orbit, while the booster heads back to Earth, coming back within about 20 minutes. Back on Earth, the booster lands on a launch mount and a propellant tanker is loaded onto the booster. The entire unit -- now filled with fuel -- lifts off again. It joins with the spaceship, which is then refueled in orbit. The propellant tankers will go up anywhere from three to five times to fill the tanks of the spaceship. The spaceship finally departs for Mars. To make the trip more attractive for its crew members, Musk promises that it'll be "really fun" with zero-G games, movies, cabins, games, a restaurant. Once it reaches Mars, the vehicle will land on the surface, using its rocket engines to lower itself gently down to the ground. The spaceship's passengers will use the vehicle, as well as cargo and hardware that's already been shipped over to Mars, to set up a long-term colony. At the rate of 20 to 50 total Mars trips, it will take anywhere from 40 to 100 years to achieve a fully self-sustaining civilization with one million people on Mars, says Musk.
Democrats

FBI Investigating Possible Hack of Democratic Party Staffer Cell Phones (cnn.com) 103

In what may be part of the original Democratic National Committee hack, the FBI is currently investigating a possible hack involving the cell phones of a small number of Democratic Party staffers. CNN reports: The development comes on the same day Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told lawmakers that 18 states have asked for help in warding off cyberattacks on their electronic voting systems. Law enforcement officials have reached out to the staffers individually about "imaging" their phones to search for evidence of hacking, such as malware. Investigators are still probing whether this attempted hack is part of the original breach of Democratic National Committee emails -- which is widely thought to be the work of the Russian government -- or a new hacking attempt. "Our struggle with the Russian hackers that we announced in June is ongoing -- as we knew it would be -- and we are choosing not to provide general updates unless personal data or other sensitive information has been accessed or stolen," interim DNC Chairwoman Donna Brazile told CNN. Cybersecurity was a major theme at the debate last night between Republican nominee Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. While Clinton blamed the Russians for the "election-related cyberintrusions," Trump said "It could be Russia, but it could also be China. It could also be lots of other people. It could also be somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds." We will update this story as it develops.
Communications

Anti-Defamation League Declares Pepe the Frog a Hate Symbol (time.com) 349

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TIME: The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has declared a popular internet meme depicting a cartoon frog to be a hate symbol. Pepe the Frog's beginnings were unoffensive: he is the creation of comic book creator Matt Furie, who featured the frog as a character in the series Boy's Club beginning in 2005. The character subsequently became a beloved meme, often called the "sad frog meme" and shared with a speech bubble reading "Feels good man" or "Feels bad man." But recently, as the Daily Beast reported in May, the character has been co-opted by a faction of Internet denizens who decided to reclaim it from the mainstream, and began sharing it in anti-Semitic contexts. "Images of the frog, variously portrayed with a Hitler-like mustache, wearing a yarmulke or a Klan hood, have proliferated in recent weeks in hateful messages aimed at Jewish and other users on Twitter," the ADL wrote in a statement. "Once again, racists and haters have taken a popular Internet meme and twisted it for their own purposes of spreading bigotry and harassing users," wrote ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt.
Businesses

Aetna To Provide Apple Watch To 50,000 Employees, Subsidize Cost For Customers (macrumors.com) 135

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Mac Rumors: Insurance company Aetna today announced a major health initiative centered on the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch, which will see Aetna subsidizing the cost of the Apple Watch for both large employers and individual customers. Starting this fall during open enrollment season, Aetna will subsidize "a significant portion" of the Apple Watch cost and will offer monthly payroll deductions to cover the remaining cost. Aetna also plans to provide Apple Watches at no cost to all of its nearly 50,000 employees as part of a wellness reimbursement program to encourage them to live healthier lives. Aetna plans to develop several iOS health initiatives with "support" from Apple, debuting "deeply integrated" health apps for the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch that will be available to all Aetna customers. According to Aetna, these apps will "simplify the healthcare process" with features like care management to guide customers through a new diagnosis or a medication, medication reminders and tools for easy refills, quick contact with doctors, integration with Apple Wallet for paying bills and checking deductibles, and tools to help Aetna members get the most out of their insurance benefits. Aetna's health-related apps will be available starting in early 2017, but the Apple Watch initiative will begin in 2016. Aetna has not detailed how much of the cost will be subsidized or which Apple Watch models will be available to subscribers.
The Almighty Buck

Revealed: How One Amazon Kindle Scam Made Millions of Dollars (zdnet.com) 40

An anonymous Slashdot reader shares an excerpt with us from a report via ZDNet that summarizes a catfishing scheme designed to deceive Amazon users into buy low-quality ebooks: Emma Moore is just one of hundreds of pseudonyms employed in a sophisticated "catfishing" scheme run by Valeriy Shershnyov, whose Vancouver-based business hoodwinks Amazon customers into buying low-quality ebooks, which have been boosted on the online marketplace by an unscrupulous system of bots, scripts, and virtual servers. Catfishing isn't new -- it's been well documented. Some scammers buy fake reviews, while others will try other ways to game the system. Until now, nobody has been able to look inside at how one of these scams work -- especially one that's been so prolific, generating millions of dollars in royalties by cashing in on unwitting buyers who are tricked into thinking these ebooks have some substance. Shershnyov was able to stay in Amazon's shadows for two years by using his scam server conservatively so as to not raise any red flags. What eventually gave him away weren't customer complaints or even getting caught. It was good old-fashioned carelessness. He forgot to put a password on his server.
Government

FCC Official Asks Agency To Investigate Ban On Journalists' Wi-Fi Personal Hotspots At Debate (arstechnica.com) 157

Yesterday, it was reported that journalists attending the presidential debate at Hofstra University were banned from using personal hotspots and were told they had to pay $200 to access the event's Wi-Fi. The journalists were reportedly offered the option to either turn off their personal hotspots or leave the debate. Cyrus Farivar via Ars Technica is now reporting that "one of the members of the Federal Communications Commission, Jessica Rosenworcel, has asked the agency to investigate the Monday evening ban." Ars Technica reports: Earlier, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel tweeted, saying that something was "not right" with what Hofstra did. She cited an August 2015 order from the FCC, forcing a company called SmartCity to no longer engage in Wi-Fi blocking and to pay $750,000. Ars has since updated their report with a statement from Karla Schuster, a spokeswoman for Hofstra University: The Commission on Presidential Debates sets the criteria for services and requires that a completely separate network from the University's network be built to support the media and journalists. This is necessary due to the volume of Wi-Fi activity and the need to avoid interference. The Rate Card fee of $200 for Wi-Fi access is to help defray the costs and the charge for the service does not cover the cost of the buildout. For Wi-Fi to perform optimally the system must be tuned with each access point and antenna. When other Wi-Fi access points are placed within the environment the result is poorer service for all. To avoid unauthorized access points that could interfere, anyone who has a device that emits RF frequency must register the device. Whenever a RF-emitting device was located, the technician notified the individual to visit the RF desk located in the Hall. The CPD RF engineer would determine if the device could broadcast without interference.
AI

Google's New Translation Software Powered By Brainlike Artificial Intelligence (sciencemag.org) 85

sciencehabit quotes a report from Science Magazine: Today, Google rolled out a new translation system that uses massive amounts of data and increased processing power to build more accurate translations. The new system, a deep learning model known as neural machine translation, effectively trains itself -- and reduces translation errors by up to 87%. When compared with Google's previous system, the neural machine translation system scores well with human reviewers. It was 58% more accurate at translating English into Chinese, and 87% more accurate at translating English into Spanish. As a result, the company is planning to slowly replace the system underlying all of its translation work -- one language at a time. The report adds: "The new method, reported today on the preprint server arXiv, uses a total of 16 processors to first transform words into a value known as a vector. What is a vector? 'We don't know exactly,' [Quoc Le, a Google research scientist in Mountain View, California, says.] But it represents how related one word is to every other word in the vast dictionary of training materials (2.5 billion sentence pairs for English and French; 500 million for English and Chinese). For example, 'dog' is more closely related to 'cat' than 'car,' and the name 'Barack Obama' is more closely related to 'Hillary Clinton' than the name for the country 'Vietnam.' The system uses vectors from the input language to come up with a list of possible translations that are ranked based on their probability of occurrence. Other features include a system of cross-checks that further increases accuracy and a special set of computations that speeds up processing time."
Cloud

Microsoft Partners With Bank of America On Blockchain Trade Finance (securityweek.com) 43

wiredmikey quotes a report from SecurityWeek: Microsoft and Bank of America Merrill Lynch said they are working together to make financial transactions more efficient with blockchain technology -- the foundation of bitcoin digital currency. Blockchains are considered tamper-proof registers in which entries are time-stamped and linked to previous "blocks" in a data chain. As expected, the technology that drives the shadowy bitcoin cryptocurrency is drawing interest from the established banking industry, which sees a potential to revolutionize the sector. The companies said they will build and test frameworks for blockchain-powered exchanges between businesses and their customers and banks. Microsoft plans to use its Azure cloud service platform to enable blockchain transactions between a major corporate treasury and a financial institution. "Blockchains serve as public ledgers considered easy to audit and verify. They are also automated, speeding up transactions and limiting potential for error or revision," the report adds. The companies said that by using blockchain technology, they can digitalize and automate trade finance processes, which are traditionally highly manual, time-consuming and costly.
Yahoo!

Yahoo's Delay in Reporting Hack 'Unacceptable', Say Senators (zdnet.com) 66

Yahoo won't be able to get away with its mega data breach from 2014 that it only reported this month. Six senior senators have said Yahoo's two-year delay in reporting the largest known data breach in history is unacceptable. The senators have asked Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer to explain why the massive hack of more than 500 million accounts wasn't reported two years ago when the breach occurred. From a ZDNet report:The senators said they were "disturbed" that a breach of that size wasn't noticed at the time. "That means millions of Americans' data may have been compromised for two years. This is unacceptable. This breach is the latest in a series of data breaches that have impacted the privacy of millions of American consumers in recent years, but it is by far the largest," the letter wrote. Sens. Patrick Leahy, Al Franken, Elizabeth Warren, Richard Blumenthal, Roy Wyden, and Edward Markey signed the letter, dated Tuesday. The senators also requested a briefing to senate staffers on its incident response and how it intends to protect affected users.
Piracy

YouTube-MP3 Ripping Site Sued By IFPI, RIAA and BPI (torrentfreak.com) 296

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: Two weeks ago, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry published research which claimed that half of 16 to 24-year-olds use stream-ripping tools to copy music from sites like YouTube. The industry group said that the problem of stream-ripping has become so serious that in volume terms it had overtaken downloading from 'pirate' sites. Given today's breaking news, the timing of the report was no coincidence. Earlier today in a California District Court, a huge coalition of recording labels sued the world's largest YouTube ripping site. UMG Recordings, Capitol Records, Warner Bros, Sony Music, Arista Records, Atlantic Records and several others claim that YouTube-MP3 (YTMP3), owner Philip Matesanz, and Does 1-10 have infringed their rights. The labels allege that YouTube-MP3 is one of the most popular sites in the entire world and as a result its owner, German-based company PMD Technologies UG, is profiting handsomely from their intellectual property. YouTube-MP3 is being sued for direct, contributory, vicarious and inducement of copyright infringement, plus circumvention of technological measures. Among other things, the labels are also demanding a preliminary and permanent injunction forbidding the Defendants from further infringing their rights. They also want YouTube-MP3's domain name to be surrendered. "YTMP3 rapidly and seamlessly removes the audio tracks contained in videos streamed from YouTube that YTMP3's users access, converts those audio tracks to an MP3 format, copies and stores them on YTMP3's servers, and then distributes copies of the MP3 audio files from its servers to its users in the United States, enabling its users to download those MP3 files to their computers, tablets, or smartphones," the complaint reads. "Defendants are depriving Plaintiffs and their recording artists of the fruits of their labor, Defendants are profiting from the operation of the YTMP3 website. Through the promise of illicit delivery of free music, Defendants have attracted millions of users to the YTMP3 website, which in turn generates advertising revenues for Defendants," the labels add.
NASA

Jupiter's Moon Europa May Have Water Plumes That Rise Up About 125 Miles (npr.org) 91

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope released new images Monday, which will be published in The Astrophysicial Journal later this week, that show what appears to be plumes of water vapor erupting out of the icy surface of Jupiter's moon Europa. The discovery is especially intriguing as it means that the ocean below Europa's surface could be probed without having to drill through miles of ice. NPR reports: Europa is one of the most intriguing places in the solar system because it's thought to have a vast subterranean ocean with twice as much water as Earth's oceans. This saltwater ocean is a tempting target for astrobiologists who want to find places beyond Earth that could support life. The trouble with exploring this ocean is that the water is hidden beneath an icy crust that's miles thick. But if plumes are indeed erupting from Europa, a spacecraft could potentially fly through them and analyze their chemistry -- much like NASA's Cassini probe did recently when it sped close to Enceladus, a moon of Saturn that has small geysers. Scientists used Hubble to watch Europa's silhouette as the moon moved across Jupiter's bright background. They looked, in ultraviolet light, for signs of plumes coming from the moon's surface. They did this 10 separate times over a period of 15 months, and saw what could be plumes on three occasions. NASA says the plumes are estimated to rise up about 125 miles, and presumably material then rains back down onto Europa's surface. Using Hubble in a different way, scientists previously saw hints that salty water occasionally travels up to the moon's surface. In 2012, the telescope detected evidence of water vapor above Europa's south polar region, suggesting the existence of plumes that shoot out into space. The agency's Juno spacecraft is currently in orbit around Jupiter, but it isn't slated to take any observations of Europa.
Space

SpaceX Tests Its Raptor Engine For Future Mars Flights (techcrunch.com) 111

Thelasko writes: Elon Musk is preparing to unveil his plans to colonize Mars at the 67th annual International Astronautical Congress tomorrow. As a tease to his lecture, he has released some details about the Raptor engine on Twitter, including pictures. Mr. Musk states that, "Production Raptor coal is specific impulse of 382 seconds and thrust of 3 MN (~310 metric tons) at 300 bar." He goes on to note that the specific impulse spec is at Mars ambient pressure. The Raptor interplanetary engine is designed for use with Space X's Mars Colonial Transporter craft. Musk notes that the "chamber pressure runs three times what's present in the Merlin engine currently used to power Falcon 9," according to TechCrunch. "Merlin has specific impulse of 282 seconds (311 seconds in the vacuum of space), and a relatively paltry 654 kilonewton (0.6 MN) at sea level, or 716 kN (0.7 MN) in a vacuum. You can view a picture of the "Mach diamonds" here, which are visible in the engine's exhaust.
Medicine

Roller Coasters Could Help People Pass Kidney Stones, Says Study (nbcnews.com) 124

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: Two researchers who took science to the amusement park say they've found that a thrilling roller coaster ride just might help people shake out pesky kidney stones. Dr. David Wartinger of Michigan State University said he'd heard patient after patient tell him about how they had passed kidney stones after riding one particular ride: the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster at Walt Disney World in Orlando. He and a colleague, Dr. Marc Mitchell, had also seen some media reports about people who passed kidney stones while bungee jumping and riding roller coasters. So they decided to leave East Lansing to head to Orlando in the name of medical research. To simulate the human body as best they could, they made an artificial human kidney model out of clear silicone gel and loaded it up with real human kidney stones. They rode the roller coaster holding their kidney contraption between them in a backpack positioned at kidney height. They took 20 rides and noted what happened to each kidney stone. Riding in the back of the roller coaster train seemed to really knock the kidney stones out, they reported in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. "Front seating on the roller coaster resulted in a passage rate of four of 24," they wrote. "Rear seating on the roller coaster resulted in a passage rate of 23 of 36." They mainly tested the one roller coaster ride, and it's a fairly simple one. "The Big Thunder Mountain roller coaster is not a terribly dynamic ride," Wartinger said. "It's not very fast. It is not very tall. It makes sharp left and right turns that have some vibration." Wartinger suspects many different thrill rides would have the same effect. "It's not like there anything unique about this one coaster," he said. The pair have now run their test 200 more times and say the findings are consistent. Now they want to try other amusement park rides.

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