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Display this news only Rocket Lab's Modest Launch Is Giant Leap For Small Rocket Business
11/12/18English
Slashdot Reader Iwastheone shares a report: A small rocket from a little-known company lifted off Sunday from the east coast of New Zealand, carrying a clutch of tiny satellites. That modest event -- the first commercial launch by a U.S.-New Zealand company known as Rocket Lab -- could mark the beginning of a new era in the space business, where countless small rockets pop off from spaceports around the world. This miniaturization of rockets and spacecraft places outer space within reach of a broader swath of the economy.

The rocket, called the Electron, is a mere sliver compared to the giant rockets that Elon Musk, of SpaceX, and Jeffrey P. Bezos, of Blue Origin, envisage using to send people into the solar system. It is just 56 feet tall and can carry only 500 pounds into space. But Rocket Lab is aiming for markets closer to home. "We're FedEx," said Peter Beck, the New Zealand-born founder and chief executive of Rocket Lab. "We're a little man that delivers a parcel to your door." Behind Rocket Lab, a host of start-up companies are also jockeying to provide transportation to space for a growing number of small satellites. The payloads include constellations of telecommunications satellites that would provide the world with ubiquitous internet access.

The payload of this mission, which Rocket Lab whimsically named "It's Business Time," offered a glimpse of this future: two ship-tracking satellites for Spire Global; a small climate- and environment-monitoring satellite for GeoOptics; a small probe built by high school students in Irvine, Calif., and a demonstration version of a drag sail that would pull defunct satellites out of orbit.


Display this news only Douglas Rain, Voice of HAL 9000 In '2001: A Space Odyssey,' Dies At 90
11/12/18English
Slashdot schwit1 shares a report from The Hollywood Reporter: Douglas Rain, the veteran Canadian stage actor who provided the soft and gentle voice of the rogue HAL 9000 computer for Stanley Kubrick's classic 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequel, has died. He was 90. The first drafts of the 2001 script had HAL being voiced by a woman and was called Athena; afterward, it was decided that the computer should sound more like a man. Nigel Davenport, Martin Balsam and others were tried out -- and ruled out -- before and during filming of the 1968 sci-fi thriller.

"Well, we had some difficulty deciding exactly what HAL should sound like, and Marty just sounded a little bit too colloquially American, whereas Rain had the kind of bland mid-Atlantic accent we felt was right for the part,' Kubrick told Newsday film critic Joseph Gelmis in an interview for the 1970 book The Film Director as Superstar. Kubrick told Rain that he had made the computer "too emotional and too human." So, in late 1967, the actor flew to New York City and spent a day and a half -- about 9 1/2 hours in all -- to voice HAL. As reported on the blog 2010: The Year We Make Contact, Rain "did the recordings with his bare feet resting on a pillow, in order to maintain the required relaxed tone."


Display this news only Did We Miss an Interstellar Comet Four Years Ago?
11/10/18English
Slashdot Long-time Slashdot reader RockDoctor writes: A paper published on Arxiv last week reports on a project to redetermine the "orbits of long period comets... We recently attempted to check, whether the assumption of a parabolic orbit for hundreds of comets discovered after 1950 is fully justified in all cases." The full work by Królikowska & Dybczynski remains in preparation (which is perfectly normal), but this intriguing result deserved early attention.

During this research we found an interesting case of the comet C/2014 W10 PANSTARRS.

(that's the 10th reported comet in fortnight W of year 2014, source : the PANSTARRS team)

After discovery on 2014-11-25, fourteen observations were made over three days, giving a first-estimate orbit with an eccentricity of 0.6039453. So far, so boring — as the temporary designation suggests, these get found on most days. But that orbit is subject to uncertainty so some more measurements were made on 2014-12-22 from a different observatory. When all of the data is considered, it becomes impossible to clearly assign an orbit to this object (this is possible if, for example, there is a fragmentation of the object between observations), but many of the solutions which can be obtained have a hyperbolic orbit — that is, the object is extra-solar.

If correct, this "post-covery" would double the size of the catalogue of interstellar objects known.

Unfortunately, the quality of the original data remains poor — estimates of the orbital eccentricity vary between 1.22 and 1.65 — which is in contrast to the prompt recognition and intense observation campaign for 'Oumuamua. The report's main conclusion is that

Our main purpose is to show that similar cases should be treated in future with greater care by more reliable preliminary orbit determination and alerting observers about the importance of the object to initiate more follow-up observations.

Which is exactly what happened with 'Oumuamua.


Display this news only Apple Blocks Linux From Booting On New Hardware With T2 Security Chip
11/10/18English
Slashdot AmiMoJo writes: Apple's new-generation Macs come with a new so-called Apple T2 security chip that's supposed to provide a secure enclave co-processor responsible for powering a series of security features, including Touch ID. At the same time, this security chip enables the secure boot feature on Apple's computers, and by the looks of things, it's also responsible for a series of new restrictions that Linux users aren't going to like.

The issue seems to be that Apple has included security certificates for its own and Microsoft's operating systems (to allow running Windows via Bootcamp), but not for the certificate that was provided for systems such as Linux. Disabling Secure Boot can overcome this, but also disables access to the machine's internal storage, making installation of Linux impossible.


Display this news only Free Music Archive Is Shutting Down
11/08/18English
Slashdot WFMU's Free Music Archive -- a digital library of high-quality and legal downloads that users could listen to, remix, and share -- is shutting down due to funding shortages. The Verge reports: "The future is uncertain, has been my mantra lately," says Cheyenne Hohman, who's been the director of the Free Music Archive since 2014. The shutdown date was initially the 9th, but has since been pushed back to November 16th because the FMA is in early talks with four different organizations that are interested in taking the project over. "The site may stay up a little bit longer to ensure, at the very least, that our collections are backed up on archive.org and the Wayback Machine." Even so, it's not a perfect solution. "If it just goes into archive.org, it's going to be there in perpetuity, but it's not going to be changing at all," Hohman says. "It's not going to be the same thing, that sort of community and project that it was for ... almost 10 years."

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