Cometary Impacts May Have Provided Key Elements of Life
trendspotter writes with news of research indicating that impact events might be responsible for seeding the Earth with reactive forms of the precursors to amino acids. From the article: "Early Earth was not very hospitable when it came to jump starting life. In fact, new research shows that life on Earth may have come from out of this world. Lawrence Livermore scientist Nir Goldman and University of Ontario Institute of Technology colleague Isaac Tamblyn (a former LLNL postdoc) found that icy comets that crashed into Earth millions of years ago could have produced life building organic compounds, including the building blocks of proteins and nucleobases pairs of DNA and RNA. Comets contain a variety of simple molecules, such as water, ammonia, methanol and carbon dioxide, and an impact event with a planetary surface would provide an abundant supply of energy to drive chemical reactions." The paper (PDF).
No, the Tesla Model S Doesn't Pollute More Than an SUV
thecarchik writes "In an exhaustive 6,500-word article on the financial website Seeking Alpha, analyst Nathan Weiss lays out a case that the latest Tesla Model S actually has higher effective emissions than most large SUVs of both the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and smog-producing pollutants like sulfur dioxide. This is absolutely false. Virtually all electric car advocates agree that when toting up the environmental pros and cons of electric cars, it's only fair to include powerplant emissions. When this has been done previously, the numbers have still favored electric cars. The Union of Concerned Scientists, for example, concluded in a 2012 report (PDF), 'Electric vehicles charged on the power grid have lower global warming emissions than the average gasoline-based vehicle sold today.' Working through every one of Weiss' conclusions may show a higher emissions rate than Tesla's published numbers, but in no way does a Model S pollute the amounts even close to an SUV."
Some Scientists Question Whether Quantum Computer Really Is Quantum
gbrumfiel writes "Last week, Google and NASA announced a partnership to buy a new quantum computer from Canadian firm D-Wave Systems. But NPR news reports that many scientists are still questioning whether new machine really is quantum. Long-time critic and computer scientist Scott Aaronson has a long post detailing the current state of affairs. At issue is whether the 512 quantum bits at the processor's core are 'entangled' together. Measuring that entanglement directly destroys it, so D-Wave has had a hard time convincing skeptics. As with all things quantum mechanical, the devil is in the details. Still it may not matter: D-Wave's machine appears to be far faster at solving certain kinds of problems (PDF), regardless of how it works."
Global Warming Shifts the Earth's Poles
ananyo writes "Global warming is changing the location of Earth's geographic poles, according to a study published this week. Researchers at the University of Texas, Austin, report that increased melting of the Greenland ice sheet — and to a lesser degree, ice loss in other parts of the globe — helped to shift the North Pole several centimeters east each year since 2005. From 1982 to 2005, the pole drifted southeast towards northern Labrador, Canada, at a rate of about 2 milliarcseconds — or roughly 6 centimetres — per year. But in 2005, the pole changed course and began galloping east towards Greenland at a rate of more than 7 milliarcseconds per year (PDF of the paper). The results suggest that tracking polar shifts can serve as a check on current estimates of ice loss. Scientists can locate the north and south poles to within 0.03 milliarcseconds by using Global Positioning System measurements to determine the angle of Earth's spin. When mass is lost in one part of a spinning ...
Honeywords — Honeypot Passwords
CowboyRobot writes "Businesses should seed their password databases with fake passwords and then monitor all login attempts for use of those credentials to detect if hackers have stolen stored user information. That's the thinking behind the 'honeywords' concept first proposed this month in 'Honeywords: Making Password-Cracking Detectable (PDF),' a paper written by Ari Juels, chief scientist at security firm RSA, and MIT professor Ronald L. Rivest (the 'R' in 'RSA'). Honeywords aren't meant to serve as a replacement for good password security practices. But as numerous breaches continue to demonstrate, regardless of the security that businesses have put in place, they often fail to detect when users' passwords have been compromised."