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The safety of the LHC | CERN press office

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) can achieve an energy that no other particle accelerators have reached before, but Nature routinely produces higher energies in cosmic-ray collisions. Concerns about the safety of whatever may be created in such high-energy particle collisions have been addressed for many years. In the light of new experimental data and theoretical understanding, the LHC Safety Assessment Group (LSAG) has updated a review of the analysis made in 2003 by the LHC Safety Study Group, a group of independent scientists.

LSAG reaffirms and extends the conclusions of the 2003 report that LHC collisions present no danger and that there are no reasons for concern. Whatever the LHC will do, Nature has already done many times over during the lifetime of the Earth and other astronomical bodies. The LSAG report has been reviewed and endorsed by CERN’s Scientific Policy Committee, a group of external scientists that advises CERN’s governing body, its Council.

The following summarizes the main arguments given in the LSAG report. Anyone interested in more details is encouraged to consult it directly, and the technical scientific papers to which it refers.

Cosmic rays

The LHC, like other particle accelerators, recreates the natural phenomena of cosmic rays under controlled laboratory conditions, enabling them to be studied in more detail. Cosmic rays are particles produced in outer space, some of which are accelerated to energies far exceeding those of the LHC. The energy and the rate at which they reach the Earth’s atmosphere have been measured in experiments for some 70 years. Over the past billions of years, Nature has already generated on Earth as many collisions as about a million LHC experiments – and the planet still exists. Astronomers observe an enormous number of larger astronomical bodies throughout the Universe, all of which are also struck by cosmic rays. The Universe as a whole conducts more than 10 million million LHC-like experiments per second. The possibility of any dangerous consequences contradicts what astronomers see – stars and galaxies still exist.

Microscopic black holes

Nature forms black holes when certain stars, much larger than our Sun, collapse on themselves at the end of their lives. They concentrate a very large amount of matter in a very small space. Speculations about microscopic black holes at the LHC refer to particles produced in the collisions of pairs of protons, each of which has an energy comparable to that of a mosquito in flight. Astronomical black holes are much heavier than anything that could be produced at the LHC.

According to the well-established properties of gravity, described by Einstein’s relativity, it is impossible for microscopic black holes to be produced at the LHC. There are, however, some speculative theories that predict the production of such particles at the LHC. All these theories predict that these particles would disintegrate immediately. Black holes, therefore, would have no time to start accreting matter and to cause macroscopic effects.

Although theory predicts that microscopic black holes decay rapidly, even hypothetical stable black holes can be shown to be harmless by studying the consequences of their production by cosmic rays. Whilst collisions at the LHC differ from cosmic-ray collisions with astronomical bodies like the Earth in that new particles produced in LHC collisions tend to move more slowly than those produced by cosmic rays, one can still demonstrate their safety. The specific reasons for this depend whether the black holes are electrically charged, or neutral. Many stable black holes would be expected to be electrically charged, since they are created by charged particles. In this case they would interact with ordinary matter and be stopped while traversing the Earth or Sun, whether produced by cosmic rays or the LHC. The fact that the Earth and Sun are still here rules out the possibility that cosmic rays or the LHC could produce dangerous charged microscopic black holes. If stable microscopic black holes had no electric charge, their interactions with the Earth would be very weak. Those produced by cosmic rays would pass harmlessly through the Earth into space, whereas those produced by the LHC could remain on Earth. However, there are much larger and denser astronomical bodies than the Earth in the Universe. Black holes produced in cosmic-ray collisions with bodies such as neutron stars and white dwarf stars would be brought to rest. The continued existence of such dense bodies, as well as the Earth, rules out the possibility of the LHC producing any dangerous black holes.

Strangelets

Strangelet is the term given to a hypothetical microscopic lump of ‘strange matter’ containing almost equal numbers of particles called up, down and strange quarks. According to most theoretical work, strangelets should change to ordinary matter within a thousand-millionth of a second. But could strangelets coalesce with ordinary matter and change it to strange matter? This question was first raised before the start up of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, RHIC, in 2000 in the United States. A study at the time showed that there was no cause for concern, and RHIC has now run for eight years, searching for strangelets without detecting any. At times, the LHC will run with beams of heavy nuclei, just as RHIC does. The LHC’s beams will have more energy than RHIC, but this makes it even less likely that strangelets could form. It is difficult for strange matter to stick together in the high temperatures produced by such colliders, rather as ice does not form in hot water. In addition, quarks will be more dilute at the LHC than at RHIC, making it more difficult to assemble strange matter. Strangelet production at the LHC is therefore less likely than at RHIC, and experience there has already validated the arguments that strangelets cannot be produced.

The analysis of the first LHC data from heavy ion collisions has now confirmed the key ingredients used in the LSAG report to evaluate the upper limit on the production of hypothetical strangelets. For more details see this addendum to the LSAG report: Implications of LHC heavy ion data for multi-strange baryon production (2011)

Vacuum bubbles

There have been speculations that the Universe is not in its most stable configuration, and that perturbations caused by the LHC could tip it into a more stable state, called a vacuum bubble, in which we could not exist. If the LHC could do this, then so could cosmic-ray collisions. Since such vacuum bubbles have not been produced anywhere in the visible Universe, they will not be made by the LHC.

Magnetic monopoles

Magnetic monopoles are hypothetical particles with a single magnetic charge, either a north pole or a south pole. Some speculative theories suggest that, if they do exist, magnetic monopoles could cause protons to decay. These theories also say that such monopoles would be too heavy to be produced at the LHC. Nevertheless, if the magnetic monopoles were light enough to appear at the LHC, cosmic rays striking the Earth’s atmosphere would already be making them, and the Earth would very effectively stop and trap them. The continued existence of the Earth and other astronomical bodies therefore rules out dangerous proton-eating magnetic monopoles light enough to be produced at the LHC.

Other aspects of LHC safety:

Concern has recently been expressed that a ‘runaway fusion reaction’ might be created in the LHC carbon beam dump. The safety of the LHC beam dump had previously been reviewed by the relevant regulatory authorities of the CERN host states, France and Switzerland. The specific concerns expressed more recently have been addressed in a technical memorandum by Assmann et al. As they point out, fusion reactions can be maintained only in material compressed by some external pressure, such as that provided by gravity inside a star, a fission explosion in a thermonuclear device, a magnetic field in a Tokamak, or by continuing isotropic laser or particle beams in the case of inertial fusion. In the case of the LHC beam dump, it is struck once by the beam coming from a single direction. There is no countervailing pressure, so the dump material is not compressed, and no fusion is possible.

Concern has been expressed that a ‘runaway fusion reaction’ might be created in a nitrogen tank inside the LHC tunnel. There are no such nitrogen tanks. Moreover, the arguments in the previous paragraph prove that no fusion would be possible even if there were.

Finally, concern has also been expressed that the LHC beam might somehow trigger a ‘Bose-Nova’ in the liquid helium used to cool the LHC magnets. A study(link is external) by Fairbairn and McElrath has clearly shown there is no possibility of the LHC beam triggering a fusion reaction in helium.

We recall that ‘Bose-Novae’ are known to be related to chemical reactions that release an infinitesimal amount of energy by nuclear standards. We also recall that helium is one of the most stable elements known, and that liquid helium has been used in many previous particle accelerators without mishap. The facts that helium is chemically inert and has no nuclear spin imply that no ‘Bose-Nova’ can be triggered in the superfluid helium used in the LHC.

Comments on the papers by Giddings and Mangano, and by LSAG

The papers by Giddings and Mangano(link is external) and LSAG(link is external) demonstrating the safety of the LHC have been studied, reviewed and endorsed by leading experts from the CERN Member States, Japan, Russia and the United States, working in astrophysics, cosmology, general relativity, mathematics, particle physics and risk analysis, including several Nobel Laureates in Physics. They all agree that the LHC is safe.

The paper(link is external) by Giddings and Mangano has been peer-reviewed by anonymous experts in astrophysics and particle physics and published(link is external) in the professional scientific journal Physical Review D. The American Physical Society chose to highlight this as one of the most significant papers it has published recently, commissioning acommentary(link is external) by Prof. Peskin from the Stanford Linear Accelerator Laboratory in which he endorses its conclusions. The Executive Committee of the Division of Particles and Fields of the American Physical Society has issued a statement(link is external) endorsing the LSAG report.

The LSAG report has been published(link is external) by the UK Institute of Physics in its publication Journal of Physics G. The conclusions of the LSAG report were endorsed in a press release

The conclusions of LSAG have also been endorsed(link is external) by the Particle and Nuclear Physics Section (KET) of the German Physical Society. A translation into German of the complete LSAG report may be found on the KET website, as well as here. (A translation into French of the complete LSAG report is also available.)

Thus, the conclusion that LHC collisions are completely safe has been endorsed by the three respected professional societies of physicists that have reviewed it, which rank among the most highly respected professional societies in the world.

World-renowned experts in astrophysics, cosmology, general relativity, mathematics, particle physics and risk analysis, including several Nobel Laureates in Physics, have also expressed clear individual opinions that LHC collisions are not dangerous:

“To think that LHC particle collisions at high energies can lead to dangerous black holes is rubbish. Such rumors were spread by unqualified people seeking sensation or publicity.

Academician Vitaly Ginzburg, Nobel Laureate in Physics, Lebedev Institute, Moscow, and Russian Academy of Sciences

“The operation of the LHC is safe, not only in the old sense of that word, but in the more general sense that our most qualified scientists have thoroughly considered and analyzed the risks involved in the operation of the LHC. [Any concerns] are merely hypothetical and speculative, and contradicted by much evidence and scientific analysis.

Prof. Sheldon Glashow, Nobel Laureate in Physics, Boston University,

Prof. Frank Wilczek, Nobel Laureate in Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology,

Prof. Richard Wilson, Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics, Harvard University

“The world will not come to an end when the LHC turns on. The LHC is absolutely safe. … Collisions releasing greater energy occur millions of times a day in the earth’s atmosphere and nothing terrible happens.

Prof. Steven Hawking, Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, Cambridge University

“Nature has already done this experiment. … Cosmic rays have hit the moon with more energy and have not produced a black hole that has swallowed up the moon. The universe doesn’t go around popping off huge black holes.

Prof. Edward Kolb, Astrophysicist, University of Chicago

“I certainly have no worries at all about the purported possibility of LHC producing microscopic black holes capable of eating up the Earth. There is no scientific basis whatever for such wild speculations.”

Prof. Sir Roger Penrose, Former Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics, Oxford University

“There is no risk [in LHC collisions, and] the LSAG report is excellent.

Prof. Lord Martin Rees, UK Astronomer Royal and President of the Royal Society of London

“Those who have doubts about LHC safety should read LSAG report where all possible risks were considered. We can be sure that particle collisions at the LHC  cannot lead to a catastrophic consequences.

Academician V.A. Rubakov, Institute for Nuclear Research, Moscow, and Russian Academy of Sciences

“We fully endorse the conclusions of the LSAG report: there is no basis for any concerns about the consequences of new particles or forms of matter that could possibly be produced at the LHC.

R. Aleksan et al., the 20 external members of the CERN Scientific Policy Committee, including Prof. Gerard ‘t Hooft, Nobel Laureate in Physics.

The overwhelming majority of physicists agree that microscopic black holes would be unstable, as predicted by basic principles of quantum mechanics. As discussed in the LSAG report(link is external), if microscopic black holes can be produced by the collisions of quarks and/or gluons inside protons, they must also be able to decay back into quarks and/or gluons. Moreover, quantum mechanics predicts specifically that they should decay via Hawking radiation.

Nevertheless, a few papers have suggested that microscopic black holes might be stable. The paper(link is external) by Giddings and Mangano and the LSAG report(link is external) analyzed very conservatively the hypothetical case of stable microscopic black holes and concluded that even in this case there would be no conceivable danger. Another analysis(link is external) with similar conclusions has been documented by Dr. Koch, Prof. Bleicher and Prof. Stoecker of Frankfurt University and GSI, Darmstadt, who conclude:

“We discussed the logically possible black hole evolution paths. Then we discussed every single outcome of those paths and showed that none of the physically sensible paths can lead to a black hole disaster at the LHC.”

Professor Roessler (who has a medical degree and was formerly a chaos theorist in Tuebingen) also raised doubts on the existence of Hawking radiation. His ideas have been refuted by Profs. Nicolai (Director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics – Albert-Einstein-Institut – in Potsdam) and Giulini, whose report(link is external) (see herefor the English translation, and here for further statements) point to his failure to understand general relativity and the Schwarzschild metric, and his reliance on an alternative theory of gravity that was disproven in 1915. Their verdict:

“[Roessler’s] argument is not valid; the argument is not self-consistent.”

The paper of Prof. Roessler has also been criticized by Prof. Bruhn of the Darmstadt University of Technology, who concludes(link is external) that:

“Roessler’s misinterpretation of the Schwarzschild metric [renders] his further considerations … null and void. These are not papers that could be taken into account when problems of black holes are discussed.”

A hypothetical scenario for possibly dangerous metastable black holes has recently been proposed(link is external) by Dr. Plaga. The conclusions of this work have been shown to be inconsistent in a second paper(link is external) by Giddings and Mangano, where it is also stated that the safety of this class of metastable black hole scenarios is already established by their original work(link is external).

 

Source: The safety of the LHC | CERN press office

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(artvoice.com) – Reverse Engineering Ahmed Mohamed’s Clock… and Ourselves.

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I have something in common with Ahmed Mohamed: as a youngster, I was also an electronics enthusiast. At his age and even earlier, I frequently took apart electronic devices – anything from my own toys, to broken things around the house, and even that dirty garbage-picked black and white TV my parents dragged home that they knew I’d have a blast playing with (I did.) I’d try and troubleshoot, repair, or sometimes just disassemble things and salvage components for future projects. I’d try and imagine how all those bits and pieces, lengths of wires, mazes of conductive circuit board traces all came together to produce an image, or a sound, or some other useful function. I wanted to know how it all worked.

Without dating myself – fast forward a bunch of years, and I’m the same way. I’ve even picked up an engineering degree over the course of those years. I don’t have to only imagine how things work anymore, I have a pretty good understanding now. When shopping for electronic devices, my first instinct is to see if there’s a way to build one myself (and, I frequently do!) When something of mine breaks, I don’t send it back, I take it as a personal challenge to get it working again. If I fail, I still salvage useful parts – they might come in handy to fix something else later. This aspect of myself – being both methodical, and curious – hasn’t changed a bit over the years.

High resolution police photo of Ahmed's clock. Click to enlarge.

So, this story about a 14 year old boy in Texas that was arrested on suspicion of creating a bomb hoax (who, apparently just wanted to show off his latest electronics project to his teachers) that has blown up (no pun intended) all over the news and social media, caught my attention immediately. Not because of his race, or his religion, the seeming absurdity of the situation, the emotionally charged photo of a young boy in a NASA t-shirt being led off in hand cuffs, the hash tags, the presidential response… no, none of that. I’m an electronics geek. I was interested in the clock! I wanted to figure out what he had come up with.

I found the highest resolution photograph of the clock I could. Instantly, I was disappointed. Somewhere in all of this – there has indeed been a hoax. Ahmed Mohamed didn’t invent his own alarm clock. He didn’t even build a clock. Now, before I go on and get accused of attacking a 14 year old kid who’s already been through enough, let me explain my purpose. I don’t want to just dissect the clock. I want to dissect our reaction as a society to the situation. Part of that is the knee-jerk responses we’re all so quick to make without facts. So, before you scroll down and leave me angry comments, please continue to the end (or not – prove my point, and miss the point, entirely!)

For starters, one glance at the printed circuit board in the photo, and I knew we were looking at mid-to-late 1970s vintage electronics. Surely you’ve seen a modern circuit board, with metallic traces leading all over to the various components like an electronic spider’s web. You’ll notice right away the highly accurate spacing, straightness of the lines, consistency of the patterns. That’s because we design things on computers nowadays, and computers assist in routing these lines. Take a look at the board in Ahmed’s clock. It almost looks hand-drawn, right? That’s because it probably was. Computer aided design was in its infancy in the 70s. This is how simple, low cost items (like an alarm clock) were designed. Today, even a budding beginner is going to get some computer aided assistance – in fact they’ll probably start there, learning by simulating designs before building them. You can even simulate or lay out a board with free apps on your phone or tablet. A modern hobbyist usually wouldn’t be bothered with the outdated design techniques. There’s also silk screening on the board. An “M” logo, “C-94” (probably, a part number – C might even stand for “clock”), and what looks like an American flag. More about that in a minute. Point for now being, a hobbyist wouldn’t silk screen logos and part numbers on their home made creation. It’s pretty safe to say already we’re looking at ’70s tech, mass produced in a factory.

So I turned to eBay, searching for vintage alarm clocks. It only took a minute to locate Ahmed’s clock. See this eBay listing, up at the time of this writing. Amhed’s clock was invented, and built, by Micronta, a Radio Shack subsidary. Catalog number 63 765.

Image property of eBay seller curiosities_curios

The shape and design is a dead give away. The large screen. The buttons on the front laid out horizontally would have been on a separate board – a large snooze button, four control buttons, and two switches to turn the alarm on and off, and choose two brightness levels. A second board inside would have contained the actual “brains” of the unit. The clock features a 9v battery back-up, and a switch on the rear allows the owner to choose between 12 and 24 hour time. (Features like a battery back-up, and a 24 hour time selection seems awful superfluous for a hobby project, don’t you think?) Oh, and about that “M” logo on the circuit board mentioned above? Micronta.

clock5

clock6For one last bit of confirmation, I located the pencil box Ahmed used for his project. During this video interview he again claims it was his “invention” and that he “made” the device – but the important thing at the moment, at 1:13, we see him showing the pencil box on his computer screen. Here it is on Amazon, where it’s clearly labeled as being 8.25 inches wide. Our eBay seller also conveniently took a photo of the clock next to a ruler to show it’s scale – about 8 inches wide. The dimensions all line up perfectly.

So there you have it folks, Ahmed Mohamed did not invent, nor build a clock. He took apart an existing clock, and transplanted the guts into a pencil box, and claimed it was his own creation. It all seems really fishy to me.

If we accept the story about “inventing” an alarm clock is made up, as I think I’ve made a pretty good case for, it’s fair to wonder what other parts of the story might be made up, not reported factually by the media, or at least, exaggerated.

I refer back again to this YouTube video interview with Ahmed. He explains that he closed up the box with a piece of cord because he didn’t want it to look suspicious. I’m curious, why would “looking suspicious” have even crossed his mind before this whole event unfolded, if he was truly showing off a hobby project, something so innocuous as an alarm clock. Why did he choose a pencil box, one that looks like a miniature briefcase no less, as an enclosure for a clock? It’s awful hard to see the clock with the case closed. On the other hand, with the case open, it’s awful dangerous to have an exposed power transformer sitting near the snooze button (unless, perhaps his invention was to stop serial-snooze-button pressers by giving them a dangerous electrical shock!)

So again, I’m pointing all this out – about the specifics of the clock – not to pick on the poor kid. I’m picking on us, our culture, and our media. I don’t even care about the clock itself at this point.

If we stop and think – was it really such a ridiculous reaction from the teacher and the police in the first place? How many school shootings and incidents of violence have we had, where we hear afterwards “this could have been prevented, if only we paid more attention to the signs!” Teachers are taught to be suspicious and vigilant. Ahmed wasn’t accused of making a bomb – he was accused of making a look-alike, a hoax. And be honest with yourself, a big red digital display with a bunch of loose wires in a brief-case looking box is awful like a Hollywood-style representation of a bomb. Everyone jumped to play the race and religion cards and try and paint the teachers and police as idiots and bigots, but in my mind, they were probably acting responsibly and erring on the side of caution to protect the rest of their students, just in case. “This wouldn’t have happened if Ahmed were white,” they say. We’re supposed to be sensitive to school violence, but apparently religious and racial sensitivity trumps that. At least we have another clue about how the sensitivity and moral outrage pecking order lies.

Because, is it possible, that maybe, just maybe, this was actually a hoax bomb? A silly prank that was taken the wrong way? That the media then ran with, and everyone else got carried away? Maybe there wasn’t even any racial or religious bias on the parts of the teachers and police.

I don’t know any of these things. But I’m intellectually mature enough to admit I don’t know, and to also be OK with that. I don’t feel a need to take the first exit to conclusionville. But I do like to find facts where I can, and prefer to let them lead me to conclusions, rather than a knee jerk judgement based on a headline or sound bite.

I think the whole event – and our collective response, with everybody up to the President chiming in, says a whole lot about us. We don’t care that none of us were there and knows what happened, we jump to conclusions and assume we’re experts. We care about the story, but we don’t care about the actual facts. Headlines and click-bait are far more interesting than thinking for ourselves. We like to point out other any bit of perceived injustice or discrimination we can find – it’s practically a new national past-time. We like playing victim, and we like talking about victims – so much so we sometimes find victims where none really existed. We also like to find somebody to blame, even when there’s nobody at fault. We like to play social justice warrior on our Facebooks and Twitters, posting memes and headlines without digging in behind the sensationalism, winning bonus sensitivity points in the forms of likes and re-tweets. Once group-think kicks in, we rally around hash tags and start shouting moral outrage in a deafeningly loud national chorus. The media plays us like a fiddle, and we don’t even notice we’ve all been had.

As for me, I’m glad to apply the lessons I’ve learned as an electronics enthusiast to other aspects of life. There’s no emotion in troubleshooting a circuit, electricity doesn’t have morals. There’s just physics, and logic, and methodology. I think we could all benefit from applying a little more of that sort of thinking to these situations.

* Correction: A reader and commenter, Joe Donaldson, tracked down the clock in a Radio Shack catalog dated 1986. It’s likely that my guess of mid-to-late 70s was off by a bit, and it’s now obvious it was a model that was for sale in the mid 80s. Though it doesn’t really change the point, I want to post this correction here for accuracy sake and thank Joe for the heads up. (See the comment here, with link to the catalog page.)

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85mph speedbike sets human-powered vehicle speed record | Rapid News Network

Once the five-mile buffer ends, World Human Powered Speed Challenge timers clock each participant over a 200-meter portion of road, which was hand picked prior to the event due to its flatness.

The bike is Aerovelo’s “Eta”, a weird-lookin’ but carefully engineered contraption that the company hopes will someday be able to get up to 100 miles per hour .

In order to achieve an incredible amount of speed, AeroVelo had to use a different kind of bicycle.

A team of bikers called AeroVelo broke a world record Thursday after posting a speed of 86.5 miles per hour, which is now the fastest speed for a vehicle mainly powered by human strength. However, while their vehicle did not reach its fullest alleged potential, it still passed over the previous record and the team snagged another award.

The 33-year-old Reichart came out on top of the competition, clinching the record that was in his and AeroVelo’s sights for quite some time.

Named after the Greek symbol of efficiency, Eta is created to attain speeds greater than 140 km/h, the team says. It has even ventured into aviation, developing what it describes as the first working human-powered ornithopter and also winning the Sikorsky Prize in 2013 with its Atlas human-powered helicopter.

Aerovelo Eta Bike: The world’s fastest human-powered vehicle has been built by a team of 14.

All the work that AeroVelo put into the Eta was expected to provide the vehicle with only a one percent performance improvement compared to the Bluenose, and apparently that one percent is all that the team needed to set the world record. It then sat out the second heat while repairs were made, in time for Reichart to enter the third and the rest is history.

There’s a bit more information about Eta in this video. In it, competitors are given 8 kilometers to build up their speed before reaching a flat section that stretches 200 meters. Having worked for publications such as The Santiago Times and The Conversation, he now writes for Gizmag from Melbourne, excited by tech and all forms of innovation, the city’s weird weather and curried egg sandwiches.

Source: 85mph speedbike sets human-powered vehicle speed record | Rapid News Network

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(hothardware.com) – Automakers Make Automatic Brake Tech Standard To Save Us From Ourselves

Autonomous driving has clear benefits for the safety of passengers in both the equipped vehicles and others, but there’s another feature that could dramatically improve safety all-around without having to go the route of full autonomy. We’re talking automatic brakes, because more often than not, computers can react quicker than us mere mortals can.

On Friday, 10 top automakers agreed to install automatic braking systems in their vehicles, which is a rather major thing to go down. Such systems are sure to add to the cost of these vehicles, but the effect would be far lessened today versus how it would have been years ago – even aftermarket camera systems can be had for a couple of hundred dollars.

Unfortunately, there’s no timeline of when this will come to fruition, but as the way things go with large scale rollouts, we can’t expect this to become commonplace for a number of years. In time, though, automatic braking systems could become a requirement, not an option.

It’s said that these systems will reduce both regular accidents and those that cause fatalities, and this move is a continuation of government efforts to dramatically reduce the number of the latter. Between 2004 and 2013, vehicle deaths dropped 25%. Still, with 32 thousand deaths within the US since 2004, and not to mention the sheer number of rear-end accidents out there (I invite you to play a game next time you’re out, and find all of the cars with dented rear-ends!), I’d say anti-braking systems are largely overdue.

It’s worth noting that many cars already come equipped with such systems, but we really are in need of a widespread rollout. And if cost seems to be an issue, perhaps it’d be wise for auto makers to stop cramming other systems into their cars that most consumers are not really looking for.

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(WSJ) – We Need the Right to Repair Our Gadgets 

 

People can fight back against planned obsolescence by fixing the tech we already own, but the consumer electronics industry isn’t making it easy
You don’t have to pay for an overpriced repair or send your broken electronics to the dump, says WSJ Personal Tech columnist Geoffrey A. Fowler.

By GEOFFREY A. FOWLER

We don’t have to keep buying new gadgets. In fact, we should insist on the right to keep old ones running.

Who hasn’t experienced a situation like this? Halfway through a classic Jack Lemmon DVD, my colleague Shira’s 40-inch TV conked out. Nothing showed up on the screen when she pressed the power button. The TV just hiccupped, going, “Clip-clop. Clip-clop.”

This was a great excuse to dump her old Samsung and buy a shiny new TV, right? But before heading to Best Buy, Shira gave me a call hoping for a less expensive option, not to mention one that’s better for the environment.

We ended up with a project that changed my view on our shop-till-you-drop gadget culture. We can fix more technology than we realize, but the electronics industry doesn’t want us to know that. In many ways, it’s obstructing us.

There’s a fight brewing between giant tech companies and tinkerers that could impact how we repair gadgets or choose the shop where we get it done by a pro. At issue: Who owns the knowledge required to take apart and repair TVs, phones and other electronics?

PERSONAL TECHNOLOGY

How and Why to Sell Your Old iPhone for Cold Cash
Manufacturers stop us by controlling repair plans and limiting access to parts. Some even employ digital software locks to keep us from making changes or repairs. This may not always be planned obsolescence, but it’s certainly intentional obfuscation.

(WSJ)

Thankfully, the Internet is making it harder for them to get away with it. My first stop with Shira’s TV, a 2008 model, was Samsung itself. On its website, I registered the TV and described what was broken.

With a little googling of the TV model, I found our problem wasn’t unique: Samsung was taken to court about this exact issue, caused by a busted component called a capacitor. Samsung settled in 2012 by agreeing to extend warranties for 18 months on certain TVs, including this one. It also kept repairing the problem at no cost for a while after.

But when a Samsung support rep called back, she said they’d no longer fix the problem free. She passed me to an authorized Samsung repair shop in my area. They said they’d charge $90 for an estimate, and at least $125 plus parts for a repair. Buying a similar-size Samsung TV today costs $380. Why wouldn’t Shira just buy a new TV? She felt guilty. Even recycled e-waste can end up in toxic dumps in the developing world.

Enter Plan B: I found a ton of people talking online about this TV’s broken capacitors. There were even a few folks selling DIY repair kits. The parts cost…wait for it…$12.
I have no experience repairing TVs beyond knowing you must unplug them to avoid shocks. I thought soldering was difficult to spell, much less do. But what did we have to lose with a TV that was already broken? I decided to open Geoff’s Tech Repair.

I splurged on a $20 deluxe repair kit, sold on eBay, that included capacitors, a soldering iron and something called a solder sucker. Its makers also sent me a link to a YouTube video where a man teaches you how to solder capacitors into a TV. To prove how easy it is, he’s helped by a toddler. The video has been watched over 675,000 times.

All of which raises an important question: Why didn’t Samsung just point me to instructions or provide the needed parts? Samsung’s website and phone support don’t have repair guides or really any information to help me negotiate the situation. I was on my own.

Samsung wants people to go to “qualified” technicians. In a statement, a spokesman said, “The technology found in TVs today is more sophisticated than ever before and often requires a level of expertise and technical proficiency to repair most of these high-quality products.”

I’ve heard this argument echoed elsewhere in the electronics industry. But the view is not unanimous: Dell, for one, makes repair guides and parts widely available on its site. So do H-P and Lenovo. Are we to believe that repairing a TV is so much more complicated than poking at a laptop?

Samsung says there are “no fees to Samsung” associated with becoming an authorized repair shop, and it makes parts available to independent shops. Samsung declined to say why it doesn’t make repair manuals available.

HELPING HANDS

Got a broken, out-of-warranty gadget? It might be more repairable than you think. You could Google it. Chances are, someone else has identified it and even posted a YouTube video about how to fix it. But your surest bet is to visit one of these key sites:

iFixit.com: Detailed repair instructions and repair parts for 4,000 devices, particularly phones, tablets, computers and cameras.
Repairclinic.com: Focused on appliances and power tools, sells replacement parts and offers more than 2,300 free repair videos.
Fixya.com : A free, wide-ranging billboard for asking and answering questions about over 19 million products.
iCracked.com: Independent repair network for Apple and Samsung phones and tablets that sends technicians and sells DIY screen replacement kits.
Repaircafe.org: Lists volunteer-driven events world-wide where people with technical experience help repair devices at no cost.
Samsung isn’t the only, or even the worst, offender. Some companies treat repair guides and schematics as intellectual property, and send takedown notices to people who post them online. Sometimes limitations are built into the design: You can’t separate Apple’s newest MacBook battery from its case, meaning only an Apple-authorized repair center can swap out a battery. (I hope you live near one!)

“Manufacturers are hiding behind copyright as a form of planned obsolescence,” says Kyle Wiens, co-founder of the website iFixit.com and an advocate for the right to repair electronics and reduce e-waste. His site includes helpful community-generated repair guides for products, and sells some replacement parts.

These manufacturers’ policies harm tinkerers, as well as mom-and-pop repair shops that don’t pay for an authorized designation. Being cut off from information is one reason independent repair shops aren’t as common as they were in decades past, Mr. Wiens says, even though a Consumer Reports study has found they generally offer better service at lower prices.

Mr. Wiens is also part of a coalition pushing legislation in Minnesota, Massachusetts and New York that would require “digital electronic product” makers to provide owners and independent repair businesses with service information, security updates and replacement parts. This would, he says, increase choices and lower prices.

At a Repair Cafe in Palo Alto, Calif., volunteers, including the woman on the right, helped people fix all kinds of devices.
At a Repair Cafe in Palo Alto, Calif., volunteers, including the woman on the right, helped people fix all kinds of devices. PHOTO: GEOFFREY FOWLER/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
The Consumer Electronics Association, an industry trade group, doesn’t like the electronics right-to-repair legislation. Among concerns listed in a white paper it shared with me were the safety and quality of consumer-repaired electronics. It also said some of this information “would be proprietary” and its disclosure could “inadvertently undermine a manufacturer’s competitive advantage.”

The notion that limiting repairs is planned obsolescence is an “urban myth,” says Walter Alcorn, the CEA’s vice president of environmental affairs and industry sustainability. He says his organization is committed to ongoing discussions with the repair community.

For now, at least we have the Internet.

There are also groups that home-brew repair instructions and advice in person, like a Repair Cafe I attended last week in Palo Alto, Calif. Over a four-hour session, a group of 40 volunteers served more than 200 people looking to repair everything from lawn mowers to TVs. They say they managed to repair two-thirds of what they saw, all free. The environmental impact of keeping all that stuff out of landfills is notable, as is the savings on the budgets of the patrons, many of whom were elderly.

Back in Geoff’s Tech Repair shop, I’m happy to report the fix on Shira’s TV took under two hours. First, I removed the many screws that attached the back of the TV, revealing the power supply. I took that out and spotted the busted capacitors. Soldering new capacitors requires a very hot probe, so I enlisted help from a colleague who’s an experienced tinkerer. But it honestly wasn’t any harder than using a glue gun.

When I was ready to plug the reassembled TV back in, my curious colleagues kept their distance—no one believed a TV was the kind of thing you could fix yourself. But when it turned on immediately, wild applause erupted.

The lesson: Repairing stuff isn’t as complicated as manufacturers want you to think. Geoff’s Tech Repair may be closed for now, but skilled gadget owners and independent repair pros deserve access to the information they need to do the best job they can.

Shira, very pleased with her like-new TV, tells me she’s going to rent “The Fortune Cookie” again to see how it all ended.

Write to Geoffrey A. Fowler at geoffrey.fowler@wsj.com or on Twitter @geoffreyfowler

Source: We Need the Right to Repair Our Gadgets – WSJ

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(Business Insider) – Why the ‘s’ iPhone is always the best one to buy 

 

Since the first iPhone came out in 2007, production has followed a predictable schedule: Every two years, Apple has given its new iPhone — the iPhone 3G, iPhone 4, iPhone 5, and iPhone 6 — major upgrades, like increasing the size and resolution of the screen, and changing the shape and design of the phone.

In the intervening years, or the so called “s” years, the phones have gotten incremental internal upgrades, like faster processors, increased stability, and some iterative features, like improved cameras and the addition of a fingerprint sensor.

You could say that these “s” phones — the Phone 3GS, iPhone 4s, iPhone 5s, and as of Wednesday, the iPhone 6s — are less revolutionary, and more evolutionary.

But they’re also the best phones to use.

I’ve owned every iPhone since the 3GS, and looking back, I’ve liked the changes in the “s” models the most.

That sentiment remains true for the iPhone 6s, which Apple announced Wednesday.

The iPhone 6s looks nearly identical to the iPhone 6 on the outside, but it includes a significantly better camera, a display that can detect the difference between a normal and deep tap, and a new Rose Gold colour, among other features.

The camera in the iPhone 6s is by far the best camera Apple has ever made — and it will be enough of a reason by itself to convince people to upgrade. This is first time in years that Apple has increased the number of megapixels from 8 to 12, which means that images will look much crisper on bigger displays.

There’s also a cool new feature in the iPhone 6s called “Live Photos,” which essentially turns static images into short videos, like animated GIFs.

Deep pressing on the iPhone 6s display to get more info about a museum in Maps.

Perhaps the biggest addition to the iPhone 6s is the new display technology Apple calls “3D Touch.” It’s going to change the way I interact with apps by letting my press deeper to access quick shortcuts and navigate without having to make a bunch of finger taps.

The iPhone 6s is just another example of how Apple methodically iterates on its existing smartphone design every other year.

Sure, we got a flashy new hardware design with the iPhone 4, but the iPhone 4s introduced Siri, which remains an incredibly important Apple product — and a tent-pole feature of the new Apple TV.

The iPhone 5 increased the device’s screen size, but the iPhone 5s included the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, which completely changed the way I unlock my iPhone, and on the iPhone 6, the way I pay for things.

The iPhone 6s has been reinforced to make it less susceptible to bending, according toleaked parts that YouTuber Lewis Hilsenteger obtained in the weeks leading up to the Apple event.

That may not seem like a big deal, and Apple didn’t address it during its media event on Wednesday, but considering that I accidentally bent my iPhone 6 twice, it’s a design change I welcome. Without theBendgate controversy surrounding the iPhone 6, Apple may never have tweaked the design of the iPhone 6s.

I like the “s” iPhones because they build on the design from the previous year and give Apple an opportunity to iterate with refinements and new features that didn’t make it into the previous year’s model. 3D Touch would have been great on last year’s iPhone 6, but it builds on the larger screen Apple introduced with the 6 and makes it even better.

As of September 25 (or September 12 if you want to pre-order), you’ll have the choice of paying a bit more money for the iPhone 6s instead of the current iPhone 6. If you’re on the fence, go with the “s” model. It may not look much different on the outside, but like most good things, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

NOW WATCH: You can talk to the new Apple TV — here’s what it looks like

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Source: Why the ‘s’ iPhone is always the best one to buy | Business Insider

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Education Science Space Technology

(pioneer news) – Scientists Report Discovery of Oldest Galaxy Yet Known

Just this week, a team of researchers out of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has reported the discovery of a new galaxy—which they call EGS8p7—estimated to be in the distant space “neighborhood,” and has been estimated to be about 13.2 billion years old. Scientists say, then, that this universe must be about the same age as the universe—born about 600,000 years later than the Big Bang.

“We report the discovery of Lyman-alpha emission (Lyα) in the bright galaxy EGSY-2008532660 (hereafter EGSY8p7) using the Multi-Object Spectrometer For Infra-Red Exploration spectrograph at the Keck Observatory,” explains the study researchers. Furthermore, the research paper adds, “Redshift results from the Doppler effect, the same phenomenon that causes the siren on a fire truck to drop in pitch as the truck passes.”
Galaxy EGS8p7 as seen from the Hubble Space Telescope
Galaxy EGS8p7, as seen from the Hubble Space Telescope (wide and top right) and Spitzer Space Telescope (inset, bottom right), taken in infrared. Credit: I. Labbé (Leiden University), NASA/ESA/JPL-Caltech

In addition, NASA Hubble astronomy post-doctoral scholar Adi Zitrin comments, “If you look at the galaxies in the early universe, there is a lot of neutral hydrogen that is not transparent to this emission. We expect that most of the radiation from this galaxy would be absorbed by the hydrogen in the intervening space. Yet still we see Lyman-alpha from this galaxy.”

Of course, this is just a new discovery so much more research is necessary before reaching any conclusions. At the same time, scientists know that data from this galaxy will certainly provide us with new insights into the evolution of our solar system.

Zitrin concludes, “We are currently calculating more thoroughly the exact chances of finding this galaxy and seeing this emission from it, and to understand whether we need to revise the timeline of the reionization, which is one of the major key questions to answer in our understanding of the evolution of the universe.”

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(USA Today) – Facebook’s WhatsApp hits 900 million users, aims for 1 billion

WhatsApp founder Jan Koum photographed by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as he announces that WhatsApp has hit 900 million monthly active users.(Photo: Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook)

SAN FRANCISCO — WhatsApp has reached 900 million monthly active users, cementing Facebook’s dominance in mobile messaging.

Facebook owns the world’s two most popular apps: WhatsApp, which it bought for billions, and its homegrown app, Facebook Messenger, which recently announced it has 700 million monthly active users.

WhatsApp founder Jan Koum made the announcement on Facebook on Thursday evening.

Monthly active users isn’t the best way to measure activity on a messaging app. WhatsApp did not say how many messages are being sent each day, for example. But the growth is impressive. WhatsApp announced it had crossed 800 million in April. That is no small feat for either app: Smartphone owners spend more time in messaging apps than any other app.

Messenger is also surging in popularity. It’s now the second-most popular app in the U.S, surpassing Google-owned YouTube, according to a comScore report.

By way of comparison: Twitter has a bit more than 300 million monthly active users. Instagram, the photo and video sharing app owned by Facebook, also has about 300 million.

Still, WhatsApp faces fierce competition from Asian rivals. And those apps are making money from games, virtual goods and other in-app wares, moneymaking opportunities that Koum has rejected.

So far Facebook has not tried to milk WhatsApp and it’s still unclear how it plans to. In the first half of 2014, WhatsApp made $15 million from subscription fees on a loss of $232.5 million. WhatsApp was charging users $1 a year, with the first year free, before it was bought by Facebook.

Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said during the company’s second-quarter earnings call that the company is not yet ready to turn on the moneymaking spigot with Messenger or WhatsApp.

Zuckerberg has said Facebook has “many clear ways” to make money from a product once it reaches one billion users.

“This may sound a little ridiculous to say, but for us, products don’t really get that interesting to turn into businesses until they have about 1 billion people using them,” Zuckerberg said in 2014.

One billion people, one out of seven on the planet, used Facebook on a single day in August .

“This was the first time we reached this milestone, and it’s just the beginning of connecting the whole world,” Zuckerberg wrote.

Source: Facebook’s WhatsApp hits 900 million users, aims for 1 billion

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(Computerworld) – Auction house puts pristine 39-year-old Apple-1 on the block 

Auction house Bonhams will put a pristine Apple-1 personal computer on the block later this month, and has pegged the gavel price at between $300,000 and $500,000.
Apple iPhone 6s rumors say it’s even bigger (release date in 2 weeks)Oh noes: The Apple iPhone 6s will be bigger than today’s iPhone. Confirming previous mutterings,

Bonhams has experience selling vintage Apple-1 computers: One it sold last year went for the still-record $905,000 after commissions and taxes.

The Apple-1, essentially a stand-alone circuit board sans keyboard, monitor or even power supply, was hand-built by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak in 1976, and may have been one of the first lot of 50, according to a penned identifier on the back. That mark — 01-0059 — was probably an inventory number assigned by the Byte Shop of Mountain View, Calif., the first volume purchaser of the computer.

Wozniak and co-founder Steve Jobs kick-started Apple 39 years ago when they secured an order of 50 units from Byte Store owner Paul Terrell. At the time, the Apple-1 sold for $666.66, equal to about $2,800 in 2015 dollars.

Another clue that hinted at this Apple-1’s provenance was the lack of a circuit board manufacturer identifier; according to Apple-1 expert Mike Willegal, that indicates a unit from the first batch produced by Wozniak and Jobs.
Bonhams said that the Apple-1 is being sold by Tom Romkey, who owned a computer shop in Florida. Romkey acquired the Apple-1 when a customer traded it for a new NCR personal computer. NCR, better known as a cash register and ATM maker, entered the PC market in the 1980s.

According to Bonhams, the Apple-1 was used just once or twice by the owner who traded it to Romkey. For his part, Romkey simply put it on a shelf where it sat unused for decades.

The computer is in excellent condition, said Corey Cohen, a New Jersey-based Apple-1 expert who was called in by Bonhams to authenticate the device and verify that it was operational.

“This is a fully functional Apple-1 from 1976,” Cohen said in a video showing him demonstrating that the Apple-1 worked. “It is in incredible condition.”

Willegal’s index of known Apple-1 computers — one of the few authoritative lists — did not show one that seemed to match the Romkey device.

Bonhams will auction the Apple-1 in New York City on Sept. 21.

Source: Auction house puts pristine 39-year-old Apple-1 on the block | Computerworld