Feathers fly over Romney’s "Big Bird" debate comments

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Forget about financial reform, Obamacare and job creation. The biggest newsmaker in Wednesday night’s presidential debate may have been Big Bird, the lovable “Sesame Street” character whose public TV funding Republican candidate Mitt Romney vowed to end.

Revenge of the fossil fuels: Setbacks mount for renewables

After a fantastic run spanning a few years, the renewable energy sector has taken a number of hits recently, which suggests its inevitable march as the energy source of the future is far from certain

The PandaBot: Another Day, Another Anamorphic 3D Printer With A Cute Name

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The 3D printer craze shows no signs of stopping and Kickstarter is full of exciting examples of new printing hardware. Today’s entrant in the 3D race? The devilishly cute PandaBot, a “fur white” 3D printer with an 11x11x11-inch build area and a smooth, seamless design.

The bot prints in ABS plastic and has one enclosed print head. All of the major machinery is hidden behind white metal panels and the aforementioned “Panda” styling means this doesn’t look like a junk yard mated with the thing E.T. built in the woods.

Over the past 9 months we’ve designed and built our prototype printer. Since it’s designed as a manufactured product, construction techniques and materials were chosen to make it exceptionally stable, robust, and quiet. Fully encased in metal, the PandaBot is very rigid and quiet. Our design isn’t as susceptible to vibration induced errors as other printers designed to be hand assembled. We’ve proven this by successfully printing on live national TV with no adjustments in less than 5 minutes from the back of a taxi.

Founded by Torontoans Kelly John Rose and Felix Tang, the project is looking for $50,000; PandaBots cost $800 for the basic model, which is quite reasonable. Like flowers in the meadow, 3D printers are beautiful and manifold, and this one is more attractive than most.

Project Page

Samsung’s ATIV Smart PC And Asus’ VivoTab RT To Launch On AT&T In Time For The Holidays

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Holy cow AT&T, another announcement? While most of the other national wireless carriers have opted to save some news for later on, AT&T keeps pushing out releases like it’s going out of style.

Anyway, in addition to heavily pushing Nokia’s Windows Phone 8 handsets, the carrier has also announced that it will carry a pair of Windows 8 tablets — the Asus VivoTab RT and Samsung’s ATIV Smart PC — in time for the holiday rush.

Samsung’s ATIV Smart PC is the more familiar of the two since the Korean company made a point of showing it off at its big London press event earlier this year, but here’s a quick recap in case you missed Samsung’s spectacle. The ATIV sports a 11.6-inch HD display, while a 1.5GHz Intel Clover Trail processor and 64GB of internal storage help keep things ticking along. Interestingly, AT&T doesn’t specify whether or not the ATIV is set up for LTE, though it does play the availability of a keyboard-toting docking system to please those productivity fiends among you.

That said, AT&T is quick to crown Asus’ VivoTab the “first quad-core Windows RT 4G LTE tablet,” and it’s (perhaps obviously) the less hefty of the two. Smaller though it may be, the VivoTab (ugh, really?) runs with a more standard 10.1-inch Super IPS display, only 32 GB of storage, and one of NVIDIA’s quad-core Tegra 3 chipsets.

As usual, there’s no word yet on pricing, but AT&T stopped subsidizing its tablets back in August so don’t expect to be able to sign a contract and walk out with the cheap tablet. AT&T is playing the availability card close to its chest as well, but the smart money is on seeing them sooner rather than later.

Fast-moving star is the closest yet to the Milky Way’s black hole

The center of the Milky Way is a messy place, full of stars and star remnants. There’s so much going on that it’s hard to observe in visible light, so precision measurements rely on radio, X-ray, or infrared (IR) wavelengths. Astronomers using the Keck telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii have been watching stars near the galactic center in IR for 17 years, providing a detailed view of their dynamics. The fruits of these observations include the measurement of the mass of the Milky Way’s central black hole: approximately 4 million times the mass of the Sun.

The Keck team, led by UCLA astronomer Andrea Ghez, has now identified a star that orbits the black hole in 11.5 years, the shortest orbital period for a star yet discovered. Thanks to this relatively quick motion, the astronomers have completely mapped the orbit of this star, known as S0-102, making it the second such star observed. Knowledge of complete orbits helps with modeling the black hole itself, which is invisible in IR light. While the data so far doesn’t deviate from Newtonian gravity, observations over multiple orbits should allow for tests of general relativity in the region close to a black hole—something that hasn’t been done yet using stellar orbits.

Since 1995, researchers have mapped the motions of stars around the central black hole, using high-resolution IR images. At Keck, such imaging was facilitated by adaptive optics, wherein the shape of the 10-meter-diameter mirror was adjusted dynamically to correct for atmospheric distortion. With such techniques, astronomers were able to pinpoint the location and paths of a significant number of stars near the black hole, known as the S-stars.

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Romney gains ground on Obama after strong debate

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney gained ground on Democratic President Barack Obama after a strong performance in their first debate heading into the November 6 election, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll taken after their prime-time face-off.

Ann Romney to guest host "Good Morning America"

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Ann Romney, wife of Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney, will co-host top U.S. breakfast TV show “Good Morning America” for one day next week, ABC News said on Thursday.