Can a Seattle Startup Launch a Fusion Reactor Into Space?

"Practical nuclear fusion is, famously, always 10 years in the future," reports IEEE Spectrum. "Except that the Pentagon recently gave an award to a tiny startup to launch a fusion power system into space in just five..." Avalanche Energy Designs, based near a Boeing facility in Seattle...is working on modular "micro fusion packs," small enough to hold in your hand yet capable of powering everything from electric cars to spaceships. Last month, the Pentagon's Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) announced it had awarded Avalanche an unspecified sum to develop its Orbitron fusion device to generate either heat or electricity, with the aim of powering a high-efficiency propulsion system aboard a prototype satellite in 2027.... Avalanche's Orbitron... could theoretically fit on a tabletop. It relies on the Ph.D. thesis of Tom McGuire, a student working on inertial electrostatic confinement (IEC) fusion at MIT in 2007... McGuire's IEC work languished until it caught the attention of two engineers working at Blue Origin: Robin Langtry and Brian Riordan. In 2018, they formed Avalanche Energy as a side hustle, eventually leaving Blue Origin in the summer of 2021. In March of this year Avalanche emerged from stealth with $5 million in venture-capital funding and a staff of 10, although Avalanche's official address is still a single-family home in Seattle. Avalanche's website proudly proclaims: "We see our fusion power packs as the foundation for creating a world with abundant clean water, healthy oceans, vast rain forests, and immense glaciers in healthy equilibrium." A patent application filed by Langtry and Riordan contains some details of how their Orbitron may function. It describes an orbital containment system on the order of tens of centimeters in size, where a beam of fuel ions interacts with an electrostatic field to enter an elliptical orbit about an inner electrode. The application describes a system where ions last for a second or more — 10 times as long as in McGuire's simulations, and long enough for each ion to complete millions of orbits in the reactor. An article in GeekWire published as Avalanche exited stealth mode included a claim that the company had already produced neutrons via fusion. Avalanche envisages small fusion packs with 5- to 15-kilowatt capacity, operating either on their own or grouped by the hundreds for megawatt-scale clean-energy solutions. The Pentagon is interested in the packs to potentially enable small spacecraft to maneuver freely in deep space, with higher power payloads. The challenge now is for Avalanche to move from a 15-year old Ph.D. thesis in simulation to a working prototype in space, in just 60 months.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

A New Student Movement Wants You to Log Off

Two years ago a college sophomore started "the Log Off movement." This week the New York Times explored its progress — starting with how their mission's been affected by negative news stories about social media: "The first article I read that really launched me into it was Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation. I found study after study showing the possible correlation between increased rates of anxiety, suicide rates and eating disorders tracking alongside increased rates of usage... The most powerful thing to me was not the studies. It was the fact that personal stories were not being told and there was not an epicenter where people could come together and say: "Here's my personal experience." "Here's how I was harmed." "These were the accounts that made me feel worse about myself." I knew that was necessary. The genie's out of the bottle. As members of Gen Z, we understand that there are positive attributes and there are negative attributes to social media, but right now, in its current usage, it can be really harmful. Q: How does the Log Off Movement address these issues? Through our podcast, a leadership council, an educational curriculum on how to use online spaces safely and blogs, we are discussing ways we can move forward with technology and allow it to become a tool again rather than a controller. What we are asking for teens to do is to be comfortable talking about their experiences so that we can educate legislators to understand a Gen Z perspective, what we need from technology, what privacy concerns we're having, what mental health concerns we're having. We have an advocacy initiative through Tech[nically] Politics, which pushes for laws that help ensure teens have a safe online experience, specifically the California Age Appropriate Design Code Bill.... Q: How have you adjusted your own relationship to social media? What methods have worked? Whenever I go through a stressful period with exams, I delete Instagram. I know that in periods of stress, I'm going to lean towards mindlessly using it as a form of coping. Another thing that's worked for me is Grayscale, which makes the phone appear only in black and white. I always suggest Screentime Genie, which provides solutions on how to limit screen time. I use Habit Lab for Chrome, which helps you reduce your time online. It creates a level of friction between you and addictive technology. One app they still enjoy is BeReal (which notifies you and your friends to take an unstaged picture of what you're genuinely doing at one randomly-chosen moment each day). But the group's founder still remembers the "horrific loop" of using social media apps six hours a day (starting with Instagram at the age of 12) — and "feeling as though I could not stop scrolling because it has this weird power over me..." One teenager who'd spent six hours a day on social media later shared their observation that logging off improved their vision — but also made the world more clear mentally. The group's founder says the ultimate hope is their project "results in a kind of pivot prioritizing the well-being of users in these online environments."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Crypto Fraud is Growing Exponentially

The Los Angeles Times reports on "a massive surge of criminal fraud that has been pummeling crypto users with unknown billions of dollars in losses with little relief in sight." The growth in crypto fraud has turned exponential in recent years. The reported losses from crypto scams in 2021 were 60 times larger than in 2018, the Federal Trade Commission reported earlier this month, with crypto now accounting for 1 out of every 4 dollars lost to fraud in the reports monitored by the agency. Over 46,000 people lost more than $1 billion in crypto to scams since 2021, but the real sum of losses is likely vastly larger because most frauds are not reported, the agency said.... "Since 2021, $575 million of all crypto fraud losses reported to the FTC were about bogus investment opportunities, far more than any other fraud type," the agency reported. Financial losses specifically from NFT crimes just through May this year were already more than 600% higher than for all of 2021, with the space seeing twice as many hacks and bigger and bigger heists, according to analysis from digital privacy firm Top10VPN. For many victims, there's little hope of getting their lost art back. The marketplaces where NFTs get sold — crypto exchanges — can't cancel or reverse fraudulent transactions the way a traditional bank or credit card company might; the whole point of crypto was to cut out these sorts of financial middlemen, which many crypto fans greatly distrust. Crypto technology was built out of a "libertarian ethos" in which "there's no nanny state that's going to take care of you," said Jeremy Goldman, an intellectual property attorney who specializes in legal issues involving crypto assets. "These are the consequences when there's a mistake ... there's no one to unwind it, you can't call customer service, you can't go back to the mothership, you can't go back to the bank." But at the same time, law enforcement agencies in the U.S. have also shown a growing willingness and ability to mount sophisticated investigations into crypto fraud.... [I]n March, federal agents sought a court order to seize roughly $165,000 worth of Ethereum in a digital Binance.US wallet. Officials said the cryptocurrency had been stolen from an Orange County investor, nicknamed "P.M.," who got tricked into giving up his coins by an fraudster pretending to be a Coinbase technical support representative. On the bright side, BuzzFeed notes that actor Seth Green has recovered his prized Bored Ape NFT from "Mr Cheese" for $297,000 worth of Ether. But the Los Angeles Times points out that another victim of a Bored Ape heist has sued the creators of Bored Apes. Their lawyer argues the company "refuses to police their own community. They're the gatekeepers, they can lock out the thieves if they wanted to, and they won't do it."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

SpaceX Makes History: Launches and Lands Three Rockets in 36 Hours

Early this morning SpaceX tweeted video showing its deployment of a communications satellite. But the deployment was part of a historic first, reports CBS News: SpaceX completed a record triple-header early Sunday, launching a Globalstar communications satellite from Cape Canaveral after putting a German radar satellite in orbit from California Saturday and launching 53 Starlink internet satellites Friday from the Kennedy Space Center. The Globalstar launch capped the fastest three-flight cadence for an orbit-class rocket in modern space history as the company chalked up its 158th, 159th and 160th Falcon 9 flights in just 36 hours and 18 minutes. More than 50 launches are expected by the end of the year. Space.com also notes another milestone: The Friday mission set a new rocket-reuse record for SpaceX; the Falcon 9 that flew it featured a first stage that already had 12 launches under its belt. (Sunday's launch was the ninth for this particular Falcon 9 first stage, according to a SpaceX mission description.) SpaceX also tweeted footage of that rocket's liftoff and night-time landing.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.