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Interesting Articles

This page contains links to interesting articles about computers and other stuff. Please let me know if you find any broken links. I may or may not agree with the opinions expressed in any of these articles.

If you are interested in Facebook, you might want to see my Facebook page, which contains suggestions on how to keep your information safe while enjoying Facebook.

I found many of these on SlashDot, and used their descriptions. The nice thing about the Slashdot articles is that you can learn more information from the discussions.

Article Description/Comments
Carbon Dioxide From the Air Converted Into Methanol
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The danger posed by rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide has seen many schemes proposed to remove a proportion it from the air. Rather than simply capture this greenhouse gas and bury it in the ground, though, many experiments have managed to transform CO2 into useful things like carbon nanofibers or even fuels, such as diesel. Unfortunately, the over-arching problem with many of these conversions is the particularly high operating temperatures that require counterproductive amounts of energy to produce relatively low yields of fuel. Now researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) claim to have devised a way to take CO2 directly from the air and convert it into methanol using much lower temperatures and in a correspondingly simpler way.
NASA Announces That Pluto Has Icebergs Floating On Glaciers of Nitrogen Ice
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The most recent finding from New Horizons show that icebergs have broken off from the hills surrounding the Sputnik Planum, a glacier of nitrogen ice, and are floating slowly across its surface, eventually to cluster together in places like the Challenger Colles, informally named after the crew of the space shuttle Challenger, which was lost just over 30 years ago. The feature is an especially high concentration of icebergs, measuring 37 by 22 miles. The icebergs float on the nitrogen ice plain because water ice is less dense than nitrogen ice.
MIT Reveals "Hack-Proof" RFID Chip
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A group of researchers at MIT and Texas Instruments claim that they have developed a new radio frequency identification chip that may be impossible to hack. Traditional RFID chips are vulnerable to side-channel attacks, whereby a hacker can extract a cryptographic key from the chip. The new RFID chip runs a random-number generator that creates a new secret key after each transaction. The key can then be verified with a server to ensure that it is correct. The group at MIT also incorporated protection against a power-glitch attack, an attack that would normally leave a chip vulnerable to an interruption of the power source that would in turn halt the creation of a new secret key. Texas Instruments CTO Ahmad Bahai stated, "We believe this research is an important step toward the goal of a robust, lo-cost, low-power authentication protocol for the industrial internet." The question is, how long will it be before this "hack proof" chip is hacked?
Harnessing Artificial Intelligence To Build an Army of Virtual Analysts
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PatternEx, a startup that gathered a team of AI researcher from MIT CSAIL as well as security and distributed systems experts, is poised to shake up things in the user and entity behavior analytics market. Their goal was to make a system capable of mimicking the knowledge and intuition of human security analysts so that attacks can be detected in real time. The platform can go through millions of events per day and can make an increasingly better evaluation of whether they are anomalous, malicious or benign.
World's First Robotic Farm To Produce 11 Million Heads of Lettuce Per Year
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Japanese company SPREAD is preparing to open the world's first robot-controlled farm. The facility is designed to produce 11 million heads of lettuce each year, and it's expected to ship its first crop in Fall 2017. The new 47,300 square feet Vegetable Factory in Kansai Science City will also reduce construction costs by 25 percent and energy demand by 30 percent.
China's Chang'e 3 Lander and Yutu Rover Camera Data Released
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Detailed high resolution images from the recent Chinese moon mission have been released. Links to the original Chinese sites hosting the images are available, but Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society has kindly organized them in English. Images show the lander, the rover and the surface of the earth. An interactive map is also available, built from data collected by the mission.
France To Pave 1000km of Road With Solar Panels
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France is planning on a project to build 1000 kilometers of road with specially designed solar panels. This project will supply 5 million people in France with electricity if it is successful. Though many solar experts are skeptical of this project, the French government has given the go-ahead to this venture. According to France's minister of ecology and energy, Ségolène Royal, the tender for this project is already issued under the "Positive Energy" initiative and the test for the solar panels will begin by this spring.The photo voltaic solar panels called "Wattway" which will be used in the project are jointly developed by the French infrastructure firm "Colas" and the National Institute for Solar Energy. The specialty of "Wattway" is that its very sturdy and can let heavy trucks pass over it, also offering a good grip to avoid an accident. Interestingly, this project will not remove road surfaces but instead, the solar panels will be glued to the existing pavement.
Cable Lobby Steams Up Over FCC Set-Top Box Competition Plan
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Cable TV industry lobby groups expressed their displeasure with a Federal Communications Commission plan to bring competition to the set-top box market, which could help consumers watch TV on different devices and thus avoid paying cable box rental fees.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed new rules that would force pay-TV companies to give third parties access to TV content, letting hardware makers build better set-top boxes. Customers would be able to watch all the TV channels they're already paying cable companies for, but on a device that they don't have to rent from them. The rules could also bring TV to tablets and other devices without need for a rented set-top box. The system would essentially replace CableCard with a software-based equivalent.
Ancient Babylonians Figured Out Forerunner of Calculus
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Tracking and recording the motion of the sun, the moon, and the planets as they paraded across the desert sky, ancient Babylonian astronomers used simple arithmetic to predict the positions of celestial bodies. Now, new evidence reveals that these astronomers, working several centuries B.C.E., also employed sophisticated geometric methods that foreshadow the development of calculus. Historians had thought such techniques did not emerge until more than 1400 years later, in 14th century Europe.
The Tragedy Of Apollo 1 And The Lessons That Brought Us To The Moon
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On January 27, 1967, the Apollo 1 crew was performing a "plugs-out" test of the Command/Service Module, an essential simulation of how the three-person capsule would perform under in-space conditions under its own power. At 6:30 PM, a voltage spike occurred, leading to a disaster. In 26 seconds, everything changed. The Apollo 1 fire and the tragic death of all three astronauts wasn't due to just a single point-of-failure, but rather due to five independent confounding factors that if any one of them had been different, the astronauts Grissom, White and Chaffee might have survived. As it stands, all the crewed Apollo missions were scrapped for 20 months while NASA changed how they did business. The changes worked remarkably well, and 2.5 years later, humans walked on the Moon.
US Could Lower Carbon Emissions 78% With New National Transmission Network
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A story from Smithsonian magazine about how building a national transmission network could lead to a gigantic reduction in carbon emissions. From the story: "The United States could lower carbon emissions from electricity generation by as much as 78 percent without having to develop any new technologies or use costly batteries, a new study suggests. There's a catch, though. The country would have to build a new national transmission network so that states could share energy. 'Our idea was if we had a national 'interstate highway for electrons' we could move the power around as it was needed, and we could put the wind and solar plants in the very best places,' says study co-author Alexander MacDonald, who recently retired as director of NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado."
Chronic Stress Could Lead To Depression and Dementia, Scientists Warn
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A major review of published research suggests that chronic stress and anxiety can damage areas of the brain involved in emotional responses, thinking and memory, leading to depression and even Alzheimer's disease. Dr Linda Mah, the lead author of the review carried out at a research institute affiliated to the University of Toronto, said: 'Pathological anxiety and chronic stress are associated with structural degeneration and impaired functioning of the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex, which may account for the increased risk of developing neuropsychiatric disorders, including depression and dementia.'
Fake Facebook Emails Deliver Malware Masquerading As Audio Message
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A new spam campaign is targeting Facebook users. It uses the same approach as the recent one aimed at WhatsApp users, and Comodo researchers believe that the authors of both campaigns are likely the same. The fake emails are made to look like an official communication from the popular social network, and their goal is to make the victims believe they have received a voice message. The attachment that the recipients are urged to download and open contains a malicious executable — a variant of the Nivdort information-stealing Trojan.
Former Mozilla CEO Launches Security-Centric Browser Brave
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Former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich has launched a new Chromium-based browser called Brave. "Brave blocks everything: initial signaling/analytics scripts that start the programmatic advertising 'dirty pipe', impression-tracking pixels, and ad-click confirmation signals," Eich wrote on the Brave site. Former Mozilla CTO Andreas Gal said in a blog post that "the web is broken," with current browser vendors unwilling to tackle the dilemma of blocking ads, while looking at alternative mechanisms for funding content. Gal said it was ironic Brave was a for-profit operation that can make money from reducing advertising.
NASA, NOAA Analyses Reveal Record-Shattering Global Warm Temperatures In 2015
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Earth's 2015 surface temperatures were the warmest since modern record keeping began in 1880, according to independent analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Globally-averaged temperatures in 2015 shattered the previous mark set in 2014 by 0.23 degrees Fahrenheit (0.13 Celsius). Only once before, in 1998, has the new record been greater than the old record by this much. The British Met office also reports on the same phenomenon, even forecasting that global temperatures are very soon going to reach the one-degree-Celsius marker. According to Stephen Belcher, Director of the Met Office Hadley Centre, "We've had similar natural events in the past, yet this is the first time we're set to reach the 1 C marker and it's clear that it is human influence driving our modern climate into uncharted territory."
Caltech Astronomers Say a Ninth Planet Lurks Beyond Pluto
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The solar system may have a new ninth planet. Today, two scientists announced evidence that a body nearly the size of Neptune — but as yet unseen — orbits the sun every 15,000 years. During the solar system's infancy 4.5 billion years ago, they say, the giant planet was knocked out of the planet-forming region near the sun. Slowed down by gas, the planet settled into a distant elliptical orbit, where it still lurks today. Here's a link to the full academic paper published in The Astronomical Journal.
European Human Rights Court Rules Mass Surveillance Illegal
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The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has ruled that mass surveillance is illegal, in a little-noticed case in Hungary. In a judgment last week, the court ruled that the Hungarian government had violated article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to privacy) due to its failure to include "sufficiently precise, effective and comprehensive" measures that would limit surveillance to only people it suspected of crimes. Under a section of the 2011 National Security Act, a minister of the government is able to approve a police request to search people's houses, mail, phones and laptops if they are seeking to protect national security. ... The court said the Hungarian government should be required to interpret the law in a narrow fashion and "verify whether sufficient reasons for intercepting a specific individual's communications exist in each case." Or in other words, every individual case must be looked at carefully and a decision made on each. Which is clearly impossible if the law is taken to carry out mass surveillance, i.e., hoovering up information over the internet and then searching in it."
Fraud Detected In Science Research That Suggested GMO Crops Were Harmful
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Three science papers that had suggested that genetically modified crops were harmful to animals and have been used by activist groups to argue for their ban have been found to contain manipulated and possibly falsified data. Nature reports: "Papers that describe harmful effects to animals fed genetically modified (GM) crops are under scrutiny for alleged data manipulation. The leaked findings of an ongoing investigation at the University of Naples in Italy suggest that images in the papers may have been intentionally altered. The leader of the lab that carried out the work there says that there is no substance to this claim. The papers' findings run counter to those of numerous safety tests carried out by food and drug agencies around the world, which indicate that there are no dangers associated with eating GM food. But the work has been widely cited on anti-GM websites — and results of the experiments that the papers describe were referenced in an Italian Senate hearing last July on whether the country should allow cultivation of safety-approved GM crops. 'The case is very important also because these papers have been used politically in the debate on GM crops,' says Italian senator Elena Cattaneo, a neuroscientist at the University of Milan whose concerns about the work triggered the investigation.
Katherine Johnson: NASA's Pioneering Female Physicist
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Tuesday's State of the Union address included a shout-out to Katherine Johnson, the pioneering African American mathematician and physicist who calculated the trajectory of Alan Shepherd's 1961 space trip. "Her reputation was so strong that John Glenn asked her to recheck the calculations made by the new electronic computers before the mission on which he became the first American to orbit the Earth," notes one technology reporter. NASA policy at the time was to not acknowledge the female contributors to scientific papers, though "She literally wrote the textbook on rocket science," according to one NASA official, noting that her impact literally reaches all the way to the moon. At a ceremony in November, Johnson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and the 97-year-old pioneer continues to encourage young people to also pursue careers in technology, science, engineering and math.
Reusable SpaceX Rocket Has Implications For a Return To the Moon
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While it is unclear what, if any, implications the recent successful landing of the first stage of the Falcon 9 first stage means for the future of space travel, planetary scientist and space commentator Paul Spudis suggested that the feat and the similar one performed earlier by Blue Origin could have some benefit for a return to the moon. In the meantime, a test of the engines in the recovered first stage had mixed results. The engines fired alright, but SpaceX CEO Elon Musk reported, "thrust fluctuations" that might have been caused by "debris ingestion."
SpaceX Successfully Launches Jason-3 Satellite, Rocket Landing Partial Success
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SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9 rocket today carrying the Jason-3 ocean monitoring satellite. "Jason-3 data will be used for monitoring global sea level rise, researching human impacts on oceans, aiding prediction of hurricane intensity, and operational marine navigation," NASA said. Unfortunately Space X reports that the attempt to land the Falcon 9 on a drone platform was only a partial success. According to the company twitter page: "First stage on target at droneship but looks like hard landing; broke landing leg."

Here is a video of the launch.
How Procrastination Can Be Good For You
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Over 80 percent of college students are plagued by procrastination, requiring epic all-nighters to finish papers and prepare for tests. Roughly 20 percent of adults report being chronic procrastinators. But Adam Grant writes in the NY Times that while we think of procrastination as a curse for productivity, procrastination is really a virtue for creativity. According to Grant, our first ideas are usually our most conventional -- but when you procrastinate, you're more likely to let your mind wander, giving you a better chance of stumbling onto the unusual and spotting unexpected patterns. "When we finish a project, we file it away. But when it's in limbo, it stays active in our minds." Jihae Shin designed some experiments. She asked people to come up with new business ideas. Some were randomly assigned to start right away. Others were given five minutes to first play Minesweeper or Solitaire. Everyone submitted their ideas, and independent raters evaluated how original they were. The procrastinators' ideas were 28 percent more creative. When people played games before being told about the task, there was no increase in creativity. It was only when they first learned about the task and then put it off that they considered more novel ideas. It turned out that procrastination encouraged divergent thinking.

Even some monumental achievements are helped by procrastination. Grant says that according to those who knew him, Steve Jobs procrastinated constantly. Bill Clinton has been described as a "chronic procrastinator" who waits until the last minute to revise his speeches, and Frank Lloyd Wright spent almost a year procrastinating on a commission, to the point that his patron drove out and insisted that he produce a drawing on the spot. It became Fallingwater, Wright's masterpiece. Aaron Sorkin, the screenwriter behind Steve Jobs and The West Wing, is known to put off writing until the last minute. When Katie Couric asked him about it, he replied, "You call it procrastination, I call it thinking."
Inside NASA's Space Rock Vault
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In an unassuming building at Johnson Space Center, NASA maintains clean rooms and employs curators to support its collection of rocks and other matter from elsewhere in the solar system. Ars got to tour the facility and take pictures of the samples inside. "The collection houses about 20,000 rocks, but the most famous of those rocks is ALH84001. Sometime around 16 million years ago, a large meteorite or asteroid 0.5 to 1 km across or larger struck the Martian surface and blasted some rocks into space at a speed greater than the red planet's escape velocity. One of them flew through space until about 13,000 years ago when it crashed into Antarctica." NASA keeps bits of a comet trapped in aerogel, as well as the remains of the Genesis probe that captured particles of solar wind. Of course, this is dwarfed by the vast collection of lunar rock samples brought back by the Apollo missions. Some of them have yet to be opened. "They were collected in the vacuum of the lunar surface, placed inside vacuum sealed tubes, and remain that way to this day. NASA is preserving them for some theoretical future where science has progressed to enable some new, powerful method of analysis."
Urban Death Project Aims To Rebuild Our Soil By Composting Corpses
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The Urban Death Project utilizes the process of composting to safely and gently turn our deceased into soil-building material, creating a meaningful, equitable and ecological urban alternative to existing options for the disposition of the dead," said Katrina Spade, a designer based in Seattle. "The project is a solution to the overcrowding of city cemeteries, a sustainable method of disposing of our dead, and a new ritual for laying our loved ones to rest."
Ann Caracristi, Who Cracked Codes, and the Glass Ceiling At NSA, Dies At 94
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A story at The Washington Post about the life and death of Ann Caracristi. From the article: "Ann Caracristi, who became one of the highest ranking and most honored women at the code breaking National Security Agency after a career extending from World War II through much of the Cold War, died Jan. 10 at her home in Washington. She was 94. ... Ms. Caracristi formally retired from her intelligence career in 1982, after becoming the sixth deputy director of the NSA . . . She was the first woman to serve as deputy director. One of her strengths was reconstructing enemy code books, said Liza Mundy, a former Washington Post staff writer who is working on a book about U.S. female code breakers during the war. Admired for her early accomplishments as a young woman in wartime Washington, Ms. Caracristi was credited in her later career with providing leadership for new generations of code breakers and for her efforts to bring computers and technology to bear on the work. ... One of her jobs at the NSA was as chief from 1959 to 1980 of branches devoted to research and operations. Her honors there included the Defense Department's Distinguished Civilian Service Award and the National Security Medal, among other top federal honors. After retiring, she began serving on a variety of prominent scientific, defense and intelligence advisory boards and committees."
NASA Safety Panel Finds Concerns With the Journey To Mars
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NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel issued its annual report on various space agency programs. The panel found a number of areas of concern surrounding the Journey to Mars program, virtually all of them stemming from inadequate funding. It suggested that NASA's plan to launch the first crewed mission on the Orion, which would use the heavy lift Space Launch System to go around the moon, in 2021 was unrealistic given current, anticipated funding. The panel also suggested that lack of a clear plan for the Mars program is compromising its viability. It also suggested that the decision not to return to the moon should be revisited in view of the desire of international partners to do so and the need of low gravity surface experience in advance of going to Mars
IRS: Identity Theft Protection a Tax Deductible Benefit - Even Without a Breach
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The U.S. Internal Revenue Service has announced that it will treat identity theft protection as a non-taxable, non-reportable benefit that companies can offer — even when the company in question hasn't experienced a data breach, and regardless of whether it is offered by an employer to employees, or by other businesses (such as online retailers) to its customers, the blog E for ERISA reports. In short: companies can now deduct the cost of offering identity theft protection as a benefit for employees or extending it to customers, even if their data hasn't been exposed to hackers.

The announcement comes only four months after an earlier announcement by the IRS that it would treat identity theft protection offered to employees or customers in the wake of a data breach as a non-taxable event. Comments to the IRS following the earlier decision suggested that many businesses view a data breach as "inevitable" rather than as a remote risk.

The truth of that statement was made clear to the IRS itself, which had to provide identity theft protection earlier this year in response to a hack of its online database of past-filed returns and other filed documents which ultimately affected over 300,000 taxpayers. The new IRS guidance could be a boon to providers of identity protection services such as Experian and Lifelock, though maybe not as much as one would expect. Data from Experian suggests that consumer adoption rates for identity theft protection services is low. Fewer than 10% of those potentially affected by a breach opt for free identity protection services when they are offered. For very large breaches that number is even lower — in the single digit percentages.
NASA's Fermi Satellite Maps Entire Sky, Finds Mysterious Unknown Object
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With the launch of the Fermi satellite in the late 2000s, we began observing the highest energy photons in the Universe — gamma rays — all over the sky, to unprecedented precision. Produced from cosmic ray showers in space when high energy protons run into other, stationary protons, these gamma rays locate point sources from supermassive black holes to supernova remnants to pulsars. There is, additionally, a great correlation between the infrared sky and the gamma ray sky, since the great high-energy background scatters off of the diffuse infrared gas, producing gamma rays there as well. But while a great many sources can be correlated with known structures, Fermi reveals at least one unknown, intense behemoth that emits spectacularly in gamma rays.
The Dirty Truth About 'Clean Diesel'
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Volkswagen persuaded consumers it had created a new generation of so-called clean diesel cars — until investigators discovered that phony testing concealed that its vehicles emitted up to 40 times the permitted levels of pollutants during regular use. Now Taras Grescoe writes in the NY Times public outrage over the fraud obscures the much larger issue: "clean diesel" is causing a precipitous decline in air quality for millions of city-dwellers. Monitoring sites in European cities like London, Stuttgart, Munich, Paris, Milan and Rome have reported high levels of the nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, or soot, that help to create menacing smogs. Although automakers worked hard to convince consumers that a new generation of "clean diesel" cars were far less polluting, diesel has a fatal flaw. It tends to burn dirty, particularly at low speeds and temperatures. In cities, where so much driving is stop and start, incomplete diesel combustion produces pollution that is devastating for human health.

Fortunately, Volkswagen sold only half a million of its "clean diesel" cars to the American public before the emissions scandal broke. Today, fewer than 1 percent of the passenger vehicles sold in the U.S. run on diesel fuel. Europe is now scrambling to undo the damage. In London, Mayor Boris Johnson last year called for a national program to pay some drivers to scrap their diesel vehicles. In Paris, Mayor Anne Hidalgo has gained broad support for a proposed ban on diesel cars. "Last month, the signatories of the climate deal in Paris agreed that the world has to begin a long-term shift from fossil fuels to more sustainable forms of energy," concludes Grescoe. "Recognizing "clean diesel" for the oxymoron it is would be a good place to start."
Turning Around a School District By Fighting Poverty
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Through her unconventional focus on addressing poverty, Superintendent Tiffany Anderson has been credited with rapidly improving the school district of Jennings, Mo. NPR reports: "The school district of 3,000 students has taken unprecedented steps, like opening a food pantry to give away food, a shelter for homeless students and a health clinic, among other efforts. 'My purpose is to remove the challenges that poverty creates,' she says. 'You can not expect children to learn at a high level if they come in hungry and tired.' That unconventional approach has had big results. When Anderson took over in 2012, the school district was close to losing accreditation. Jennings had a score of 57 percent on state educational standards. A district loses accreditation if that score goes below 50 percent. Two years later, that score was up to 78 percent, and in the past year rose again to 81 percent, Anderson says. She points to a 92 percent 4-year graduation rate, and a 100 percent college and career placement rate."
Planetary Exploration In 2016
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Emily Lakdawalla at the Planetary Society blog has put together a post about all of the space missions set to return data from planets, moons, and other bodies in the solar system this year. She's also assembled some cool visualizations of when the missions are active at their locations of interest. In summary: "Akatsuki is at Venus, Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter and two Chang'e missions at the Moon, two rovers and five orbiters are active at Mars, Dawn is at Ceres, Rosetta is at 67P, Cassini is at Saturn, and although New Horizons is far past Pluto, it'll be sending back new Pluto science data for most of the year, so I'm counting that as still doing science. Another two missions (Hayabusa2 and Juno) are in their cruise phase; Juno arrives at Jupiter in August. Two (ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter and OSIRIS-Rex) or three (if you count the Schiaparelli lander separately) will launch this year, with their science starting after 2016."
The E6-B Flight Computer Is 75 Years Old, Still In Use
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Few devices have been around this long, have had cameo appearances in Star Trek, and remain in use today. The current E6-B looks almost exactly the same as the first one manufactured 75 years ago. It was designed by U.S. Naval Lt. Philip Dalton in the late 1930s. When he completed the final version, it was introduced to the Army in 1940, and later used widely during WWII. Today is a required instrument for flight training, and has appeared on Star Trek original series several times, as Mr. Spock used a E6-B for critical calculations.
Paramount and CBS File Lawsuit Against Crowdfunded, Indie Star Trek Movie
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Back in August, an Indiegogo campaign raised $566,023 to produce Axanar, a Star Trek movie in development by an independent group of fans, who also happen to be film professionals. Now, unfortunately but predictably, Paramount and CBS have filed a lawsuit in California federal court claiming their intellectual property is being infringed upon. They are "demanding an injunction as well as damages for direct, contributory and vicarious copyright infringement." The guy running the crowdfunded film is a lawyer, and he said, "We've certainly been prepared for this and we certainly will defend this lawsuit. There are a lot of issues surrounding a fan film. These fan films have been around for 30 years, and others have raised a lot of money." He said CBS/Paramount weren't willing to provide guidelines on what types of fan productions would be tolerated (unlike Lucasfilm with Star Wars), because they worry about setting precedent.
SpaceX To Test Recovered First Stage, Then Put It On Display
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Rather than re-fly it, Elon Musk suggested that, after some testing, SpaceX will likely put its first recovered Falcon 9 first stage on display instead. '"[We will] do a static fire at the launch pad there, to confirm that all systems are good and that we are able to do a full thrust hold-down firing of the rocket," Musk said after the stage landed. The static fire will also test the modifications SpaceX has made to Pad 39A to support its rockets.

After that though, the stage will become a display piece. "I think we will keep this one on the ground for tests that prove it could fly again and then put it somewhere — just because it is quite unique," Musk said.' Since they already have a satellite company, SES, willing to buy that first stage, this only underlines how this last Falcon 9 launch changes everything. I don't think the change has sunk in with most people, yet. The last launch was not a one-time event. SpaceX intends to recover as many of its first stages as it can in all future launches. Their Falcon 9 first stage is no longer expendable. Thus, they can afford to put this first recovered stage on display because they expect all future first stages to fly again.
The AI Anxiety
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The Washington Post has an article about current and near-future AI research while managing to keep a level head about it: "The machines are not on the verge of taking over. This is a topic rife with speculation and perhaps a whiff of hysteria." Every so often, we hear seemingly dire warnings from people like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk about the dangers of unchecked AI research. But actual experts continue to dismiss such worries as premature — and not just slightly premature. The article suggests our concerns might be better focused in a different direction: "Anyone looking for something to worry about in the near future might want to consider the opposite of superintelligence: superstupidity. In our increasingly technological society, we rely on complex systems that are vulnerable to failure in complex and unpredictable ways. Deepwater oil wells can blow out and take months to be resealed. Nuclear power reactors can melt down. Rockets can explode. How might intelligent machines fail — and how catastrophic might those failures be?"
Poverty Stunts IQ In the US But Not In Other Developed Countries
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New research published in the journal Psychological Science (abstract) found that children who grow up in poverty within the United States tend to have lower IQs than peers from other socioeconomic brackets. Previous studies have shown a complex relationship between a child's genetics, his environment, and his IQ. Your genes can't pinpoint your IQ, but they can indicate a rough range of values within which your IQ is quite likely to fall. For kids in poverty, they seem to consistently end up on the low end of that window. Interestingly, this effect was not seen for any of the other countries hosting kids within the study, which included Australia, Germany, England, Sweden, and the Netherlands. The study authors speculate that "inequalities in educational and medical access in the U.S." may be the root of the differences, though another researcher is planning to study the effect of school environments as well.
Hackers Have Infiltrated the US Power Grid's Control Networks
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A security researcher and the Associated Press are reporting that hackers have infiltrated many of the United States' power grid networks. "About a dozen times in the last decade, sophisticated foreign hackers have gained enough remote access to control the operations networks that keep the lights on, according to top experts who spoke only on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the subject matter." Exfiltrated data included engineering plans and other non-public information that could aid an attacker later, as well as account credentials. Multiple companies were affected, but one of the more notable ones was the energy provider Calpine. "Circumstantial evidence such as snippets of Persian comments in the code helped investigators conclude that Iran was the source of the attacks. Calpine didn't know its information had been compromised until it was informed by Cylance, Kerr said."
Astronomers Successfully Predict Appearance of Supernova
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For the first time ever astronomers have been able to predict and photograph the appearance of a supernova, its light focused by the gravitational lensing caused by a galaxy and the dark matter that surrounds it: "The NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope has captured the image of the first-ever predicted supernova explosion. The reappearance of the Refsdal supernova was calculated from different models of the galaxy cluster whose immense gravity is warping the supernova's light." What makes this significant is that the prediction models were based on the theory of gravitational lensing and required the presence of dark matter to work. That they worked and were successful in predicting the appearance of this gravitationally bent light (bent by the dark matter it passed through) is a very strong confirmation of both concepts.
The FAA To Facilitate American Commercial Participation In the ESA Moon Village
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While NASA remains fixated on its Journey to Mars, quietly, the FAA is positioning itself as the lead United States Government agency for a return to the moon. According to a story in Space News, "FAA's Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) unanimously approved a recommendation that the FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation begin discussions with ESA on ways American companies could participate in what's known as 'Moon Village.'" The "Moon Village" is a European concept for an international moon base where various countries and private entities would collocate habitats for mutual support and benefit.
Japan Releases AKATSUKI's Pictures of Venus
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The Japanese space agency JAXA has released a confirmation that their Venus mission Akatsuki did indeed enter orbit at Venus on Dec. 7 (JST) — releasing unprocessed images of the Venusian atmosphere as it entered orbit. The spacecraft is currently in a highly-elliptical 13-day, 14-hour orbit around the planet, coming within 400 kilometers (248 miles) at its closest point and reaching 440,000 kilometers (243,400 miles) away at its farthest. This mission has just become the most unlikely success story of 2015 after "missing" it's intended Venus orbit way back in 2010.
1 in 3 Patients Will Have Their Healthcare Records Compromised
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A legacy of lackluster electronic security in healthcare and an increase in the amount of online patient data will lead to an increase in the number of consumers who will have their healthcare records compromised by cyberattacks in 2016, according to a new report from IDC Health Insights. The report, which includes 10 future predictions about the healthcare industry, also predicted that by 2018, cognitive computing would play an increasingly important role in helping physicians to identify the most effective treatment for 50% of patients resulting in a 10% reduction in mortality and a 10% cut in costs. Also by 2018, 30% of worldwide healthcare systems will employ real-time cognitive analysis to provide personalized care leveraging patient's clinical data, directly supported by clinical outcomes and "real world evidence" data — information pulled from patient studies and treatment results. That same year, IDC expects virtual healthcare and computer-assisted surgery to be the norm. Surgeons will use computer-assisted or robotic surgery techniques to assist in planning, simulating, and performing 50% of the most complex surgeries. Conversely, patients will be communicating with physicians via messaging, email and video chat sessions far more often, which will reduce costs and increase convenience.
Japan Releases AKATSUKI's Pictures of Venus
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The Japanese space agency JAXA has released a confirmation that their Venus mission Akatsuki did indeed enter orbit at Venus on Dec. 7 (JST) — releasing unprocessed images of the Venusian atmosphere as it entered orbit. The spacecraft is currently in a highly-elliptical 13-day, 14-hour orbit around the planet, coming within 400 kilometers (248 miles) at its closest point and reaching 440,000 kilometers (243,400 miles) away at its farthest. This mission has just become the most unlikely success story of 2015 after "missing" it's intended Venus orbit way back in 2010.
Streaming Video Is 70 Percent of Broadband Use
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Streaming entertainment is now the dominant form of broadband usage in North America. A new report from Sandvine says streaming accounts for roughly 70% of downstream traffic during peak times, and 65% of total traffic. That represents a doubling of video/audio streaming since five years ago. "Much of the increase comes from YouTube and Netflix, which already accounted for more than half of your broadband usage a couple of years ago, and continue to grow. But now those services are joined by relatively new entrants, like Amazon* and Hulu, which barely registered a couple of years ago and now account for nearly 6 percent of usage." Streaming doesn't take up such a big portion of traffic on mobile, but it still takes up more than any other type of traffic. It accounts for about 41% of peak downstream traffic, and 37% overall.
Japanese Space Probe Akatsuki Enters Orbit Around Venus Five Years Late
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On May 17, 2010, the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency Venus Climate Orbiter probe or as it is now called Akatsuki lifted off from the Tanegashima Space Center. It was supposed to enter orbit around Venus on December 6, 2010. However, due to a failure in the probe's orbital maneuvering thruster, Akatsuki did not enter Venus orbit and went into orbit around the sun instead. According to a story on Space.com, just about five years to the day of the failure, Akatsuki assumed an orbit around the second planet from the sun. Japanese scientists will determine what sort of orbit that is in a couple of days and, hopefully, begin the probe's science mission.
How To Lead a Nation That's About To Be Swallowed By the Sea
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Anote Tong, the president of low-lying Kiribati, has spent nearly a decade trying to save his people from rising sea levels. There's a good chance he will not succeed. This is how he leads a nation that will likely not exist in 100 years. Motherboard reports: "Kiribati’s fate provides a rare glimpse of the future world under climate change. The tiny island nation is the canary in our global coal mine, and it will bear the brunt of climate change more intensely and much sooner than nearly anywhere else. 'We cannot keep doing what we are doing,' Tong said. 'Because we may be on the front line today, but other countries, other societies, other communities will be next.'"
Astronomers Spot Baby Galaxies Cradled In Dark Matter
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Astronomers discovered a nest of monstrous baby galaxies 11.5 billion light-years away using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). The young galaxies seem to reside at the junction of gigantic filaments in a web of dark matter (abstract). These findings are important for understanding how monstrous galaxies like these are formed and how they evolve in to huge elliptical galaxies. The team found that their young monstrous galaxies seemed to be located right at the intersection of the dark matter filaments. This supports the model that monstrous galaxies form in areas where dark matter is concentrated. And since modern large elliptical galaxies are simply monstrous galaxies which have mellowed with age, they too must have originated at nexuses in the large scale structure.
Gmail Ending? Google Starts Migrating Users
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Something rather interesting is happening at the Gmail.com domain right now. Google has started notifying users of its experimental ‘Inbox By Gmail’ service that this has replaced their Gmail account…

The pop-up appears when Inbox users login and states “Thanks for trying Inbox! To make it easier we’ve updated Gmail to redirect you here”. In plain URL terms this means the standalone inbox.google.com address for the beta service disappears and Inbox instead resides at gmail.com.
Scientists Working To Extend Lifespan of Pets
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Scientists have explored the mysteries of aging in humans for hundreds of years, but now they're beginning to turn their attention to our pets. Why do cats live longer than dogs? Why do small dogs live longer than big ones? The answers could help us prolong the lifespans of our favorite companion animals, as well as shed light on the mysteries of aging in humans.

"The same things that allow us to live longer also apply to our pets," says João Pedro de Magalhães, a biogerontologist at the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom who maintains AnAge, the world's largest database of animal life spans. "I don't think there's a set max. longevity for any species," he says. "The real question is, 'How far can we go?' Maybe a thousand years from now you could have a dog that lives 300 years."
More Than Half of Kepler's Giant Exoplanets Were False Positives
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By surveying an area of the sky containing over 150,000 stars visible to it, the Kepler satellite monitored each one over a multi-year period looking for periodic changes in brightness. Thousands of planetary candidates emerged via the transit method, where periodic dips of 3% or less were noted with regularity. However, a follow-up study has come out on the giant exoplanets, finding that over 50% of them aren't giant planets after all, but wound up being eclipsing binary stars. Perhaps our lone star Solar System is the oddity, after all.
Sony Unlocks PlayStation 4's Previously Reserved Seventh CPU Core For Devs
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Toward the beginning of the year, it was revealed that Microsoft was going to "unlock" the seventh core on the Xbox One's processor, enabling developers to eke just a bit more performance out of the console and offer more flexibility at resource utilization. It appears that Microsoft's move would inevitably be followed by Sony, as reports are now coming in that this will be made available on the PlayStation 4 as well. This subtle change was highlighted in the latest changelog for the FMOD sound engine which is labeled as a "LowLevel API." While the unlocked core could take on FMOD duties if developers want it to, it's now not going to be tied to any single purpose. Developers could make use of this core, for example, to boost AI performance, or any other process that has a heavy computation requirement. It could also be used to simply help ease overall system load.
Researchers Create Sodium Battery In Industry Standard "18650" Format
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A French team has developed a battery using sodium ions in the usual "18650" format. Gizmag reports: "A team of researchers in France has taken a major step towards powering our devices with rechargeable batteries based on an element that is far more abundant and cheaper than lithium. For the first time ever, a battery has been developed using sodium ions in the industry standard "18650" format used in laptop batteries, LED flashlights and the Tesla Model S, among other products."
New Type of 'Flow Battery' Can Store 10 Times the Energy of the Next Best Device
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Industrial-scale batteries, known as flow batteries, could one day usher in widespread use of renewable energy—but only if the devices can store large amounts of energy cheaply and feed it to the grid when the sun isn't shining and the winds are calm. That's something conventional flow batteries can't do. Now, researchers report that they've created a novel type of flow battery that uses lithium ion technology—the sort used to power laptops—to store about 10 times as much energy as the most common flow batteries on the market. With a few improvements, the new batteries could make a major impact on the way we store and deliver energy.

The research, from the National University of Singapore, has one big flaw in particular: speed.

It's 'very innovative' work, says Michael Aziz, a flow battery expert at Harvard University. But he adds that even though the novel battery has a high energy density, the rate at which it delivers that power is 10,000 times slower than conventional flow batteries, far too slow for most applications. Wang and his colleagues acknowledge the limitation, but they say they should be able to improve the delivery rate with further improvements to the membrane and the charge-ferrying redox mediators.
Greenwald: Why the CIA Is Smearing Edward Snowden After Paris Attacks
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Glenn Greenwald has some harsh words for the CIA in an op-ed piece for the LA Times. From the article: "Decent people see tragedy and barbarism when viewing a terrorism attack. American politicians and intelligence officials see something else: opportunity. Bodies were still lying in the streets of Paris when CIA operatives began exploiting the resulting fear and anger to advance long-standing political agendas. They and their congressional allies instantly attempted to heap blame for the atrocity not on Islamic State but on several preexisting adversaries: Internet encryption, Silicon Valley's privacy policies and Edward Snowden."
Hospitals Can 3D Print a Patient's Vasculature For Aneurysm Pre-Op Practice
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University of Buffalo physicians and researchers from two institutes working with 3D printer maker Stratasys have successfully 3D-printed anatomically correct models of patients' vascular systems — from their femoral artery to their brain — in order to test various surgical techniques prior to an actual operation. The new 3D printed models not only precisely replicate blood vessels' geometry, but the texture and tissue tension, allowing surgeons a realistic preoperative experience when using catheterization techniques. The printed models are also being used by physicians in training.
NASA Orders SpaceX Crew Mission To International Space Station
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NASA has placed its first mission order for SpaceX to launch astronauts to the International Space Station from U.S. soil. SpaceX is now in a race with Boeing, who received a similar order in May, to see which private space company can deliver astronauts to the ISS first. NASA said, "Commercial crew missions to the space station, on the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft, will restore America's human spaceflight capabilities and increase the amount of time dedicated to scientific research aboard the orbiting laboratory." They anticipate dramatic reductions in cost for launching astronauts to orbit compared to similar missions aboard Russian rockets. "Each company also must successfully complete a certification process before NASA will give the final approval for flight. Each contract includes a minimum of two and a maximum potential of six missions. A standard commercial crew mission to the station will carry up to four NASA or NASA-sponsored crew members and about 220 pounds of pressurized cargo. The spacecraft will remain at the station for up to 210 days, available as an emergency lifeboat during that time."
First Images Ever Taken of a Planet Being Formed, 450 Light-Years From Earth
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Of the many new exoplanets discovered over the past two decades, all have been identified as established, older planets – none have been acknowledged as newly-forming protoplanets. Now scientists working at the Keck observatory have spied just such a planet in the constellation of Taurus, some 450 light-years from Earth (abstract), that is only just beginning its life, collecting matter and spinning into a brand new world.
Sony Quietly Adds PS2 Emulation To the PS4
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The Digital Foundry blog reports that Sony has added functionality to the PlayStation 4 that allows it to act as an emulator for some PlayStation 2 games. Surprisingly, the company did not mention that this functionality is live; a new Star Wars game bundle just happened to include three titles that were released on the PS2. From the article: "How can we tell? First of all, a system prompt appears telling you that select and start buttons are mapped to the left and right sides of the Dual Shock 4's trackpad. Third party game developers cannot access the system OS in this manner. Secondly, just like the PS2 emulator on PlayStation 3, there's an emulation system in place for handling PS2 memory cards. Thirdly, the classic PlayStation 2 logo appears in all of its poorly upscaled glory when you boot each title." Sony has confirmed the games are being emulated, but declined to provide any further details.
Experimental Drug Targeting Alzheimer's Disease Shows Anti-Aging Effects
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Researchers at the Salk Institute have found that an experimental drug candidate aimed at combating Alzheimer's disease has a host of unexpected anti-aging effects in animals. Says the article: The Salk team expanded upon their previous development of a drug candidate, called J147, which takes a different tack by targeting Alzheimer's major risk factor–old age. In the new work, the team showed that the drug candidate worked well in a mouse model of aging not typically used in Alzheimer's research. When these mice were treated with J147, they had better memory and cognition, healthier blood vessels in the brain and other improved physiological features.

"Initially, the impetus was to test this drug in a novel animal model that was more similar to 99 percent of Alzheimer's cases," says Antonio Currais, the lead author and a member of Professor David Schubert's Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory at Salk. "We did not predict we'd see this sort of anti-aging effect, but J147 made old mice look like they were young, based upon a number of physiological parameters."
It's Way Too Easy To Hack the Hospital
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A engthy piece from Bloomberg about the chaos currently surrounding medical device security: The Mayo Clinic had assembled an all-star team of about a dozen computer jocks, investigators from some of the biggest cybersecurity firms in the country, as well as the kind of hackers who draw crowds at conferences such as Black Hat and Def Con. The researchers split into teams, and hospital officials presented them with about 40 different medical devices. Do your worst, the researchers were instructed. Hack whatever you can.

Like the printers, copiers, and office telephones used across all industries, many medical devices today are networked, running standard operating systems and living on the Internet just as laptops and smartphones do. Like the rest of the Internet of Things—devices that range from cars to garden sprinklers—they communicate with servers, and many can be controlled remotely. As quickly became apparent to Rios and the others, hospital administrators have a lot of reasons to fear hackers. For a full week, the group spent their days looking for backdoors into magnetic resonance imaging scanners, ultrasound equipment, ventilators, electroconvulsive therapy machines, and dozens of other contraptions. The teams gathered each evening inside the hospital to trade casualty reports.

"Every day, it was like every device on the menu got crushed," Rios says. "It was all bad. Really, really bad." The teams didn't have time to dive deeply into the vulnerabilities they found, partly because they found so many—defenseless operating systems, generic passwords that couldn't be changed, and so on.

Sooner or later, hospitals would be hacked, and patients would be hurt. He'd gotten privileged glimpses into all sorts of sensitive industries, but hospitals seemed at least a decade behind the standard security curve. "Someone is going to take it to the next level. They always do," says Rios. "The second someone tries to do this, they'll be able to do it. The only barrier is the goodwill of a stranger."
Comet Catalina To Pass By Earth For the Final Time
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Originating from the Kuiper belt and the Oort cloud, comets are generally thought of as periodic objects, with their initial trajectories having been perturbed by either Neptune, another distant object or a passing star or rogue planet. But most comets aren't periodic; they're transient instead, where a trip into the inner Solar System gives them additional gravitational perturbations, causing them to either fly into the Sun or gain enough kinetic energy to escape entirely. This latter fate is the case for Comet Catalina, which reaches perihelion on November 15th and then heads out of the Solar System after putting on one final show for observers on Earth.
TV Networks Cutting Back On Commercials
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Cable providers aren't the only ones feeling pressure from cord cutters. The TV networks themselves are losing viewers the same way. A lot of those viewers are going to Netflix and other streaming services, which are often ad-free, or have ad-free options. Now, in an effort to win back that audience (and hang on to the ones who are still around), networks are beginning to cut back on commercial time during their shows. "Time Warner's truTV will cut its ad load in half for prime-time original shows starting late next year, Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bewkes said last week on an earnings call. Viacom has recently slashed commercial minutes at its networks, which include Comedy Central and MTV. Earlier this month, Fox said it will offer viewers of its shows on Hulu the option to watch a 30-second interactive ad instead of a typical 2 1/2-minute commercial break. Fox says the shorter ads, which require viewers to engage with them online, are more effective because they guarantee the audience's full attention."
Astronomers Spot Most Distant Object In the Solar System
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Astronomers have found the most distant known object in our solar system, three times farther away than Pluto. The dwarf planet, which has been designated v774104, is between 500 and 1000 kilometers across. It will take another year before scientists pin down its orbit, but it could end up joining an emerging class of extreme solar system objects whose strange orbits point to the hypothetical influence of rogue planets or nearby stars.
Icy Volcanoes May Erupt On Pluto
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The New Horizons probe may have discovered two possible ice volcanoes on the surface of Pluto. "These are two really extraordinary features. Nothing like this has ever been seen in the solar system." Oliver White, a New Horizons postdoctoral researcher with NASA's Ames Research Center in California said. The mountains have been informally named Wright Mons and Picard Mons, and at their crests, each peak hosts a central crater, reminiscent of peaks called "shield volcanoes" on Earth. "Whatever they are, they're definitely weird" — 'volcanoes' is the least weird hypothesis at the moment," White says.
NASA's Maven Mission Solves the Mystery of Mars' Lost Atmosphere
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If you came to the Solar System some 500 million years after its formation, you would've found two world with oceans of liquid water, continents and all the conditions we know of for life to begin thriving: Earth and Mars. But unlike our own world, Mars' organic history was cut short when it lost its atmosphere and became a barren, desert wasteland. While we had some pretty compelling theories as to how this happened, it was only with the advent of the Maven mission and its first science results that we discovered exactly how, how fast and when Mars lost its atmosphere. One cool discovery: aurorae appear diffuse and all over the entire night sky on Mars!
Deep Magma Chambers Seen Beneath Mount St. Helens
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Scientists have imaged the magma chambers responsible for the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption. From the Science story: "Geoscientists have for the first time revealed the magma plumbing beneath Mount St. Helens, the most active volcano in the Pacific Northwest. The emerging picture includes a giant magma chamber, between 5 and 12 kilometers below the surface, and a second, even larger one, between 12 and 40 kilometers below the surface. The two chambers appear to be connected in a way that could help explain the sequence of events in the 1980 eruption that blew the lid off Mount St. Helens."
Emerging Technologies and the Future of Humanity
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Brad Allenby, Lincoln Professor of Engineering and Ethics and founding chair of the Consortium for Emerging Technologies, Military Operations and National Security at Arizona State University, delivers a fascinating examination of resistance to technological developments over time. Allenby starts by breaking down discussions into 3 categories, and then focuses on the third: the "apocalyptic" discussions. "[T]echnological evolution is accelerating, which has significant implications. Past rates of technological change were slow enough that psychological, social, and institutional adjustments were possible, but today technology changes so rapidly that technology systems decouple from governance mechanisms of all kinds. All these factors, operating together, synergistically increase the impact, speed, and depth of change.
Huge Survey Shows Correlation Between Autistic Traits and STEM Jobs
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A survey of more than 450,000 people in the UK has shown there is a significant correlation between a higher score on the Autism Quotient and being a scientist or engineer. AQ scores are also higher for men than for women. "On average, the male AQ score was 21.6, compared to a female score of 19.0. People work in a STEM-related job had an average AQ score of 21.9 compared to a score of 18.9 for individuals working in non-STEM jobs. This suggests autistic traits are linked to both sex and to having a ‘systems-thinking’ mind." A professor involved with the work said, "These may shed light on why we find males in the population on average have slightly more autistic traits than females do, and why fathers and grandfathers of children with autism are over-represented in STEM fields."
How the FBI Can Detain, Render and Threaten Without Risk
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Patrick Eddington has a disturbing article in the NY Times about a court decision that seems to give U.S. law enforcement agencies the ability to have an American citizen sent from one foreign country to another for interrogation, to do that interrogation themselves, and to threaten the use of torture to get them to talk. "If this decision stands, it will mean that an American citizen overseas who is unlawfully targeted by the United States government for rendition, interrogation and detention with the help of a local government will have no form of redress in the courts." The case centers around Amir Meshal, a U.S. citizen who lived in New Jersey.

While Meshal was traveling abroad, he got caught up in a wave of refugees leaving Somalia for Kenya. There Kenyan authorities detained him, and FBI agents interrogated him. He was transported back to Somalia, and then to Ethiopia, where he had never visited. In Ethiopia, FBI agents once again quickly got access to Meshal, accusing him of being trained for terrorism in Al-Qaeda camps. They threatened him and denied access to lawyers.

Months later, when he was released, he returned to the U.S. He has never been accused of a terrorism-related offense. He filed a lawsuit based on his Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights, but U.S. courts have thus far denied his claims. Eddington concludes, "The appellate court decision means that American citizens have no means available to hold the government accountable for violating their constitutional rights, simply because the United States conveniently denied those rights in another country of its choosing."
FCC Fines Another Large Firm For Blocking WiFi
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Another company is learning about the fine points of Section 333 of the Communications Act, which prohibits willful interference with any licensed or authorized radio communications. This time, M.C. Dean, who provided the Baltimore Convention Center's in-house WiFi service, were caught by the FCC sending deauthentication frames to prevent hotspot users maintaining a connection. The complainant alleged that M.C. Dean's actions were identical to those that had earned Marriott a $600,000 fine only weeks earlier.
http://yro.slashdot.org/story/15/11/03/0333215/app-to-hold-police-instantly-accountable-in-stop-and-search
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A collective of London-based youth clubs and organizations has released an app called Y-Stop to help encourage those involved in unfair police encounters to instantly record and report their experiences. The idea is to 'encourage police accountability' by making it easier for anyone to have a say about what they think may be unjustified or illegal police action. The app allows its user to immediately send audio and video footage of harassment for secure holding with the charities themselves, or with the police directly. It also enables easier communication with lawyers for assistance and advice.
NASA Releases First Images of Cassini's Dive Through the Geyser of Enceladus
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NASA released the first images from Cassini's dive two days earlier into the geyser that is erupting water and ice particles through fissures in the icy crust of Saturn's moon Enceladus from what is presumed to be a salty ocean underneath. The space probe, which has been orbiting Saturn for the past several years, survived the encounter. Scientists are eagerly awaiting the data that will be returned from the passage, which should be made available in a week or two.
Mother of All Apes May Have Been Surprisingly Small
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From sturdy chimpanzees to massive gorillas to humans themselves, the living great apes are all large-bodied, weighing between 30 and 180 kilograms. So for years most researchers thought the ancestral ape must have tipped the scales as well. But the partial skeleton of an 11.6-million-year-old primitive ape may force scientists to reimagine the ancestor of all living apes and humans. With a muzzle like a gibbon but a large brain for its body size, the ancient primate has traits that link it to all apes and humans—yet it weighed only 4 kg to 5 kg, according to a report today in Science.
Crime Lab Scandals Just Keep Getting Worse
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Many people are convicted in American courts on the basis of drug lab analysis. Just how accurate or accountable are the people and labs? schwit1 writes with an excerpt that gives a good reminder of how people can land in jail based on fake data, with the example (an outlier, surely) of Annie Dookhan, a chemist who worked at a Massachusetts state lab drug. Dookhan was sentenced in 2013 to at least three years in prison, after pleading guilty in 2012 to having falsified thousands of drug tests. Among her extracurricular crime lab activities, Dookhan failed to properly test drug samples before declaring them positive, mixed up samples to create positive tests, forged signatures, and lied about her own credentials. Over her nine-year career, Dookhan tested about 60,000 samples involved in roughly 34,000 criminal cases. Three years later, the state of Massachusetts still can't figure out how to repair the damage she wrought almost single-handedly.
Apple Usurps Oracle As the Biggest Threat To PC Security
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According to data from Secunia, Apple's software for Windows is now the biggest threat to PC security, surpassing previous long term champion Java. Among U.S. users, some 61 percent of computers detected running QuickTime did not have the latest version. With iTunes, 47 percent of the installations were outdated versions. There were 18 vulnerabilities in Apple QuickTime 7 at the time of the study. Oracle has now fallen/risen to 2nd place, followed by Adobe. All three vendors bundle automatic updater utilities with their software, but users seem to be declining new versions. Update fatigue, perhaps?
Evolution Can Occur Much Faster Than Previously Thought
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An Oxford study on chickens discovered that evolution can make significant changes to a genome in as little as 15 years. "For a long time scientists have believed that the rate of change in the mitochondrial genome was never faster than about 2% per million years. The identification of these mutations shows that the rate of evolution in this pedigree is in fact 15 times faster." Professor Greger Larson, senior author on the study, said, "Our observations reveal that evolution is always moving quickly but we tend not to see it because we typically measure it over longer time periods."
Study: Standardized Tests Overwhelming Public Schools
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A new study examined the amount of time U.S. public schools spend on government-mandated standardized tests, and found that the requirements are detrimental to both students and teachers. On average, students will take 112 standardized tests during their K-12 education. From grades 3-11, students spend over 20 hours per year on standardized tests alone. "It portrays a chock-a-block jumble, where tests have been layered upon tests under mandates from Congress, the U.S. Department of Education and state and local governments, many of which the study argues have questionable value to teachers and students. Testing companies that aggressively market new exams also share the blame, the study said."

The U.S. Department of Education has issued an action plan to school districts outlining ways to reduce useless tests and eliminate redundant ones. President Obama even posted a video pledging to reduce the test load of American students. "Standardized testing has caused intense debate on Capitol Hill as lawmakers work to craft a replacement for No Child Left Behind. Testing critics tried unsuccessfully to erase the federal requirement that schools test in math and reading. Civil rights advocates pushed back, arguing that tests are an important safeguard for struggling students because publicly reported test scores illuminate the achievement gap between historically underserved students and their more affluent peers."
3D Printing Soft Body Parts: a Hard Problem That Just Got Easier
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Humans are squishy. That's a problem for researchers trying to construct artificial tissues and organs, and one that two separate teams of engineers may have just solved. Using a dish of goo the consistency of mayonnaise as a supporting 'bath,' a team led by biomedical engineer Adam Feinberg at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, can now print 3D biological materials that don't collapse under their own weight as they form—a difficulty that has long stood in the way of printing soft body parts (abstract). Once printed, the structures are stiff enough to support themselves, and they can be retrieved by melting away the supportive goo. The other team, from the University of Florida (UF) in Gainesville, has a similar system for printing (abstract), but without the slick trick of the melting goo.
A Tower of Molten Salt Will Deliver Solar Power After Sunset
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Solar power projects intended to turn solar heat into steam to generate electricity have struggled to compete amid tumbling prices for solar energy from solid-state photovoltaic (PV) panels. But the first commercial-scale implementation of an innovative solar thermal design could turn the tide. Engineered from the ground up to store some of its solar energy, the 110-megawatt plant is nearing completion in the Crescent Dunes near Tonopah, Nev. It aims to simultaneously produce the cheapest solar thermal power and to dispatch that power for up to 10 hours after the setting sun has idled photovoltaics. ... [The system] heats a molten mixture of nitrate salts that can be stored in insulated tanks and withdrawn on demand to run the plant’s steam generators and turbine when electricity is most valuable. ... Eliminating the heat exchange between oil and salts trims energy storage losses from about 7 percent to just 2 percent. The tower also heats its molten salt to 566 degrees C, whereas oil-based plants top out at 400 degrees C.
Square Enix To Concentrate On Remaking Their Back Catalog
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You may remember that at E3, the major announcement from Square Enix and Sony wasn't a new game, but rather that Square Enix would be remaking Final Fantasy VII in HD and releasing it for PS4 first. Square Enix's recent annual report indicates that they intend to make more HD remakes of old titles. Like many Japanese developers, they indicate in the report that they also intend to focus more on mobile platforms, including porting more of their back catalog to mobile devices. With the impending release of Final Fantasy XV, Square Enix knows a thing or two about rehashing old content, but Square Enix also owns the Dragon Quest, Deus Ex, and Tomb Raider series, giving them a fairly large library to give the HD treatment to.
Nurses Use Makerspace To Invent Custom Health Care Solutions
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University of Texas Medical Branch and an MIT initiative have joined forces to create the first maker space in a hospital. Often nurses see things that would make their jobs easier or a patient's care better and now they can create custom solutions to those problems. They aim to spread this to other hospitals and form a community of medical makers.
Facebook Launches Initiative To Attract More Minorities and Women To Coding
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Facebook has launched TechPrep, a new initiative to attract more minorities and women into coding. The project draws a very strong analogy between the learning of computer coding skills and the learning of spoken languages, a field which is important to people whose first language is not English, and which engages with the popular understanding that women are better at learning languages. TechPrep is seeking to engage with parents and guardians to get its target audience into coding earlier in life.
NASA Picks Winners For 3D-Printed Mars Habitat Design Contest
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NASA has picked the three winners in a design contest for 3D-printed habitats that could help future astronauts live on Mars. The $25,000 first prize in NASA's 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge Design Competition went to Team Space Exploration Architecture and Clouds Architecture Office for the 'Mars Ice House' design, which looks like a translucent, smooth-edged pyramid. That pyramid would be built of Martian ice and serve as a radiation shield, protecting the lander habitat and gardens inside it, team members said. The Mars Ice House's ribbed interiors and exteriors glow with diurnally determined hues at various times of sol (Martian day). In one illustration from the team's proposal, the outer shell is washed in Mars’ inky blue sunset, and in another it looks like it was dipped in the tea-tinged pink of the high noon on Mars.
Bank's Severance Deal Requires IT Workers To Be Available For Two Years
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This story at Computerworld about a severance agreement that requires laid-off IT employees to be available to help out for two years. The article reads in part: "SunTrust Banks in Atlanta is laying off about 100 IT workers as it moves work offshore. But this layoff is unusual for what it is asking of the soon-to-be displaced workers: The bank's severance agreement requires terminated employees to remain available for two years to provide help if needed, including in-person assistance, and to do so without compensation. Many of the affected IT employees, who are now training their replacements, have years of experience and provide the highest levels of technical support. The proof of their ability may be in the severance requirement, which gives the bank a way to tap their expertise long after their departure. The bank's severance includes a 'continuing cooperation' clause for a period of two years, where the employee agrees to 'make myself reasonably available' to SunTrust 'regarding matters in which I have been involved in the course of my employment with SunTrust and/or about which I have knowledge as a result of my employment at SunTrust.'"
Amazon sues people who charge $5 for fake reviews
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In a lawsuit filed on Friday, Amazon asked a Washington state court to grant damages against a group of people who it says posted phony 5-star reviews in exchange for $5. In some cases, the company used undercover agents to conduct transactions with the fake reviewers.
NASA Returns Images of Frozen Worlds Enceladus and Pluto
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NASA provided a look at two frozen worlds far out into the solar system. Cassini, currently orbiting Saturn, flew by the frozen moon Enceladus and provided the closest views yet of its north pole. New Horizons, hurtling deep into the Kuiper belt at the edge of the solar system, returned a fresh image of the icy region of Pluto known as the Sputnik Planum.
New Concerns Over Earthquakes In Oklahoma Near Vast Oil-Storage Facility
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The NYT reported on October 14, 2015 that a magnitude 4.5 quake struck Saturday afternoon about three miles northwest of the Cushing Hub, a sprawling tank farm that is among the largest oil storage facilities in the world, now holding 53 million barrels of crude with a capacity for 85 million barrels. The Cushing oil hub stores oil piped from across North America until it is dispatched to refineries. The Department of Homeland Security has gauged potential earthquake dangers to the hub and concluded that a quake equivalent to the record magnitude 5.7 could significantly damage the tanks and a study by Dr. Daniel McNamara study concludes that recent earthquakes have increased stresses along two stretches of fault that could lead to quakes of that size. "It's the eye of the storm," says Dana Murphy, vice chairman of the state's oil and gas regulatory body, the Oklahoma Corporation Commission.

"When we see these fault systems producing multiple magnitude 4s, we start to get concerned that it could knock into higher magnitudes," says Daniel McNamara, author of a paper published online that a large earthquake near the storage hub "could seriously damage storage tanks and pipelines." "Given the number of magnitude 4s here, it's a high concern."
Video Game Music Is Saving the Symphony Orchestra
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As music distribution has flourished, the popularity of live performances in certain genres has begun to wane. Symphony orchestra attendance has been dropping for years. A new report says ticket sales have dropped by 2.8% annually for the past decade. The downward trend has caused many performing groups to experiment with ways to appeal more to modern audiences. One way they're finding success is by including music from video games. "Orchestral videogame concerts first gained a following in Japan in the mid-1980s and spread to parts of Europe in the early 2000s. They began appearing regularly in pops repertoires in the U.S. about a decade ago as orchestras sought younger, more diverse audiences. Unlike classical-music performances, videogame shows feature arrangements that blend looping tracks of music designed to match various moments in a game, such as a slow, eerie medley of piano, percussion and string as the videogame character navigates a castle dungeon. ... The story of The Legend of Zelda isn't a far cry from such classics as Mozart's The Magic Flute. Both tales involve a brave fellow in a quest to rescue a damsel from a villain's clutches
The History of City-Building Games
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If you ask most gamers, the first city-building game they played was SimCity, or some sequel thereof. Though SimCity ended up defining the genre for years, it was far from the first. This article goes through the history of city-building games. It began before man first landed on the moon: "While extremely limited in its simulation, Doug Dyment's The Sumer Game was the first computer game to concern itself with matters of city building and management. He coded The Sumer Game in 1968 on a Digital Equipment Corporation PDP-8 minicomputer, using the FOCAL programming language. David H. Ahl ported it to BASIC a few years later retitled as Hamurabi (with the second 'm' dropped in order to fit an eight-character naming limit). The Sumer Game, or Hamurabi, put you in charge of the ancient city-state of Sumer. You couldn't build anything, but you could buy and sell land, plant seeds, and feed (or starve) your people. The goal was to grow your economy so that your city could expand and support a larger population, but rats and the plague stood in your way. And if you were truly a terrible leader your people would rebel, casting you off from the throne."
NASA Releases 'Journey To Mars' Plan -- But Not a Budget
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NASA released a document describing the steps involved in its Journey to Mars program (PDF). But, as the Wall Street Journal suggests, the "plan" has a conspicuous lack of specifics. It doesn't go into how much the program will cost or what intermediate steps have to be taken before human beings set foot on Mars in the 2030s. This is likely because of the upcoming and subsequent changes of governing administrations — the space agency's deep space exploration goals are likely to get a reevaluation. The plan serves as a public relations document more than anything else.
EFF: the Final Leaked TPP Text Is All That We Feared
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Wikileaks has released the finalized Intellectual Property text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which international negotiators agreed upon a few days ago. Unfortunately, it contains many of the consumer-hostile provisions that so many organizations spoke out against beforehand. This includes the extension of the copyright term to life plus 70 years, and a ban on the circumvention of DRM. The EFF says, "If you dig deeper, you'll notice that all of the provisions that recognize the rights of the public are non-binding, whereas almost everything that benefits rightsholders is binding. That paragraph on the public domain, for example, used to be much stronger in the first leaked draft, with specific obligations to identify, preserve and promote access to public domain material. All of that has now been lost in favor of a feeble, feel-good platitude that imposes no concrete obligations on the TPP parties whatsoever." The EFF walks us through all the other awful provisions as well — it's quite a lengthy analysis.
SIgn Of the Times: Calif. Privacy Protections Signed Into Law
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The EFF reports a spot of bright news from California: Governor Jerry Brown today signed into law the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act. CalECPA, says the organization, "protects Californians by requiring a warrant for digital records, including emails and texts, as well as a user's geographical location. These protections apply not only to your devices, but to online services that store your data. Only two other states have so far offered these protections: Maine and Utah." The ACLU provides a fact sheet (PDF) about what the bill entails, which says:

SB 178 will ensure that, in most cases, the police must obtain a warrant from a judge before accessing a person's private information, including data from personal electronic devices, email, digital documents, text messages, and location information. The bill also includes thoughtful exceptions to ensure that law enforcement can continue to effectively and efficiently protect public safety in emergency situations. Notice and enforcement provisions in the bill provide proper transparency and judicial oversight to ensure that the law is followed.
Wind Power Now Cheapest Energy In UK and Germany; No Subsidies Needed
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Bloomberg reports wind power has now crossed the threshold to become the cheapest source of energy in both the UK and Germany. This is notable because it's the first time this has occurred in a G7 country. In the U.S., wind and solar are still massively overshadowed by the power generated from fossil fuel plants, but the percentage is creeping up. It's gotten to the point where it's starting to affect the lifetime profitability of new plants.
Team Constructs Silicon 2-qubit Gate, Enabling Construction of Quantum Computers
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A team at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney has made a crucial advance in quantum computing. Their advance, appearing in the journal Nature (abstract), demonstrated a two-qubit logic gate — the central building block of a quantum computer — and, significantly, did it in silicon. This makes the building of a quantum computer much more feasible, since it is based on the same manufacturing technology as today's computer industry. Until now, it had not been possible to make two quantum bits 'talk' to each other — and thereby create a logic gate — using silicon. But the UNSW team — working with Professor Kohei M. Itoh of Japan's Keio University — has done just that for the first time. The result means that all of the physical building blocks for a silicon-based quantum computer have now been successfully constructed, allowing engineers to finally begin the task of designing and building a functioning quantum computer.
Apollo-Era Photos Now Up at NASA's Flickr Account, In High-Res
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NASA has uploaded to its Flickr account 8400 photographs from the agency's Apollo days -- "just about every image captured by Apollo astronauts on lunar missions." The astronauts were shooting with some very nice cameras, and the results are worth seeing at 1800dpi.
NASA Targets Venus, Asteroids With Potential Missions
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NASA this week picked five possible contenders for a relatively low-cost robotic mission to space. The five candidates from a batch of 27 –include Venus, near-Earth object and asteroid operations – will ultimately be whittled down to one or two that will cost approximately $500 million, not including launch vehicle or post-launch operations, NASA stated. The DAVINCI probe would "study the chemical composition of Venus' atmosphere during a 63-minute descent. It would answer scientific questions that have been considered high priorities for many years, such as whether there are volcanoes active today on the surface of Venus and how the surface interacts with the atmosphere of the planet." A longer-range spacecraft called Lucy would "perform the first reconnaissance of the Jupiter Trojan asteroids, objects thought to hold vital clues to deciphering the history of the solar system."
NASA's New Horizons Shows Pluto's Moon Charon Is a Strange, New World
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NASA's New Horizons has returned a stunning series of images of Pluto, the dwarf planet that resides on the edge of the solar system, revealing a strange new world of ice mountains and glaciers of frozen nitrogen. NASA also released images of Pluto's largest moon Charon. Scientists expected a plain ball of rock pockmarked with craters, but what they saw was anything but plain and monotonous.
Foam-Eating Worms May Offer Solution To Mounting Waste
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Polystyrene foams—including products like Styrofoam—are rarely recycled, and the materials biodegrade so slowly that they can sit in a landfill for hundreds of years. But a pair of new studies shows that mealworms will dine on polystyrene foam when they can't get a better meal, converting almost half of what they eat into carbon dioxide. In one study, the researchers fed mealworms polystyrene foam and found that the critters converted about 48% of the carbon they ate into carbon dioxide and excreted 49% in their feces. In the second study, the researchers showed that bacteria in the mealworms' guts were responsible for breaking down the polystyrene--suggesting that engineering bacteria might be a strategy for boosting the reported biodegradation.
Talking Science and God With the Pope's New Chief Astronomer
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On 18 September, Pope Francis appointed Jesuit brother Guy Consolmagno as the new director of the Vatican Observatory, which employs a dozen astronomers to study asteroids, meteorites, extrasolar planets, stellar evolution, and cosmology. The observatory is based at the pope's summer residence south of Rome and operates a 1.8-meter telescope in Arizona, where the skies are clearer. Science Magazine chatted with Consolmagno about a variety of topics, including whether God gets in the way of doing good astronomy. Consolmagno said, "First of all, I want to provide space for other astronomers to do their work. And I also want to show the world that religion supports astronomy. It is often religious people who most need to see that; they need to know that astronomy is wonderful and that they shouldn't be afraid of it. I often quote John Paul II, when he said [of evolution] that "truth cannot contradict truth." If you think you already know everything about the world, you are not a good scientist, and if you think you know all there is to know about God, then your religious faith is at fault."
Retro Roundup: Old Computers Emulated Right In Your Browser
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If you ever wanted to program an Altair, an Apple I, or a COSMAC ELF you may think you either have to buy one (expensive now) or load and configure simulation software. However, there's a slew of browser-based emulators for everything from a PDP-11 to Windows 1.0 out there. Some use Java, but many use Javascript and many perform better on a modern PC then they did in their original. If you want to learn some history or just want to finally play with the computers you saw in the magazines 35 years ago, these are great fun and slightly addictive.
Scientists Have Spotted the Signs of Flowing Water On Mars
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Using neat imaging technology that allows them to determine the chemical compound of a substance by looking at the light reflected from it, scientists have spotted the traces of flowing water on Mars. By looking at the dark streaks on some photos of Mars, Lujendra Ojha from Georgia Tech has found compounds that are made in liquid water—meaning that water may be trickling down those streaks when the climate is just right.

From the linked Economist piece: Details remain to be worked out, including where the water in question originates. Possibly, it derives from subsurface ice. Or it might condense out of Mars’s thin, dry atmosphere. Wherever it does come from, though, the amounts in question are modest in the extreme. But even modest amounts of water are intriguing to biologists. If Martians evolved during their planet’s earlier, wetter phase, the continued presence of water means it is just about possible that a few especially hardy types have survived until the present day—clinging on in dwindling pockets of dampness in the way that some “extremophile” bacteria on Earth are able to live in cold, salty and arid environments.
How To Clean the Cruft Left By a Windows 10 Upgrade
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Microsoft may have given you a free Windows 10 upgrade but it's not without some left over file clutter that some folks don't realize is left on a system after migration. It's not rocket science but there are a few key strategies to tidy up the file bloat an OS migration can sometimes leave behind and to further optimize an upgraded Windows 10 installation. The ability to roll back to your Windows 7 or 8.1 installation within 30 days is a very easily overlooked feature of the Windows 10 upgrade process. The feature is a lifesaver if you encounter issues, such as missing or incompatible drivers, and need to quickly recover without starting from scratch. This ability doesn't come without consequences, though. In order to offer this feature, Windows 10 is essentially keeping another completely separate Windows installation on your PC. This will need to go, once you've determined that you are sticking with Windows 10 and everything seems happy enough. These files are scattered throughout your system and include a number of hidden directories, with the bulk of them located in Windows.old and the hidden $Windows.~BT and $Windows.~WS directories.
Paralyzed Man Uses Own Brainwaves To Walk Again -- No Exoskeleton Required
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A man suffering complete paralysis in both legs has regained the ability to walk again using electrical signals generated by his own brain. Unlike similar efforts that have seen paralyzed subjects walk again by using their own brainwaves to manually control robotic limbs, the researchers say this is the first time a person with complete paralysis in both legs due to spinal cord injury was able to walk again under their own power and demonstrates the potential for noninvasive therapies to restore control over paralyzed limbs.
The New Technique That Finds All Known Human Viruses In Your Blood
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A story at the Atlantic that profiles Ian Lipkin and his new method for quickly detecting all known human viruses in a sample: Ian Lipkin, a virus hunter from Columbia University, recently received a blood sample from colleagues at the National Institutes of Health. They came from a man who had received a bone-marrow transplant and had fallen mysteriously ill, with evidence of severely inflamed blood vessels. In analyzing a similar case a few years back, Lipkin had discovered a new polyomavirus, part of a family that can cause disease in people with compromised immune systems. Perhaps this new case would yield another new virus. It didn't. Instead, when Lipkin's team ran the sample through a system that they had devised to detect human viruses, they found that the man was infected with dengue virus. In hindsight, that made sense-he had recently returned from Vietnam, where dengue is prevalent. But the thing is: The team wasn't looking for dengue virus. "It wasn't what we anticipated, but we didn't have to make a priori decisions about what we planned to find," Lipkin says. "When people analyze samples from people who are ill, they have some idea in mind. This is probably an enterovirus, or maybe it's a herpesvirues. They then do a specific assay for that particular agent. They don't usually have the capacity to look broadly." The new system, known as VirCapSeq-VERT, barrels past this limitation. Lipkin, together with fellow Columbia professors Thomas Briese and Amit Kapoor, designed it to detect all known human viruses, quickly, efficiently, and sensitively. By searching for thousands, perhaps millions, of viruses at once, it should take a lot of the (educated) guesswork out of viral diagnosis.
Private Medical Data of Over 1.5 Million People Exposed Through Amazon
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Gizmodo reports that a wide variety of information about 1.5 million people -- everything from police injury reports, doctor's notes about their patients, and social security numbers -- "all were inexplicably unveiled on a public subdomain of Amazon Web Services. Welcome to the next big data breach horrorshow. Instead of hackers, it's old-fashioned neglect that exposed your most sensitive information." From the article: Tomorrow, [Texas-based researcher Chris Vickers, who discovered the breach] will turn over the data to the the Texas Attorney General, where it will be destroyed. But that doesn’t mean Systema is in the clear. Vickers may not be the only person who downloaded those millions of records as they sat out in the Amazon cloud. We don’t know how long the information was available for everyone to see. But no matter what the timeframe, the neglect could be a HIPAA violation: Systema failed to protect the security of patients’ electronic medical information.
A Call To RICO Climate Change Science Deniers
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The argument could be made that the organized effort to disrupt climate change science and the development of effective policies to address climate change is criminal, costing life and property. The effort is known to be generally funded by various actors and there are people and organizations that certainly make money on this seemingly nefarious activity. A group of prominent scientists have written a letter to President Obama, Attorney General Lynch, and OSTP Director Holdren asking for this to be investigated under RICO laws, which were originally designed to address organized crime.
AVG Proudly Announces It Will Sell Your Browsing History To Online Advertisers
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AVG, the Czech antivirus company, has announced a new privacy policy in which it boldly and openly admits it will collect user details and sell them to online advertisers for the purpose of continuing to fund its freemium-based products. This new privacy policy is slated to come into effect starting October 15.

The policy says: We collect non-personal data to make money from our free offerings so we can keep them free, including: Advertising ID associated with your device; Browsing and search history, including meta data; Internet service provider or mobile network you use to connect to our products, and Information regarding other applications you may have on your device and how they are used.
Saturn's Moon Enceladus Has Global Subsurface Ocean
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NASA's Cassini probe has made another fascinating discovery: Enceladus, one of Saturn's moons, has an underground ocean spanning its entire globe. Researchers were trying to explain why the moon wobbles as it orbits Saturn, and they eventually came to the conclusion that its outer shell must be completely detached from its core. "The mechanisms that might have prevented Enceladus' ocean from freezing remain a mystery. Thomas and his colleagues suggest a few ideas for future study that might help resolve the question, including the surprising possibility that tidal forces due to Saturn's gravity could be generating much more heat within Enceladus than previously thought."
DNA From Neanderthal Relative May Shake Up Human Family Tree
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In a remarkable technical feat, researchers have sequenced DNA from fossils in Spain that are about 300,000 to 400,000 years old and have found an ancestor—or close relative—of Neanderthals. The nuclear DNA, which is the oldest ever sequenced from a member of the human family, may push back the date for the origins of the distinct ancestors of Neanderthals and modern humans.
Morphological Computation: The Hidden Superpower of Soft-Bodied Robots
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Ever wonder why most robots are built with hard bodies? It's because they are easier to control that way. But now researchers are embracing the complexities of soft bodies, by using their complex dynamics as an asset for solving some of the control computation, instead of using digital computation to solve it. Not surprisingly, many soft robots are inspired by nature. Researcher Helmut Hauser talks about his research in 'morphological computation', including OCTOPUS, a bio-inspired robotic silicon arm.
MIT Physicists Have Finally Cracked Overhand Knots
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Knots are indeed a relatively ancient art, a technology developed across centuries of trial and error and some very old, intuitive notions of symmetry and elegance. (The more 'ugly' or random a knot looks, the less likely it is to function well.) The basic physics and mechanics of knots are, however, relatively unstudied scientifically. If a knot works then it works—what more is there to ask? Quite a bit, it turns out. In a study recently accepted for publication in the Physical Review Letters, engineers at MIT and Pierre et Marie Curie University in Paris offer a new fundamental theory of knots based on relationships between topology, the mathematics of spatial relationships, and the basic mechanics of friction and pliability.
Researchers Say S. African Bones Are From Previously Unknown Human Relative
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Ancient, but so far undated, remains found in a South African cave (more than 1500 pieces of bone and teeth) have been declared by the team which discovered them to represent a previously unknown kind of human relative, which they have dubbed Homo naledi.

The human-like bones discovered in the Rising Star cave, 50km from Johannesburg, may belong to a new species of "long-legged," "pinheaded," and "gangly" human relative. Apparently the chamber in the cave where the discovery was made is so inaccessible (only 8 inches wide) that the team brought in a group of lightly-built female researchers in order to excavate the bones. Science Mag, too, describes the find as well as the controversy about the unusual publicity surrounding the exploration. The Guardian's article notes that the identification of the bones as belonging to a new species is disputed by some anthropologists, who say that based on the evidence presented so far, the bones may simply be examples of the previouly named Homo erectus.
US-Appointed Egg Lobby Paid Food Blogs and Targeted Chef To Crush Vegan Startup
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The American Egg Board targeted publications, popular food bloggers, and a celebrity chef as part of an effort to combat a perceived threat from Hampton Creek, an egg-replacement startup backed by some of Silicon Valley's biggest names, according to internal emails. The Gaurdian reports: A detailed review of emails, sent from inside the AEB and obtained by the Guardian, shows that the lobbyist's anti-Hampton Creek campaign sought to influence Internet content favorable to eggs.
Windows Telemetry Rolls Out
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Last week came the warning, now comes the roll out. One of the most most controversial aspects of Windows 10 is coming to Windows 7 and 8. Microsoft has released upgrades which enable the company to track what a user is doing. The updates – KB3075249, KB3080149 and KB3068708 – all add "customer experience and diagnostic telemetry" to the older versions. gHacks points out that the updates will ignore any previous user preferences reporting: "These four updates ignore existing user preferences stored in Windows 7 and Windows 8 (including any edits made to the Hosts file) and immediately starts exchanging user data with vortex-win.data.microsoft.com and settings-win.data.microsoft.com."
NASA To 'Lasso' a Comet To Hitchhike Across the Solar System
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Traveling around space can require a lot of fuel, to help fight the fuel bill NASA has a spacecraft concept that would hitch a free ride on one of the many comets and asteroids traveling across our solar system. Comet Hitchhiker, developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, would feature a reusable tether system to replace the need for propellant for entering orbit and landing on objects.

The spacecraft would first cast an extendable tether toward the object and attach itself using a harpoon attached to the tether. Next, it would reel out the tether while applying a brake that harvests energy while the spacecraft accelerates. This allows Comet Hitchhiker to accelerate and slowly match the speed of its ride, and keeping that slight tension on the line harvests energy that is stored on-board for later use, reeling itself down to the surface of the comet or asteroid. A comet hitchhiker spacecraft can obtain up to ~10 km/s of delta-V by using a carbon nanotube (CNT) tether, reaching the current orbital distance of Pluto (32.6 AU) in just 5.6 years.
Hacking Medical Mannequins
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A team of researchers at the University of South Alabama is investigating potential breaches of medical devices used in training, taking the mannequin iStan as its prime target in its scenario-based research. Identifying the network security solution and network protocol as the vulnerable components, the team was able to carry out brute force attacks against the router PIN, and denial of service (DDoS) attacks, using open source tools such as BackTrack.
Citi Report: Slowing Global Warming Could Save Tens of Trillions of Dollars
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The Guardian has a story about a report published by the Global Perspectives & Solutions division of Citibank (America's third-largest bank) examining the costs and benefits of a low-carbon future. The report examined two hypothetical futures: one "business as usual," and the other (the "Action" scenario) which includes an aggressive move to reduce energy use and carbon emission. From the article: "One of the most interesting findings in the report is that the investment costs for the two scenarios are almost identical. In fact, because of savings due to reduced fuel costs and increased energy efficiency, the Action scenario is actually a bit cheaper than the Inaction scenario. Coupled with the fact the total spend is similar under both action and inaction, yet the potential liabilities of inaction are enormous, it is hard to argue against a path of action." But there will be winners and losers, says the report: "The biggest loser stands to be the coal industry, where we estimate cumulative spend under our Action scenario could be $11.6 trillion less than in our Inaction scenario over the next quarter century, with renewables, wind and nuclear (as well as energy efficiency) the main beneficiaries."
In Hawaii, a 6-Person Crew Begins a Year-Long Mars Isolation Experiment
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The BBC reports that six volunteers have begun a planned year-long stint "without fresh air, fresh food or privacy" in a NASA simulation of what life might be like for a group of Mars colonists. The volunteers are to spend the next 12 months in the dome (11 meters in diameter, 6 meters high), except for space-suited out-of-dome excursions, where they will eat space-style meals, sleep on tiny cots, and keep up a science schedule. The current mission is the fourth (and longest yet) from the Hawai'i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation; you can read more about this mission's crew here.
Ocean Cleanup Project Completes Great Pacific Garbage Patch Research Expedition
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The reconnaissance mission of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, dubbed the Mega Expedition by Ocean Clean, has been concluded. The large-scale cleanup of the area is set to begin in 2020. The primary goal of the Mega Expedition was to accurately determine how much plastic is floating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This was the first time large pieces of plastic, such as ghost nets and Japanese tsunami debris, have been quantified. “I’ve studied plastic in all the world’s oceans, but never seen any area as polluted as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” said Dr. Julia Reisser, Lead Oceanographer at The Ocean Cleanup. “With every trawl we completed, thousands of miles from land, we just found lots and lots of plastic.”
Most Healthcare Managers Admit Their IT Systems Have Been Compromised
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Eighty-one percent of healthcare IT managers say their organizations have been compromised by at least one malware, botnet or other kind of cyber attack during the past two years, and only half of those managers feel that they are adequately prepared to prevent future attacks, according to a new survey by KPMG. The KPMG survey polled 223 CIOs, CTOs, chief security officers and chief compliance officers at healthcare providers and health plans, and found 65% indicated malware was most frequently reported line of attack during the past 12 to 24 months. Additionally, those surveyed indicated the areas with the greatest vulnerabilities within their organization include external attackers (65%), sharing data with third parties (48%), employee breaches (35%), wireless computing (35%) and inadequate firewalls (27%). Top among reasons healthcare facilities are facing increased risk, was the adoption of digital patient records and the automation of clinical systems.
Many Drivers Never Use In-Vehicle Tech, Don't Want Apple Or Google In Next Car
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Many of the high-tech features automakers believe owners want in their vehicles are not only not being used by them, but they don't want them in their next vehicle, according to a new survey by J.D. Power. According to J.D. Power's 2015 Driver Interactive Vehicle Experience (DrIVE) Report, 20% of new-vehicle owners have never used 16 of 33 of the latest technology features. The five features owners most commonly report that they "never use" are in-vehicle concierge (43%); mobile routers (38%); automatic parking systems (35%); heads-up display (33%); and built-in apps (32%). Additionally, there are 14 technology features that 20% or more of owners don't even want in their next vehicle. Those features include Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto, in-vehicle concierge services and in-vehicle voice texting. When narrowed to just Gen Yers, the number of vehicle owners who don't want entertainment and connectivity systems increases to 23%.
How To Keep Microsoft's Nose Out of Your Personal Data In Windows 10
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Amid the privacy concerns and arguably invasive nature of Microsoft's Windows 10 regarding user information, it's no surprise that details on how to minimize leaks as much as possible are often requested by users who have recently made the jump to the new operating system. If you are using Windows 10, or plan to upgrade soon, it's worth bearing in mind a number of privacy-related options that are available, even during the installation/upgrade. If you are already running the OS and forgot to turn them off during installation (or didn't even see them), they can be accessed via the Settings menu on the start menu, and then selecting Privacy from the pop-up menu. Among these menus are a plethora of options regarding what data can be gathered about you. It's worth noting, however, that changing any of these options may disable various OS related services, namely Cortana, as Microsoft's digital assistant has it tendrils buried deep.
NASA Mulls Missions To Neptune and Uranus, Using the Space Launch System
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According to a story in Astronomy Magazine, NASA is contemplating sending flagship sized space probes to the so-called "ice giants" of Uranus and Neptune. These probes would orbit the two outer planets, similar to how Galileo orbited Jupiter and how Cassini currently orbits Saturn. The only time NASA has previously had a close encounter with either of these worlds was when Voyager 2 flew by Uranus in 1986 and then Neptune in 1989. Each of these missions would happen after the Europa Clipper, a flagship-class mission scheduled for the mid-2020s.
US Scientists Successfully 'Switch Off' Cancer Cells
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Mayo Clinic cancer researchers have developed a technique to reprogram cancer cells in a lab, essentially "turning off" their excessive cell growth.

That code was unraveled by the discovery that adhesion proteins — the glue that keeps cells together — interact with the microprocessor, a key player in the production of molecules called microRNAs (miRNAs). The miRNAs orchestrate whole cellular programs by simultaneously regulating expression of a group of genes (abstract). The investigators found that when normal cells come in contact with each other, a specific subset of miRNAs suppresses genes that promote cell growth. However, when adhesion is disrupted in cancer cells, these miRNAs are misregulated and cells grow out of control. The investigators showed, in laboratory experiments, that restoring the normal miRNA levels in cancer cells can reverse that aberrant cell growth.
Dawn Drops To 1470km Orbit, Snaps Sharper Pictures of Ceres
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NASA's Dawn spacecraft, after an extensive series of high orbits around Ceres, has now dropped to just 1,470 kilometers over the dwarf planet's surface. It has begun an 11-day process to map the entirety of Ceres, which it will repeat several times over the next couple months. Its lower orbit now allows photo resolution of ~140 meters per pixel, and it has sent back some great images. "Engineers and scientists will also refine their measurements of Ceres' gravity field, which will help mission planners in designing Dawn's next orbit — its lowest — as well as the journey to get there. In late October, Dawn will begin spiraling toward this final orbit, which will be at an altitude of 230 miles (375 kilometers)."
Stephen Hawking Presents Theory On Getting Information Out of a Black Hole
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Physicist Stephen Hawking claims to have figured out a way for information to leave a black hole. He presented his theory today at the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. Scientists have struggled with the black hole information paradox for years, and Hawking thinks this new theory could be a solution. He said, "I propose that the information is stored not in the interior of the black hole as one might expect, but in its boundary, the event horizon." Put in layman's terms, "this jumbled return of information was like burning an encyclopedia: You wouldn't technically lose any information if you kept all of the ashes in one place, but you'd have a hard time looking up the capital of Minnesota." Information can leave the black hole via Hawking radiation, though it will be functionally useless. Hawking worked with Cambridge's Malcolm Perry and Harvard's Andrew Stromberg on this theory.
Fusion Progress: Superheated Gas Kept Stable For 5 Milliseconds
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A company called Tri Alpha has successfully kept a ball of superheated gas stable for a record time, 5 milliseconds, putting them closer to producing fusion power. "'They've succeeded finally in achieving a lifetime limited only by the power available to the system,' says particle physicist Burton Richter of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, who sits on a board of advisers to Tri Alpha. If the company's scientists can scale the technique up to longer times and higher temperatures, they will reach a stage at which atomic nuclei in the gas collide forcefully enough to fuse together, releasing energy.

Importantly, the Tri Alpha machine may be able to operate with a different fuel than most other fusion reactors. This fuel-a mix of hydrogen and boron-is harder to react, but Tri Alpha researchers say it avoids many of the problems likely to confront conventional fusion power plants." The article does not say how much this success cost the privately-funded Tri Alpha, but it certainly wasn't in the billions of dollars.
Happy Birthday, Linux! An OS At 24
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It has been 24 long years since the first ever release of the Linux project on August 25, 1991, which is the core component of any GNU/Linux distribution. With this occasion we want to remind everyone that Linux is everywhere, even if you don't see it. You use Linux when you search on Google, when you use your phone, when buy metro tickets, actually the whole Internet is powered by Linux. Happy Birthday, Linux!
Next Texas Energy Boom: Solar
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The Wall Street Journal reports: "Solar power has gotten so cheap to produce—and so competitively priced in the electricity market—that it is taking hold even in a state that, unlike California, doesn't offer incentives to utilities to buy or build sun-powered generation." Falling cost is one factor driving investment. "Another reason for the boom: Texas recently wrapped up construction of $6.9 billion worth of new transmission lines, many connecting West Texas to the state's large cities. These massive power lines enabled Texas to become, by far, the largest U.S. wind producer. Solar developers plan to move electricity on the same lines, taking advantage of a lull in wind generation during the heat of the day when solar output is at its highest."
South Africans Revolutionize Concentrated Solar Power With Mini Heliostats
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Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) offers significant benefits, but it's often prohibitively expensive. Paul Gauché from Stellenbosch University in South Africa hopes to change that with Helio 100, a series of 'plonkable' miniature heliostats that require no installation or concrete, and offer solar energy that's cheaper than diesel. The Gaurdian reports: "Helio100 is a pilot project with over 100 heliostats of 2.2 sq meters each, generating 150 Kilowatts (kW) of power in total – enough to power about 10 households. According to Gauché, the array is already cheaper than using diesel, the go-to fuel for most companies and businesses during regular power outages in the country. Google’s RE
Court: FTC Can Punish Companies With Sloppy Cybersecurity
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The Congressional act that created the Federal Trade Commission gave that agency broad powers to punish companies engaged in "unfair and deceptive practices." Today, a U.S. appeals court affirmed that sloppy cybersecurity falls under that umbrella. The case involves data breaches at Wyndham Worldwide, which stored customer payment card information in clear, readable text, and used easily guessed passwords to access its important systems.
A Breakdown of the Windows 10 Privacy Policy
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The Verge has a piece on Windows 10 privacy that presents actual passages from the EULA and privacy policy that suggest what the OS is capturing and sending back to Microsoft. The piece takes a Microsoft-friendly point of view, arguing that all Microsoft is doing is either helpful or already being done either by Google or older releases of Windows, and also touches on how to shut things off (which is also explained here). But the quoted passages from the EULA and the privacy policy are interesting to review, particularly if you look out for legal weasel words that are open to Microsoft's interpretation, such as "various types (of data)", diagnostic data "vital" to the operation of Windows (cannot be turned off), sharing personal data "as necessary" and "to protect the rights or property of Microsoft". And while their explanations following the quotes may attempt an overly friendly spin, the article may be right about one thing: "In all, only a handful of these new features, and the privacy concerns they bring, are actually in fact new... Most people have just been either unaware or just did not care of their existence in past operating systems and software.
"Even pirates are having privacy concerns and blocking Windows 10 users.
Group Seeks Test For Geoengineering Tool To Fight Climate Change
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A group of retired engineers and scientists has been meeting for several years to develop techniques to fight climate change. They've now reached the point where they want to actively test a machine that shoots water droplets into the sky in order to supplement existing clouds and increase the planet's albedo. The group is not aiming for full deployment — in fact, it's not even unanimous in support for prevailing theories in climate science. But they all agree that it's important to learn about such technologies before the situation becomes a crisis. "We need to understand whether this approach is even possible and what the risks are, in the event that we find ourselves looking for ways to extend time and mitigate warming damage."

If we're eventually forced to deploy large-scale geoengineering projects to combat climate change, it's not a good idea to grab whatever technology is cheapest or most readily available without knowing how well it works. The group is aware of the ethical concerns surrounding such research, but its director notes, "The fact is humanity is already engaged in unplanned climate engineering. We're doing it through coal plant and shipping emissions every day without understanding it very well."
FBI Informant: Ray Bradbury's Sci-fi Written To Induce Communistic Mass Hysteria
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This is the kind of silliness I grew up with.
The FBI followed Ray Bradbury's career very closely, in part because an informant warned them that his writing was not enjoyable fantasy, but rather tantamount to psychological warfare. "The general aim of these science fiction writers is to frighten the people into a state of paralysis or psychological incompetence bordering on hysteria," the informant warned. "Which would make it very possible to conduct a Third World War in which the American people would believe could not be won since their morale had seriously been destroyed."
ASA's Hurricane Model Resolution Increases Nearly 10-Fold Since Katrina
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Thanks to improvements in satellites and on-the-ground computing power, NASA's ability to model hurricane data has come a long way in the ten years since Katrina devastated New Orleans. Their blog notes, "Today's models have up to ten times the resolution than those during Hurricane Katrina and allow for a more accurate look inside the hurricane. Imagine going from video game figures made of large chunky blocks to detailed human characters that visibly show beads of sweat on their forehead." Gizmodo covered the post too and added some technical details, noting that, "the supercomputer has more than 45,000 processor cores and runs at 1.995 petfalops."
MIT Researchers Discover "Metabolic Master Switch" To Control Obesity
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The meme of the chubby nerd alone in the basement may be a thing of the past. Well, at least the chubby part, if recent work at MIT pans out and we're able to use a biological "master switch" to "dial-in" a persons metabolic rate. “Obesity has traditionally been seen as the result of an imbalance between the amount of food we eat and how much we exercise, but this view ignores the contribution of genetics to each individual’s metabolism,” said senior author Manolis Kellis, a professor of computer science and a member of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and of the Broad Institute.
Historic 'Tile' Discovery Gives Math World A Big Jolt
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A team of mathematicians has wowed the math world with their discovery of a new kind of pentagon capable of "tiling a plane"--that is, fitting together on a flat surface without overlapping or leaving any gaps.
Utah inventions: The birth of computer graphics
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One of the most amazing stories of computing is not out of Microsoft or Apple, or some company in San Francisco. It is about the creation of the computer graphics industry that was generated by the Utah company Evans & Sutherland
Enormous Red Sprites Seen From Space
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A gorgeous photo, captured from the International Space Station on the night of Aug. 10, 2015, shows an orbital view of thunderstorms over the city lights of southern Mexico as a recumbent Orion rises over Earth's limb. But wait, there's more: along the right edge of the picture a cluster of bright red and purple streamers can be seen rising above a blue-white flash of lightning: it's an enormous red sprite caught on camera! First photographed in 1989, red sprites are very brief flashes of optical activity that are associated with powerful lightning. So-called because of their elusive nature, sprites typically appear as branching red tendrils reaching up above the region of an exceptionally strong lightning flash. These electrical discharges can extend as high as 55 miles (90 kilometers) into the atmosphere, with the brightest region usually around altitudes of 40–45 miles (65–75 km). Sprites don't last very long — 3–10 milliseconds at most — and so to catch one (technically here it's a cluster of them) on camera is a real feat... or, in this case, a great surprise!
FCC Fines Smart City $750K For Blocking Wi-Fi
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FCC's Enforcement Bureau today announced a $750,000 settlement with Smart City Holdings, LLC for blocking consumers' Wi-Fi at various convention centers around the United States. Smart City, an Internet and telecommunications provider for conventions, meeting centers, and hotels, had been blocking personal mobile 'hotspots' that were being used by convention visitors and exhibitors who used their own data plans rather than paying Smart City substantial fees to use the company's Wi-Fi service.
'Drinkable Book' Pages Clean Dirty Drinking Water
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Scientists have developed what they're calling the "Drinkable Book," which contains pages that can be torn out and used to effectively filter drinking water. The book has just completed a series of field trials in a few African countries, and it successfully removed more than 99% of the bacteria in water taken from contaminated sources, bringing it in line with U.S. tap water. The book's pages are imprinted with nanoparticles of silver and copper, which sterilize a wide range of microorganisms. The lead researcher says each page can filter about 100 liters of water before needing to be discarded. The team currently makes all the pages by hand, so their next step will be to find a way to automate production.
Rosetta Probe's Comet Reaches Closest Approach To the Sun
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The European Space Agency has released pictures taken by the Rosetta probe at comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko as it reached closest approach to the Sun. The comet has now travelled 750 million kilometers since Rosetta arrived, and the increased solar radiation has caused ices to sublimate and create jets of gas. "The activity reaches its peak intensity around perihelion and in the weeks that follow – and is clearly visible in the spectacular images returned by the spacecraft in the last months. One image taken by Rosetta's navigation camera was acquired at 01:04 GMT, just an hour before the moment of perihelion, from a distance of around 327 km." They've released bothstill images and animations of the comet's outgassing. "Rosetta's measurements suggest the comet is spewing up to 300 kg of water vapor – roughly the equivalent of two bathtubs – every second. This is a thousand times more than was observed this time last year when Rosetta first approached the comet. ... Along with gas, the nucleus is also estimated to be shedding up to 1000 kg of dust per second, creating dangerous working conditions for Rosetta." It's a fascinating, close-up look at a comet during its most volatile time.
How Microsoft Built, and Is Still Building, Windows 10
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Venturebeat story about how Windows 10 is different from previous versions because of the way it was designed, including 15 public preview builds, and how much work is still being done.

Windows 10 for PCs arrived two weeks ago. Thankfully, we don't need to wait years to say this will be a Microsoft operating system release like no other. The most obvious clue is not the fact that Windows 10 was installed on more than 14 million devices in 24 hours, that you can get it for cheap or upgrade to it for free, nor even that it ships with a digital assistant and a proper browser. No, the big deal here is that Microsoft is turning its OS into a service, and that means as you read these words, it's still being built. For the next few years, we'll be getting not just Windows 10 updates and patches, but new improvments and features. This is possible because Microsoft built this version very differently from all its previous releases.
Broken Windows 10 Update Causes Reboot Loops For Some Users
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The Guardian reports that some early adopters of Windows 10 are finding their computers stuck in a reboot loop after installing a particular update. KB3081424 is a cumulative update, packaging together a group of smaller ones for ease of installation. For some users, the update continually fails to finish installing before issuing a reboot command to the PC. "It downloads, reboot to install. Gets to 30% and reboots. Gets to 59% and reboots. Gets to 59% again and then states something went wrong so uninstalling the update. Wait a few minutes and reboot. Back to login screen," said Microsoft forum user BrettDM. "This happens without fail, every single time."
Lexus Unveils Its Working Hoverboard
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Lexus has revealed its eagerly anticipated "SLIDE" hoverboard, which uses magnetic fields to carry its rider without touching the ground. The board is confined to custom-built skatepark, remaining suspended due to the board's repulsion from a specially made magnetic track. Mark Templin, Executive Vice President at Lexus International said: "Embarking on this project, we set out to push the boundaries of technology, design and innovation to make the impossible possible. With this project we call 'SLIDE', we collaborated with partners who share our passion for creating enjoyment out of motion. Even through combining our technology and expertise, we discovered making a hoverboard isn't an easy process. We've experienced the highs and lows and have overcome a few challenges, but through mutual determination we have created a demonstration of our philosophy in design and technology to create Amazing in Motion."
Drone Drops Drugs Onto Ohio Prison Yard
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A report from CNN about an incident last week at a prison in Mansfield, Ohio, where a brawl broke out after a drone dropped a package of drugs into the prison yard. Prison staff had no idea at the time what caused ~75 inmates to gather and fight, but surveillance tapes clearly showed a drone hovering over the yard and dropping a package that turned out to contain tobacco, marijuana, and heroin. A spokesperson for the prison said this was not the first time they've had an incident involving a drone, but they wouldn't go into specifics.
LibreOffice 5.0 Released
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The Document Foundation has announced LibreOffice 5.0, the tenth major release since the launch of the project, bringing new features including Windows 10, Android and Ubuntu touch compatibility, superior interoperability features, an updated UI, and lots of under the hood improvements. For people still running OpenOffice it is probably time to move over.
FDA Approves First 3D-Printed Drug Tablet
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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has for the first time approved a 3D-printed pill for human consumption. The printing technique allows higher and more precise dosages to be layered into a smaller tablet size. This is an early step toward a new method of drug distribution. Right now, pills are made in a factory and shipped to hospitals. With 3D printers, hospitals could simply store a bulk supply of the drug in a pure form, and then print out tablets — containing whatever dosage they desire — as they need them. If patients needs to increase or decrease their dosage, the hospital can do so without changing the appearance of the pills, which could help those with memory impairments.
Goliath Gate: Archaeologists Uncover Entrance to Biblical City of Gath
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A massive gate unearthed in Israel may have marked the entrance to a biblical city that, at its heyday, was the biggest metropolis in the region.

The town, called Gath, was occupied until the ninth century B.C. In biblical accounts, the Philistines — the mortal enemies of the Israelites — ruled the city. The Old Testament also describes Gath as the home of Goliath, the giant warrior whom the Israelite King David felled with a slingshot.
Obama Unveils Major Climate Change Proposal
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Two years in the making, President Obama formally unveiled his plan to cut power plant emissionstoday, calling it the "single most important step that America has ever made in the fight against global climate change." The "Clean Power Plan" includes the first ever EPA standards on carbon pollution from power plants. CNN reports: "Under the plan, the administration will require states to meet specific carbon emission reduction standards, based on their individual energy consumption. The plan also includes an incentive program for states to get a head start on meeting standards on early deployment of renewable energy and low-income energy efficiency."
Privacy Alert: Your Laptop Or Phone Battery Could Track You Online
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Is the battery in your smartphone being used to track your online activities? It might seem unlikely, but it's not quite as farfetched as you might first think. This is not a case of malware or hacking, but a built-in component of the HTML5 specification. Originally designed to help reduce power consumption, the Battery Status API makes it possible for websites and apps to monitor the battery level of laptops, tablets, and phones. A paper published by a team of security researchers suggests that this represents a huge privacy risk. Using little more than the amount of power remaining in your battery, it is possible for people to be identified and tracked online. As reported by The Guardian, a paper entitled The Leaking Battery by Belgian and French privacy and security experts say that the API can be used in device fingerprinting.
In Windows 10, Ad-Free Solitaire Will Cost You $10 -- Every Year
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Wired UK reports that the pre-installed Solitaire on Windows 10 capitalizes on the long-cultivated addiction that some users have to the game with an interesting bargain: rather than being an ordinary included application like it used to be, what may be the world's most pervasive on-screen office time-sink of a game now comes with ads, unless a user wants to pay (by the month, or by the year) to remove those ads. Notes the linked piece: "To be entirely fair, this is the same as on the Windows 8 version, which wasn't installed by default but could be downloaded from the Windows Store."

At $1.49/month or $10/year, this might be enough to drive some people who otherwise would not to check out some of the free, open-source games out there; PySolitaire is one of many in this incomplete list.
Mozilla CEO: Windows 10 Strips User Choice For Browsers and Other Software
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Mozilla CEO Chris Beard has sent an open letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella complaining about the default settings in Windows 10. Users who upgrade to 10 will have their default browser automatically changed to the new Edge browser. Beard said, "We appreciate that it’s still technically possible to preserve people’s previous settings and defaults, but the design of the whole upgrade experience and the default settings APIs have been changed to make this less obvious and more difficult. It now takes more than twice the number of mouse clicks, scrolling through content and some technical sophistication for people to reassert the choices they had previously made in earlier versions of Windows. It’s confusing, hard to navigate and easy to get lost. ... We strongly urge you to reconsider your business tactic here and again respect people’s right to choice and control of their online experience by making it easier, more obvious and intuitive for people to maintain the choices they have already made through the upgrade experience.
A Robot That Can Walk and Jump On Water
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Researchers from Seoul University and Harvard have constructed tiny robots that can walk across the surface of standing water, and even jump into the air. The robots were designed to imitate the way pond-skimmer insects take advantage of surface tension to maneuver on top of still bodies of water. After studying the insects, the researchers found their legs started with a small amount of movement before gradually accelerating downward into a jump. The insects also sweep their legs inward during the jump to maximize the amount of time they stay in contact with the surface (abstract). "Using these principles, the researchers developed an ultra light robot made out of nickel titanium with a 2 centimeter long body inspired by origami. Its 5 centimeter long wire legs are curved at the tips like a real water strider's and coated with a material that repels water." Pictures of the robots are availablehere and here, as well as this animated gif.
Using HTML5 To Hide Malware
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SecurityWeek reports on the findings of a group of Italian researchers about web malware. They developed three new obfuscation techniques that can be used to obfuscate exploits like the one usually leveraged in drive-by download malware attacks. These techniques use some functionalities of the HTML5 standard, and can be leveraged through the various JavaScript-based HTML5 APIs. The research also contains recommendations about some of the steps that can be taken to counter these obfuscation techniques.
Four-legged Snake Fossil Stuns Scientists, Ignites Controversy
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Scientists have described what they say is the first known fossil of a four-legged snake. The limbs of the 120-or-so-million-year-old, 20-centimeter-long creature are remarkably well preserved and end with five slender digits that appear to have been functional (abstract). Thought to have come from Brazil, the fossil would be one of the earliest snakes found, suggesting that the group evolved from terrestrial precursors in Gondwana, the southern remnant of the supercontinent Pangaea. But although the creature's overall body plan—and indeed, many of its individual anatomical features—is snakelike, some researchers aren't so sure that it is a part of the snake family tree.
NASA Spies Earth-Sized Exoplanet Orbiting Sun-Like Star
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NASA has announced that a new Earth like planet has been discovered that may be the closest thing yet to a first true "Earth twin". Kepler 452b, is located 1,000 light years away, is 60% larger than Earth, and orbits Kepler 452 at a distance similar to that between Earth and the Sun. "It is the first terrestrial planet in the habitable zone around a star very similar to the Sun," says Douglas Caldwell, an astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California.
How Two Bored 1970s Housewives Helped Create the PC Industry
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One of the first significant PC companies was Vector Graphic. Founded in 1976, it was an innovator in everything from industrial design to sales and marketing, and eventually went public. And alone among early PC makers, it was founded and run by two women, Lore Harp and Carole Ely. Over at Fast Company, Benj Edwards tells the story of this fascinating, forgotten company.
Fossil Fuels Are Messing With Carbon Dating
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The carbon dating method used in determining the age of an artifact is based on the amount of radioactive carbon-14 isotopes it contains. The C-14 within an organism is continually decaying into stable carbon isotopes, but since the organism is absorbing more C-14 during its life, the ratio of C-14 to C-12 remains about the same as the ratio in the atmosphere. When the organism dies, the ratio of C-14 within its carcass begins to gradually decrease. The amount of C-14 drops by half every 5,730 years after death.

The fossil fuels we're burning are old — so old they don't contain any C-14. The more we burn these fossil fuels, the more non-C-14 carbon we pump into the atmosphere. If emissions continue as they have for the past few decades, then by year 2050 a shirt made in that year (2050) will have the same C-14 signature as a shirt worn by William the Conqueror a thousand years earlier.
Genetic Access Control Code Uses 23andMe DNA Data For Internet Racism
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People can defeat this approach by sending DNA samples from different people under their own name.
A GitHub project is using the 23andMe API for genetic decoding to act as a way to bar users from entering websites based on their genetic data — race and ancestry. "Stumbling around GitHub, I came across this bit of code: Genetic Access Control. Now, budding young racist coders can check out your 23andMe page before they allow you into their website! Seriously, this code uses the 23andMe API to pull genetic info, then runs access control on the user based on the results. Just why you decide not to let someone into your site is up to you, but it can be based on any aspect of the 23andMe API. This is literally the code to automate racism."
Smithsonian Using Kickstart Campaign To Save Armstrong's Moon Suit
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The Smithsonian is appealing for assistance to raise enough money to preserve Neil Armstrong's moon suit. The "Reboot the Suit: Bring Back Neil Armstrong's Spacesuit" campaign launched Monday on Kickstarter, marking 46 years since Armstrong's moonwalk in 1969. Smithsonian reports: "....on the anniversary of that 'small step for a man,' the Smithsonian Institution announced a plan of action that is, in its own way, a giant leap for funding the job with what the Institution’s first federal Kickstarter campaign. With a goal of raising $500,000 in 30 days—by offering incentives such as exclusive updates to 3D printed facsimiles of the space suit gloves—museum officials hope to be able to unveil a restored spacesuit by the time of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing four years from now, in 2019."
NASA Funded Study States People Could Be On the Moon By 2021 For $10 Billion
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The Houston Chronicle reported that NextGen Space LLC has released the results of a study that suggests that if the United States were to choose to do space in some new and creative ways, American moon boots could be on the lunar surface by 2021. The cost from the authorization to the first crewed lunar landing would be just $10 billion. The study was partly funded by NASA and was reviewed by the space agency and commercial space experts.
Company Aims To Launch Spacecraft On Beams of Microwaves
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The quest for cheap access to space, to make space travel as inexpensive as air travel, has eluded engineers, government policy makers, and business entrepreneurs from before the beginning of the space age. It has become axiomatic, almost to the point of being a cliché, that the true space age will not begin until launch costs come down significantly. Forbes reported about a company called Escape Dynamics that has a unique approach to the problem. The company proposes to launch payloads into low Earth orbit on beams of microwaves.
Berkeley Breathed Revives Bloom County Comic Strip After 25 Years
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Just as it was needed then, it is needed now (more than ever). NPR reports, "Fans of the well-loved comic strip Bloom County are celebrating ... cartoonist Berkeley Breathed issued the first panels of his satirical strip in decades. Breathed won a Pulitzer Prize for his work on Bloom County back in 1987; two years later, he quit producing it. ... It's unclear whether Breathed will syndicate his new work in newspapers; he recently recalled how an editorial dispute with a publisher had a direct role in his decision to quit cartooning in 2008. His Facebook postings, Breathed said earlier this month, are "nicely out of reach of nervous newspaper editors, the PC humor police now rampant across the web ... and ISIS." When Bloom County went idle in 1989, it was one of several clever and inventive comic strips, such as Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side, that were beloved by fans and yet were also comparatively short-lived. Today, devoted fans are treating its return as a small miracle." — The Washington Post adds, ""Honestly, I was unprepared for it," Breathed tells me of the public outpouring. "It calls for a bit of introspection about how characters can work with readers and how they're now absent as a unifying element with a society. "There is no media that will allow a Charlie Brown or a Snoopy to become a universal and shared joy each morning at the same moment across the country," Breathed continues. 'Maybe the rather marked response to my character's return is a reflection of that loss. A last gasp of a passing era.'"
Researchers Discover Largest Ever Dinosaur With Birdlike Wings and Feathers
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When we see birds winging their way across the sky, we are really looking at living dinosaurs—the only lineage of these mighty beasts that survived mass extinction. Yet before they went extinct, many dinosaurs sprouted wings themselves. Researchers now report finding the largest ever winged dino in China, a sleek, birdlike creature adorned with multiple layers of feathers all over its arms and torsothat lived 125 million years ago. The dino was about 1.65 meters long, a little longer than a modern condor, but at an estimated 20 kilograms, it was probably nearly twice as heavy as that bird. It almost certainly could not fly, however—an important confirmation that wings and feathers originally evolved to serve other functions like attracting mates and keeping eggs warm.
Plastic Roads Sound Like a Crazy Idea, Maybe Aren't
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The Dutch city of Rotterdam is looking at partnering with a company called VolkerWessels to test a prototype plastic road for safety and durability. "They envision pulling waste plastic out of the oceans, and then processing it into prefabricated sections of road with integrated utility channels and drainage. The composition and structure of the plastic makes it more durable than traditional asphalt, and VolkerWessels estimates that their plastic roads should last about three times as long as traditional roads." The roads are manufactured at a factory, and then hauled in a mostly finished state to where they'll end up. This could dramatically reduce the time during which drivers are inconvenienced by road construction efforts.
Data Store and Spying Laws Found Illegal By EU Court
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The EU High Court found the United Kingdom's data retention (and subsequent storage and analysis) and surveillance laws to be illegal throughout the EU, which subsequently would be an argument in courts in Australia and Canada against their own spy laws. This effectively brings back the rule of law that all EU citizens have a right to privacy that is at the Bill of Rights level, not an easily short-circuited legal basis. "The judges identified two key problems with the law: that it does not provide for independent court or judicial scrutiny to ensure that only data deemed 'strictly necessary' is examined; and that there is no definition of what constitutes 'serious offenses' in relation to which material can be investigated." It is uncertain that this would apply to U.S. spy laws, as a right of privacy is only inferred by U.S. high courts and is not written into constitutions as it is in the EU, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
Windows 10 Home Updates To Be Automatic and Mandatory
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Windows 10 Home users don't seem to have any way to disable automatic updates to the operating system. Throughout the testing of the Technical Preview, users noted that this option wasn't available, but it wasn't clear whether that was intended for the full release. Now that the suspected RTM build has been distributed, only two options are available regarding update installation: update then reboot automatically, or update then reboot manually. A quote from the EULA seems to support this: "The Software periodically checks for system and app updates, and downloads and installs them for you. ... By accepting this agreement, you agree to receive these types of automatic updates without any additional notice." The article notes, "This has immediately raised concerns. Today, if a Windows user finds that an update breaks something that they need, they can generally refuse that update for an extended period. ... For Windows 10 Home users, this isn't going to be an option. If a future update breaks something essential, the user is going to be out of luck." Windows 10 Pro users will be able to delay updates for some period of time, and Enterprise users will have update functionality similar to that of Windows 8.
Scientists Develop Nutritious Seaweed That Tastes Like Bacon
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According to a New Zealand Herald report, "Researchers at Oregon State University have patented a new strain of succulent red marine algae that tastes like bacon when it's cooked. The protein-packed algae sea vegetable called dulse grows extraordinarily fast and is wild along the Pacific and Atlantic coastlines. It has been sold for centuries in a dried form around northern Europe, used in cooking and as a nutritional supplement. ... Chris Langdon has created a new strain of the weed which looks like a translucent red lettuce. An excellent source of minerals, vitamins and antioxidants, the "superfood" contains up to 16 per cent protein in dry weight. ... It has twice the nutritional value of kale." Langdon says, "When you fry it, which I have done, it tastes like bacon, not seaweed. And it's a pretty strong bacon flavor."
9 best sites with free ebooks for Google Play
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In this post you’ll learn about best websites with free ebooks that you will be able to add to your Google Play Books library. You can also download eBooks and transfer to your eBook reader through iTunes or any other file transfer app.
How Apple Music Can Disrupt Users' iTunes Libraries
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Early adopters of Apple Music are warning others they could get more than they bargained for if they intend to download tracks for offline listening. Since Apple Music is primarily a streaming service, this functionality necessitates turning on iCloud Music for syncing purposes. The way Apple syncs files is to scan your library for known music files, and if it finds one, the service gives your account access to Apple's canonical copy. Unfortunately, this wipes out any custom edits you made to the file's metadata. For those who have put a lot of time into customizing their library, this can do a lot of damage to their organizational system. Apple's efforts to simplify and streamline the process have once again left advanced users with a difficult decision to make.
Brain-Inspired 'Memcomputer' Constructed
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"Inspired by the human brain, UC San Diego scientists have constructed a new kind of computer that stores information and processes it in the same place. This prototype 'memcomputer' solves a problem involving a large dataset more quickly than conventional computers, while using far less energy. ... Such memcomputers could equal or surpass the potential of quantum computers, they say, but because they don't rely on exotic quantum effects are far more easily constructed." The team, led by UC San Diego physicist Massimiliano Di Ventra published their results in the journal Science Advances.
Russian Cargo Ship Successfully Makes Orbit, Will Supply ISS
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A Russian Soyuz rocket successfully launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The rocket carried a Progress capsule containing 2,700kg of supplies for the International Space Station. It's a much-needed victory after a series of launch failures that saw ISS resupply missions from Orbital ATK, Russia, and SpaceX end in failure. "The station, a joint project involving 15 nations which is staffed by a crew of six astronauts and cosmonauts, currently has a four-month supply of food and water, NASA said. The arrival of the Russian cargo ship, and the planned launch of a Japanese HTV freighter in August, should replenish the station's pantries through the end of the year, NASA said. Friday's successful launch clears the way for three new crew members to fly to the station later this month."
North America Runs Out of IPv4 Addresses
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The American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN) has been forced to reject a request for more IPv4 addresses for the first time as its stock of remaining address reaches exhaustion. The lack of IPv4 addresses has led to renewed calls for the take-up of IPv6 addresses in order to start embracing the next era of the internet.
Windows 10 Shares Your Wi-Fi Password With Contacts
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The Register reports that Windows 10 will include, defaulted on, "Wi-Fi Sense" which shares wifi passwords with Outlook.com contacts, Skype contacts and, with an opt-in, Facebook friends. This involves Microsoft storing the wifi passwords entered into your laptop which can then be used by any other person suitably connected to you. If you don't want someone's Windows 10 passing on your password, Microsoft has two solutions; only share passwords using their Wi-Fi Sense service, or by adding "_optout" to your SSID.
When a Company Gets Sold, Your Data May Be Sold, Too
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A new report points out that many of the top internet sites have language in their privacy policies saying that your private data might be transferred in the event of an acquisition, bankruptcy sale, or other transaction. They effectively say, "We won't ever sell your information, unless things go bad for us." 85 of the top 100 websites in the U.S. (ranked by Alexa), had this sort of language, including Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google, Hulu, and LinkedIn. (RadioShack did this recently.) "The potential ramifications of the fire sale provisions became clear two years ago when True.com, a dating site based in Plano, Tex., that was going through a bankruptcy proceeding, tried to sell its customer database on 43 million members to a dating site based in Canada. The profiles included consumers' names, birth dates, sexual orientation, race, religion, criminal convictions, photos, videos, contact information and more. Because the site's privacy policy had promised never to sell or share members' personal details without their permission, Texas was able to intervene to stop the sale of customer data, including intimate details on about two million Texans." But with this new language, users no longer enjoy that sort of protection. Only 17 of the top 100 sites even say they will notify customers of the data transfer. Only a handful allow users to opt out.
Tiny home village for homeless opens in Wisconsin
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Out of the Occupy Madison protests a cool idea was hatched: Building 98-square-foot homes for those without. The homes have a bed, kitchen, bathroom, storage and propane heat. Future residents take part in building the homes.
Black Hole Awakens After 26 Years
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For the first time since 1989, the black hole in V404 Cygni, a system comprising a black hole and a star, has reawakened, suddenly emitting high energy outbursts beginning on June 15. The outbursts are probably occurring because the black hole is gobbling up material that has fallen into it. While the 1989 outburst helped astronomers gain their first understand of the behavior of a black hole in a star system, this outburst will help them understand how such systems evolve and change over time. The European Space Agency (ESA) reports: "First signs of renewed activity in V404 Cygni were spotted by the Burst Alert Telescope on NASA's Swift satellite, detecting a sudden burst of gamma rays, and then triggering observations with its X-ray telescope. Soon after, MAXI (Monitor of All-sky X-ray Image), part of the Japanese Experiment Module on the International Space Station, observed an X-ray flare from the same patch of the sky. These first detections triggered a massive campaign of observations from ground-based telescopes and from space-based observatories, to monitor V404 Cygni at many different wavelengths across the electromagnetic spectrum."
Venus May Have Active Volcanoes
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The European Space Agency's Venus Express spacecraft has discovered hot lava flows on the surface of Venus, providing the best evidence yet that the planet may have active volcanoes. "[U]sing a near-infrared channel of the spacecraft's Venus Monitoring Camera (VMC) to map thermal emission from the surface through a transparent spectral window in the planet's atmosphere, an international team of planetary scientists has spotted localized changes in surface brightness between images taken only a few days apart (abstract)." Venus is fairly similar to Earth in size and composition, which suggests it has an internal heat source. One of the biggest mysteries about Venus is how that heat escapes, and volcanic activity could be the answer.
NASA Building Air Traffic Control System For Drones
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Last week, The Guardian got its hands on documents indicating NASA would be working with Verizon to monitor civilian and commercial drones around the U.S. using phone network towers. Now, NASA has confirmed its plans for a drone traffic control system, saying that it wants to help "define" this new generation of aviation. They are testing ways of communicating with drones in flight, both for providing helpful information to drones and collecting information about them. For example, the ATC system could send real-time weather updates to the drones, and inform them of no-fly zones. It could also monitor a drone's battery life and compare its flight path to surrounding terrain. NASA has gathered over 100 organizations to contribute to this project, and they're looking for more. "One of the biggest challenges to integrating UAS into the national airspace beyond line of sight is developing a system that enables the aircraft to see and be seen by other aircraft." This is where the involvement of Verizon and other telecoms is important. NASA is holding a convention next month to develop the idea further.
NASA Probe Reveals More Detail In Pluto's Complex Surface
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As NASA's New Horizons spacecraft careens through the solar system with Pluto in its cross-hairs, new detail in the dwarf planet's surface is popping into view at an ever increasing rate. Any images acquired from here on in are the most detailed images humanity has ever seen of Pluto and, a little over a month from its historic flyby, New Horizons is already giving us tantalizing glimpses of what appears to be a rich and complex little world. Take, for example, this most recent series of observations captured by the mission's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), which were taken from May 29 to June 2. There appears to be large variations in surface albedo (reflectiveness), possibly indicating there are huge regions of varying composition.
Report: Evidence of Healthcare Breaches Lurks On Infected Medical Devices
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Evidence that serious and widespread breaches of hospital- and healthcare networks is likely to be hiding on compromised and infect medical devices in clinical settings, including medical imaging machines, blood gas analyzers and more, according to a report by the firm TrapX. In the report, which will be released this week, the company details incidents of medical devices and management stations infected with malicious software at three, separate customer engagements. According to the report, medical devices – in particular so-called picture archive and communications systems (PACS) radiologic imaging systems – are all but invisible to security monitoring systems and provide a ready platform for malware infections to lurk on hospital networks, and for malicious actors to launch attacks on other, high value IT assets.

Malware at a TrapX customer site spread from a unmonitored PACS system to a key nurse's workstation. The result: confidential hospital data was secreted off the network to a server hosted in Guiyang, China. Communications went out encrypted using port 443 (SSL), resulting in the leak of an unknown number of patient records. "The medical devices themselves create far broader exposure to the healthcare institutions than standard information technology assets," the report concludes. One contributing factor to the breaches: Windows 2000 is the OS of choice for "many medical devices." The version that TrapX obtained "did not seem to have been updated or patched in a long time," the company writes.
How the Red Cross Raised Half a Billion Dollars For Haiti and Built 6 Homes
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An investigation from NPR and Propublica into how the Red Cross spent the $500 million in relief funds they gathered to help Haiti after the country was devastated by an earthquake in 2010. They found "a string of poorly managed projects, questionable spending and dubious claims of success." While the organization claims to have built homes for 130,000 people, investigators only found six permanent homes they could attribute to the charity. The Red Cross admitted afterward that the 130,000 number included people who had attended a seminar on how to fix their own homes.

"Lacking the expertise to mount its own projects, the Red Cross ended up giving much of the money to other groups to do the work. Those groups took out a piece of every dollar to cover overhead and management. Even on the projects done by others, the Red Cross had its own significant expenses – in one case, adding up to a third of the project’s budget." The Red Cross raised far more money for Haiti than any other charity, but is unwilling to provide details on where the money went. In one case, a brochure that extolled the virtues of one project claimed $24 million had been spent on a particular area — but residents of that area haven't seen any improvement in living conditions, and are unable to get information from the Red Cross. The former director of the Red Cross's shelter program said charity officials had no idea how to spend the money they'd accumulated.
The Artificial Pancreas For Diabetics Is Nearly Here
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It's the tech that type 1 diabetics have long been waiting for: An implanted "closed-loop" system that monitors a person's blood-sugar level and adjusts injections from an insulin pump. Such a system would liberate diabetics from constant self-monitoring and give parents of diabetic children peace of mind. Thanks to improvements in glucose sensors and control algorithms, the first artificial pancreas systems are now in clinical trials.
Memory alloy bounces back into shape 10 million times
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Engineers have produced an alloy that springs back into shape even after it is bent more than 10 million times.

"Memory shape alloys" like this have many potential uses, but present incarnations are prone to wearing out.

The new material - made from nickel, titanium and copper - shatters previous records and is so resilient it could be useful in artificial heart valves, aircraft components or a new generation of solid-state refrigerators.
The Case For a Muon Collider Succeeding the LHC Just Got Stronger
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If you strike the upper atmosphere with a cosmic ray, you produce a whole host of particles, including muons. Despite having a mean lifetime of just 2.2 microseconds, and the speed of light being 300,000 km/s, those muons can reach the ground! That's a distance of 100 kilometers traveled, despite a non-relativistic estimate of just 660 meters. If we apply that same principle to particle accelerators, we discover an amazing possibility: the ability to create a collider with the cleanliness and precision of electron-positron colliders but the high energies of proton colliders. All we need to do is build a muon collider. A pipe dream and the stuff of science fiction just 20 years ago, recent advances have this on the brink of becoming reality, with a legitimate possibility that a muon-antimuon collider will be the LHC's successor.
MIT Trains Robots To Jump
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MIT just announced that its researchers have programmed a robotic cheetah that can leap over obstacles without a prompt from a human controller. The machine's onboard sensors rely on reflected laser-light to judge obstacles' distance and height, and use that data to fuel the algorithm for a safe jump. The robot's controlling algorithm takes into account such factors as the speed needed to launch its mass over the obstacle, the best position for a jump, and the amount of energy required from the onboard electric motor. As of this writing, the robot can clear 90 percent of obstacles on an open track. "A running jump is a truly dynamic behavior," Sangbae Kim, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, is quoted as saying in a university press release. "You have to manage balance and energy, and be able to handle impact after landing. Our robot is specifically designed for those highly dynamic behaviors." For years, some tech pundits have worried that robots and software will gradually replace human workers in key industries such as manufacturing and IT administration. Now they have something else to fret over: Robots replacing the world's hurdlers
Black Hole Plays Pool With Plasma
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The Hubble Space Telescope is revealing that there is a pool game in progress, with a long shot being played out on a cosmic scale. It appears that the first recorded shot was observed in 1992, while subsequent canon shots were recorded between 1994 an 2014. In actuality, the shots are plasma, the current player is a black hole, and the playing surface is galactic space itself. The BBC has a story on the observations and interpretations, while the journal Nature has the paywalled in-depth article. The current score is unknown, and one can only hope that there were no life forms involved in the collision.
SpaceX Cleared For US Military Launches
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The U.S. Air Force has given private rocket company SpaceX clearance to launch military satellites into orbit. This disrupts the lock that Boeing and Lockheed Martin have had on military launches for almost a decade. SpaceX will get its first opportunity to bid for such launches in June, when the Air Force posts a contract to launch GPS satellites.
Will Technology Disrupt the Song?
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The music industry has gone through dramatic changes over the past thirty years. Virtually everything is different except the structure of the songs we listen to. Distribution methods have long influenced songwriting habits, from records to CDs to radio airplay. So will streaming services, through their business models, incentivize a change to song form itself? Many pop music sensations are already manufactured carefully by the studios, and the shift to digital is providing them with ever more data about what people like to listen to. And don't forget that technology is a now a central part of how such music is created, from auto-tune and electronic beats to the massive amount of processing that goes into getting the exact sound a studio wants.
EU Drops Plans For Safer Pesticides After Pressure From US
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The European Union recently published plans to ban 31 pesticides containing chemicals linked to testicular cancer and male infertility. Those potential regulations have now been dropped after a U.S. business delegation said they would adversely affect trade negotiations for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. "Just weeks before the regulations were dropped there had been a barrage of lobbying from big European firms such as Dupont, Bayer and BASF over EDCs. The chemical industry association Cefic warned that the endocrines issue 'could become an issue that impairs the forthcoming EU-US trade negotiations.'"
Hubble Discovers a Fast-Aging Star Nicknamed "Nasty 1"
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Using NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, Astronomers have uncovered surprising new clues about a large, rapidly aging star whose behavior has never been seen before. The star is so strange in fact that astronomers have nicknamed it "Nasty 1," a play on its catalog name of NaSt1. Wolf-Rayet stars like NaSt1 are typically large, rapidly evolving stellar bodies that form by shedding their hydrogen-filled outer layers quickly, exposing a bright hot, helium-burning core. Nasty 1 is unique because it contains a disk like structure. "We were excited to see this disk-like structure because it may be evidence for a Wolf-Rayet star forming from a binary interaction," said Jon Mauerhan of UC Berkeley, lead author on the new Nasty 1 paper. "There are very few examples in the galaxy of this process in action because this phase is short-lived, perhaps lasting only a hundred thousand years, while the timescale over which a resulting disk is visible could be only ten thousand years or less."
Musical Organ Created From 49 Floppy Disk Drives
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A youth club in Germany, called Toolbox Bodensee, has created an unusual musical organ. It is constructed of 49 floppy disk drives all of which combine to play quite a unique sound. It has the ability to be played manually or act as a playback device. If you have a bunch of old floppy drives and want to assemble your own organ, the 3D print files are available for free download on Thingiverse.
CareFirst Admits More Than a Million Customer Accounts Were Exposed In Security Breach
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News, as reported by The Stack, that regional health insurer CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, has confirmed a breach which took place last summer, and may have leaked personal details of as many as 1.1 million of the company's customers: "The Washington D.C.-based firm announced yesterday that the hack had taken place in June last year. CareFirst said that the breach had been a 'sophisticated cyberattack' and that those behind the crime had accessed and potentially stolen sensitive customer data including names, dates of birth, email addresses and ID numbers. All affected members will receive letters of apology, offering two years of free credit monitoring and identity threat protection as compensation, CareFirst said in a statement posted on its website." Free credit monitoring is pretty weak sauce for anyone who actually ends up faced with identity fraud.
Oldest Stone Tools Predate Previous Record Holder By 700,000 Years
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The oldest stone tools ever found have been discovered by scientists in Kenya who say they are 3.3m years old, making them by far the oldest such artifacts discovered. Predating the rise of humans' first ancestors in the Homo genus, the artifacts were found near Lake Turkana, Kenya. More than 100 primitive hammers, anvils and other stone tools have been found at the site. An in-depth analysis of the site, its contents, and its significance as a new benchmark in evolutionary history will be published in the May 21 issue of Nature.
After a Year of Secret Field-Testing, Brain-Controlled Bionic Legs Are Here
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An Icelandic prosthetic-maker announced that two amputees have been testing brain-controlled bionic legs for over a year. The devices respond to impulses in the subjects' residual limbs, via sensors that were implanted in simple, 15-minute-long procedures. "When the electrical impulse from his brain reaches the base of his leg, a pair of sensors embedded in his muscle tissue connect the neural dots, and wirelessly transmit that signal to the Proprio Foot. Since the command reaches the foot before the wearer's residual muscles actually contract, there's no unnatural lag between intention and action." This is a huge step forward (sorry) for this class of bionics. It may seem like a solved problem based on reports and videos from laboratories, but it's never been exposed to real world use and everyday wear and tear like this.
Energy Dept. Wants Big Wind Energy Technology In All 50 US States
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Bigger wind turbines and towers are just part of what the U.S. needs in order to more effectively use wind energy in all 50 states.That was the thrust of a wind energy call-to-arms report called "Enabling Wind Power nationwide" issued this week by the Department of Energy. They detail new technology that can reach higher into the sky to capture more energy and more powerful turbines to generate more gigawatts. These new turbines are 110-140 meters tall, with blades 60 meters long. The Energy Department forecasts strong, steady growth of wind power across the country, both on land and off shore.
Microwave Comms Betwen Population Centers Could Be Key To Easing Internet Bottlenecks
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Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Duke University recently looked at the main causes of Internet latency and what it would take to achieve speed-of-light performance. The first part of the paper, titled Towards a Speed of Light Internet, is devoted to finding out where the slowdowns are coming from. They found that the bulk of the delay comes from the latency of the underlying infrastructure, which works in a multiplicative way by affecting each step in the request. The second part of the paper proposes what turns out to be a relatively cheap and potentially doable solution to bring Internet speeds close to the speed of light for the vast majority of us. The authors propose creating a network that would connect major population centers using microwave networks.
European Internet Users Urged To Protect Themselves Against Facebook Tracking
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Belgium's Privacy Protection Commission says that Facebook tramples on European privacy laws by tracking people online without their consent and dodges questions from national regulators. They have issued a set of recommendations for both Facebook, website owners and end users. Net-Security reports: "The recommendations are based on the results of an extensive analysis of Facebook's revised policies and terms (rolled out on January 30, 2015) conducted by the inter-university research center EMSOC/SPION, which concluded that the company is acting in violation of European law. According to them Facebook places too much burden on its users to protect their privacy, and then doesn't offer simple tools and settings to do so, and sets up some problematic default settings. They also don't provide adequate information for users to make informed choices."
Four Quasars Found Clustered Together Defy Current Cosmological Expectations
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Get a supermassive black hole feeding on matter, particularly on large amounts of cool, dense gas, and you're likely to get a quasar: a luminous, active galaxy emitting radiation from the radio all the way up through the X-ray. Our best understanding and observations indicate that these objects should be rare, transient, and isolated; no more than two have ever been found close together before. Until this discovery, that is, where we just found four within a million light years of one another, posing a problem for our current theories of structure formation in the Universe.
Arab Mars Probe Planned For 2020
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The United Arab Emirates has announced plans to launch a Mars mission in July, 2020. They want to send a probe (named "al-Amal",or "Hope") that will orbit the Red Planet for several years. It will analyze the Martian atmosphere, observing clouds and dust storms to help scientists figure out how water gradually escaped from Mars over a long time scale. [A]fter being inserted into an elliptical 55-hour orbit in the first quarter of 2021, Hope will carry out its nominal two-year science mission at altitudes ranging between 22,000 to 44,000 kilometers. From there, the mission will investigate how the lower and upper levels of the Martian atmosphere are connected. One goal is to create the first global picture of how the Martian atmosphere changes throughout the day and between seasons.

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