Archive for the ‘Gizmodo’ Category
Straight from Gizmodo: “SETI, the massive, international scientific effort to listen for life outside of earth, won’t be finding that life anytime soon, the Mercury News reports—too broke to continue, the project’s Allen Telescope Array is hanging up indefinitely.
The shutdown comes as both a shock and major disappointment to astronomers around the world. The 42-dish array, named after Microsoft founder Paul Allen’s thick-walleted donation, has only been operational for four years, and would just now be reaching its most valuable period of use: “There is a huge irony,” laments SETI Director Jill Tarter, “that a time when we discover so many planets to look at, we don’t have the operating funds to listen.” There are other dishes available to the project, but none as capable as the Allen Array. With these radio dishes out of commission, the project is completely hobbled. State and federal budgets are both tight, and many in Congress dismiss the project as trivial ET-chasing.
So the dishes will sit idle, for who knows how long. And if a broadcast from a distant intelligence happens to bounce in our vicinity, we’ll never know. “If we miss a distant signal,” says one amateur astronomer, “it would be a terrible loss.”
If you’d like to donate to a worthy cause today, consider throwing SETI some bones. It just might lead to the greatest scientific breakthrough in human history.
Straight from Gizmodo: “Predator Drones are nifty, but all that hassle of private contractors and CIA control room is kind of a hassle! The Aeryon Scout Quadrotor makes aerial surveillance a breeze—snap it together, let it fly, and start peeking.
The drone, packing a camera that can ID a human from almost two miles away (using a standard digital cam or thermal vision), can be hand-assembled. Once in the sky, it gyro-orients itself to track whatever it is you’re tracking, can hit speeds of over 30 MPH, and is all controllable with a touch remote. Tap a target, and watch the drone zoom over. It’s not going to rain down and hellfire missiles, but hey, it only weighs a kilogram. And is sort of cute! Unless you’re a South American drug cartel goon getting busted by the drone—as Aeryon claims their tech’s responsible for so far. I just want one to send out and spy on my ex-girlfriends with. Just kidding, guys! [Aeryon via IEEE Spectrum]“
Straight from Gizmodo: “This aircraft is a peek at the future of unmanned aerial vehicles. Autonomous, stealthy, versatile.
The Phantom Ray made its 17-minute official maiden flight last week. It only zipped by at 204 mph at 7,500 feet—but the 36,500-pound drone is theoretically capable of reaching a cruising speed of 614 mph (0.8 Mach) with a combat radius of 1,200 nautical miles. It’s also meant to fly at 40,000 feet. Developed as a test platform for advanced and future unmanned aerial tech, the Phantom Ray is a stealth drone that’ll be able to fly and perform missions basically autonomously—no one has to sit at the controls while it’s up there, doing its deadly thing.
Right now, it’s designed to be capable of basically any kind of mission—from intelligence gathering/surveillance to suppression of enemy air defenses and electronic attack. There are a couple options for direct assault: Either two Joint Direct Attach Munitions or eight Small Diameter Bombs.
Part of what makes it radical is that it comes from Boeing’s Phantom Works, which rapidly prototypes and gets these things off the ground as fast as possible, even if when they’re not completely finished.
Monster Machines is all about the most exceptional machines in the world, from massive gadgets of destruction to tiny machines of precision, and everything in between.”
Straight from Gizmodo: “While many judges around the country are throwing out file sharing lawsuits on account of questionable or faulty arguments, DC federal judge Beryl Howell just recently allowed three cases filed by copyright holders to proceed. What makes it intriguing is that she used to be a former RIAA lobbyist.
Sites like TorrentFreak are calling foul, saying that the lawsuits are just ploys for quick settlements and that Howell is allowing a acts of extortion to take place.
In layman’s terms her ruling means that copyright holders can easily request the personal details of people who have allegedly downloaded copyrighted works on BitTorrent. With this decision in hand the copyright holders have all they need. After all, the intention of these lawsuits was never to take the defendants to court, but to send them settlement letters to resolve the issue for a few thousand dollars.
Extortion seems a bit strong, but it’s definitely odd to have a former industry lobbyist hearing cases and promising objectivity. [TorrentFreak via Ars Technica]“
Straight from Gizmodo:
Back in the late 80s, the United States and Libya were rabid enemies. This is the thrilling story of Brian Shul and his Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, as he zoomed through the skies of Qaddafi’s country, dodging anti-aircraft missiles.—JD
In April 1986, following an attack on American soldiers in a Berlin disco, President Reagan ordered the bombing of Muammar Qaddafi’s terrorist camps in Libya. My duty was to fly over Libya and take photos recording the damage our F-111′s had inflicted. Qaddafi had established a ‘line of death,’ a territorial marking across the Gulf of Sidra , swearing to shoot down any intruder that crossed the boundary. On the morning of April 15, I rocketed past the line at 2,125 mph.
I was piloting the SR-71 spy plane, the world’s fastest jet, accompanied by Maj Walter Watson, the aircraft’s reconnaissance systems officer (RSO). We had crossed into Libya and were approaching our final turn over the bleak desert landscape when Walter informed me that he was receiving missile launch signals. I quickly increased our speed, calculating the time it would take for the weapons-most likely SA-2 and SA-4 surface-to-air missiles capable of Mach 5 – to reach our altitude. I estimated that we could beat the rocket-powered missiles to the turn and stayed our course, betting our lives on the plane’s performance.
After several agonizingly long seconds, we made the turn and blasted toward the Mediterranean ‘You might want to pull it back,’ Walter suggested. It was then that I noticed I still had the throttles full forward. The plane was flying a mile every 1.6 seconds, well above our Mach 3.2 limit. It was the fastest we would ever fly. I pulled the throttles to idle just south of Sicily , but we still overran the refueling tanker awaiting us over Gibraltar.Scores of significant aircraft have been produced in the 100 years of flight, following the achievements of the Wright brothers, which we celebrate in December. Aircraft such as the Boeing 707, the F-86 Sabre Jet, and the P-51 Mustang are among the important machines that have flown our skies. But the SR-71, also known as the Blackbird, stands alone as a significant contributor to Cold War victory and as the fastest plane ever-and only 93 Air Force pilots ever steered the ‘sled,’ as we called our aircraft.
As inconceivable as it may sound, I once discarded the plane. Literally. My first encounter with the SR-71 came when I was 10 years old in the form of molded black plastic in a Revell kit. Cementing together the long fuselage parts proved tricky, and my finished product looked less than menacing. Glue, oozing from the seams, discolored the black plastic. It seemed ungainly alongside the fighter planes in my collection, and I threw it away.
Twenty-nine years later, I stood awe-struck in a Beale Air Force Base hangar, staring at the very real SR-71 before me. I had applied to fly the world’s fastest jet and was receiving my first walk-around of our nation’s most prestigious aircraft. In my previous 13 years as an Air Force fighter pilot, I had never seen an aircraft with such presence. At 107 feet long, it appeared big, but far from ungainly.
Ironically, the plane was dripping, much like the misshapen model had assembled in my youth. Fuel was seeping through the joints, raining down on the hangar floor. At Mach 3, the plane would expand several inches because of the severe temperature, which could heat the leading edge of the wing to 1,100 degrees. To prevent cracking, expansion joints had been built into the plane. Sealant resembling rubber glue covered the seams, but when the plane was subsonic, fuel would leak through the joints.
The SR-71 was the brainchild of Kelly Johnson, the famed Lockheed designer who created the P-38, the F-104 Starfighter, and the U-2. After the Soviets shot down Gary Powers’ U-2 in 1960, Johnson began to develop an aircraft that would fly three miles higher and five times faster than the spy plane-and still be capable of photographing your license plate. However, flying at 2,000 mph would create intense heat on the aircraft’s skin. Lockheed engineers used a titanium alloy to construct more than 90 percent of the SR-71, creating special tools and manufacturing procedures to hand-build each of the 40 planes. Special heat-resistant fuel, oil, and hydraulic fluids that would function at 85,000 feet and higher also had to be developed.
In 1962, the first Blackbird successfully flew, and in 1966, the same year I graduated from high school, the Air Force began flying operational SR-71 missions. I came to the program in 1983 with a sterling record and a recommendation from my commander, completing the weeklong interview and meeting Walter, my partner for the next four years He would ride four feet behind me, working all the cameras, radios, and electronic jamming equipment. I joked that if we were ever captured, he was the spy and I was just the driver. He told me to keep the pointy end forward.
We trained for a year, flying out of Beale AFB in California , Kadena Airbase in Okinawa, and RAF Mildenhall in England . On a typical training mission, we would take off near Sacramento, refuel over Nevada, accelerate into Montana, obtain high Mach over Colorado, turn right over New Mexico, speed across the Los Angeles Basin, run up the West Coast, turn right at Seattle, then return to Beale. Total flight time: two hours and 40 minutes.
One day, high above Arizona , we were monitoring the radio traffic of all the mortal airplanes below us. First, a Cessna pilot asked the air traffic controllers to check his ground speed. ‘Ninety knots,’ ATC replied. A twin Bonanza soon made the same request. ‘One-twenty on the ground,’ was the reply. To our surprise, a navy F-18 came over the radio with a ground speed check. I knew exactly what he was doing. Of course, he had a ground speed indicator in his cockpit, but he wanted to let all the bug-smashers in the valley know what real speed was ‘Dusty 52, we show you at 620 on the ground,’ ATC responded. The situation was too ripe. I heard the click of Walter’s mike button in the rear seat. In his most innocent voice, Walter startled the controller by asking for a ground speed check from 81,000 feet, clearly above controlled airspace. In a cool, professional voice, the controller replied, ‘ Aspen 20, I show you at 1,982 knots on the ground.’ We did not hear another transmis sion on that frequency all the way to the coast.
The Blackbird always showed us something new, each aircraft possessing its own unique personality. In time, we realized we were flying a national treasure. When we taxied out of our revetments for takeoff, people took notice. Traffic congregated near the airfield fences, because everyone wanted to see and hear the mighty SR-71 You could not be a part of this program and not come to love the airplane. Slowly, she revealed her secrets to us as we earned her trust.
One moonless night, while flying a routine training mission over the Pacific, I wondered what the sky would look like from 84,000 feet if the cockpit lighting were dark. While heading home on a straight course, I slowly turned down all of the lighting, reducing the glare and revealing the night sky. Within seconds, I turned the lights back up, fearful that the jet would know and somehow punish me. But my desire to see the sky overruled my caution, I dimmed the lighting again. To my amazement, I saw a bright light outside my window. As my eyes adjusted to the view, I realized that the brilliance was the broad expanse of the Milky Way, now a gleaming stripe across the sky. Where dark spaces in the sky had usually existed, there were now dense clusters of sparkling stars Shooting stars flashed across the canvas every few seconds. It was like a fireworks display with no sound. I knew I had to get my eyes back on the instruments, and reluctantly I brought my attention back inside. To my surprise, with the cockpit lighting still off, I could see every gauge, lit by starlight. In the plane’s mirrors, I could see the eerie shine of my gold spacesuit incandescently illuminated in a celestial glow. I stole one last glance out the window. Despite our speed, we seemed still before the heavens, humbled in the radiance of a much greater power. For those few moments, I felt a part of something far more significant than anything we were doing in the plane. The sharp sound of Walt’s voice on the radio brought me back to the tasks at hand as I prepared for our descent.
The SR-71 was an expensive aircraft to operate. The most significant cost was tanker support, and in 1990, confronted with budget cutbacks, the Air Force retired the SR-71.The Blackbird had outrun nearly 4,000 missiles, not once taking a scratch from enemy fire.
On her final flight, the Blackbird, destined for the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum , sped from Los Angeles to Washington in 64 minutes, averaging 2,145 mph and setting four speed records.
The SR-71 served six presidents, protecting America for a quarter of a century. Unbeknownst to most of the country, the plane flew over North Vietnam , Red China, North Korea , the Middle East, South Africa , Cuba , Nicaragua , Iran , Libya , and the Falkland Islands . On a weekly basis, the SR-71 kept watch over every Soviet nuclear submarine and mobile missile site, and all of their troop movements. It was a key factor in winning the Cold War.
I am proud to say I flew about 500 hours in this aircraft. I knew her well. She gave way to no plane, proudly dragging her sonic boom through enemy backyards with great impunity. She defeated every missile, outran every MiG, and always brought us home. In the first 100 years of manned flight, no aircraft was more remarkable.
Approaching the Libyan Coast
With the Libyan coast fast approaching now, Walt asks me for the third time, if I think the jet will get to the speed and altitude we want in time. I tell him yes. I know he is concerned. He is dealing with the data; that’s what engineers do, and I am glad he is. But I have my hands on the stick and throttles and can feel the heart of a thoroughbred, running now with the power and perfection she was designed to possess. I also talk to her. Like the combat veteran she is, the jet senses the target area and seems to prepare herself.
For the first time in two days, the inlet door closes flush and all vibration is gone. We’ve become so used to the constant buzzing that the jet sounds quiet now in comparison. The Mach correspondingly increases slightly and the jet is flying in that confidently smooth and steady style we have so often seen at these speeds. We reach our target altitude and speed, with five miles to spare. Entering the target area, in response to the jet’s new-found vitality, Walt says, ‘That’s amazing’ and with my left hand pushing two throttles farther forward, I think to myself that there is much they don’t teach in engineering school.
Out my left window, Libya looks like one huge sandbox. A featureless brown terrain stretches all the way to the horizon. There is no sign of any activity. Then Walt tells me that he is getting lots of electronic signals, and they are not the friendly kind. The jet is performing perfectly now, flying better than she has in weeks. She seems to know where she is. She likes the high Mach, as we penetrate deeper into Libyan airspace. Leaving the footprint of our sonic boom across Benghazi , I sit motionless, with stilled hands on throttles and the pitch control, my eyes glued to the gauges.
Only the Mach indicator is moving, steadily increasing in hundredths, in a rhythmic consistency similar to the long distance runner who has caught his second wind and picked up the pace. The jet was made for this kind of performance and she wasn’t about to let an errant inlet door make her miss the show. With the power of forty locomotives, we puncture the quiet African sky and continue farther south across a bleak landscape.
Walt continues to update me with numerous reactions he sees on the DEF panel. He is receiving missile tracking signals. With each mile we traverse, every two seconds, I become more uncomfortable driving deeper into this barren and hostile land. I am glad the DEF panel is not in the front seat. It would be a big distraction now, seeing the lights flashing. In contrast, my cockpit is ‘quiet’ as the jet purrs and relishes her new-found strength, continuing to slowly accelerate.
The spikes are full aft now, tucked twenty-six inches deep into the nacelles. With all inlet doors tightly shut, at 3.24 Mach, the J-58s are more like ramjets now, gulping 100,000 cubic feet of air per second. We are a roaring express now, and as we roll through the enemy’s backyard, I hope our speed continues to defeat the missile radars below. We are approaching a turn, and this is good. It will only make it more difficult for any launched missile to solve the solution for hitting our aircraft.
I push the speed up at Walt’s request. The jet does not skip a beat, nothing fluctuates, and the cameras have a rock steady platform. Walt received missile launch signals. Before he can say anything else, my left hand instinctively moves the throttles yet farther forward. My eyes are glued to temperature gauges now, as I know the jet will willingly go to speeds that can harm her. The temps are relatively cool and from all the warm temps we’ve encountered thus far, this surprises me but then, it really doesn’t surprise me. Mach 3.31 and Walt is quiet for the moment.
I move my gloved finder across the small silver wheel on the autopilot panel which controls the aircraft’s pitch. With the deft feel known to Swiss watchmakers, surgeons, and ‘dinosaurs’ (old- time pilots who not only fly an airplane but ‘feel it’), I rotate the pitch wheel somewhere between one-sixteenth and one-eighth inch location, a position which yields the 500-foot-per-minute climb I desire. The jet raises her nose one-sixth of a degree and knows, I’ll push her higher as she goes faster. The Mach continues to rise, but during this segment of our route, I am in no mood to pull throttles back.
Walt’s voice pierces the quiet of my cockpit with the news of more missile launch signals. The gravity of Walter’s voice tells me that he believes the signals to be a more valid threat than the others. Within seconds he tells me to ‘push it up’ and I firmly press both throttles against their stops. For the next few seconds, I will let the jet go as fast as she wants. A final turn is coming up and we both know that if we can hit that turn at this speed, we most likely will defeat any missiles. We are not there yet, though, and I’m wondering if Walt will call for a defensive turn off our course.
With no words spoken, I sense Walter is thinking in concert with me about maintaining our programmed course. To keep from worrying, I glance outside, wondering if I’ll be able to visually pick up a missile aimed at us. Odd are the thoughts that wander through one’s mind in times like these. I found myself recalling the words of former SR-71 pilots who were fired upon while flying missions over North Vietnam They said the few errant missile detonations they were able to observe from the cockpit looked like implosions rather than explosions. This was due to the great speed at which the jet was hurling away from the exploding missile.
I see nothing outside except the endless expanse of a steel blue sky and the broad patch of tan earth far below. I have only had my eyes out of the cockpit for seconds, but it seems like many minutes since I have last checked the gauges inside. Returning my attention inward, I glance first at the miles counter telling me how many more to go, until we can start our turn Then I note the Mach, and passing beyond 3.45, I realize that Walter and I have attained new personal records. The Mach continues to increase. The ride is incredibly smooth.
There seems to be a confirmed trust now, between me and the jet; she will not hesitate to deliver whatever speed we need, and I can count on no problems with the inlets. Walt and I are ultimately depending on the jet now – more so than normal – and she seems to know it. The cooler outside temperatures have awakened the spirit born into her years ago, when men dedicated to excellence took the time and care to build her well. With spikes and doors as tight as they can get, we are racing against the time it could take a missile to reach our altitude.
Major Brian Shul is the author of Sled Driver, a fascinating account of his experiences as a pilot of the SR-71 Blackbird. The book has been out of print for two years now, but now you can buy one of the 3,500 limited edition copies—signed by Shul and other SR-71 legends—here. There are only a few left, so hurry up.
Excerpts via vfp62.com, a site dedicated to the officers and enlisted men who served with VFP-62, Light Photographic Squadron 62, Home Base Cecil Field (NZC), FLA. It’s full of great anecdotes and images.
In Love With the Blackbird
It is a race this jet will not let us lose. The Mach eases to 3.5 as we crest 80,000 feet. We are a bullet now – except faster. We hit the turn, and I feel some relief as our nose swings away from a country we have seen quite enough of. Screaming past Tripoli , our phenomenal speed continues to rise, and the screaming Sled pummels the enemy one more time, laying down a parting sonic boom. In seconds, we can see nothing but the expansive blue of the Mediterranean . I realize that I still have my left hand full-forward and we’re continuing to rocket along in maximum afterburner.
The TDI now shows us Mach numbers, not only new to our experience but flat out scary. Walt says the DEF panel is now quiet, and I know it is time to reduce our incredible speed. I pull the throttles to the min ‘burner range and the jet still doesn’t want to slow down. Normally the Mach would be affected immediately, when making such a large throttle movement, but for just a few moments old 960 just sat out there at the high Mach, she seemed to love and like the proud Sled she was, only began to slow when we were well out of danger.
I loved that jet.
This story was originally published in Gizmodo on April 2010. We are re-printing it because 1) it’s awesome and 2) it’s a good read in the light of recent events in Libya.
Straight from Gizmodo: “I’m not sure if this has ever happened before because it’s just so…ridiculous. Timothy James Chapek, the 24-year old robber in the story, broke into a home and for some odd reason decided to take a shower. Okay weird, but I can roll with it.
It get more ridiculous because when the homeowner came home (accompanied by two German Shepherds) and asked Chapek just what the hell he was doing in his house, Chapek panicked. Instead of making a run for it, Chapek freaked out and locked himself in the bathroom and then called 911 to tell the police he had just broken into a house and was afraid that the homeowner had a gun. Police came and arrested Chapek moments later. Genius. [CNN]“
Straight from Gizmodo: “Psychological operations are important to the US military. Two highly unpopular wars are being fought among highly unfriendly populaces. But, under federal law, it’s illegal to use American psy-ops influence against other Americans. That hasn’t stopped us, Rolling Stone reports.
According to statements made by members of the Army with psy-ops training—the strategy of both propagandizing, influencing, and extracting information from others—a military team in Afghanistan used their powers against visiting politicians, including several prominent senators. On the list? John McCain, Joe Lieberman, and Al Franken, Rep. Steve Israel from the enormously important House Appropriations Committee, and Admiral Mike Mullen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Top brass. To what end? Money.
These are politicians who’ve got the cash in their hands, and you can’t have a war without plenty of it. So the Army decided to play dirty (and illegally), claims Lt. Colonel Michael Holmes. When bigwigs arrived in Kabul, Holmes—whose self-described job is to “play with people’s heads, to get the enemy to behave the way we want them to behave—was directed by General William Caldwell to do just that. Get inside their heads:
According to Holmes, the general wanted the [Information Operations] team to provide a “deeper analysis of pressure points we could use to leverage the delegation for more funds.” The general’s chief of staff also asked Holmes how Caldwell could secretly manipulate the U.S. lawmakers without their knowledge. “How do we get these guys to give us more people?” he demanded. “What do I have to plant inside their heads?”
Which is illegal. When Holmes balked, he found himself the target of both an internal investigation and a formal reprimand, and a found the backs of his superiors turned against him.
Whether effective or not, the mere existence of psy-ops warriors is serious business. Even if mind control methods are bunk, the fact that the government would be determined to wield this weapon against itself is ominous—and on your tax dollar dime. [Rolling Stone]“
Straight from Gizmodo: “Science decided to be unfun this morning. Physicists at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology demonstrated that a single photon cannot be accelerated beyond the speed of light. This implies that faster-than-light time travel is impossible. FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUU…
The research team, led by Professor Du Shengwang, set out to close the debate by measuring the speed of a photon, or the fundamental unit of light. Du adheres to Einstein’s special theory of relativity, stating that the speed of light is the “traffic law of the universe” that nothing can exceed. People have been arguing for decades that going faster than light could possibly allow you to travel forward in time. By showing that the theory holds up, Du pretty much went “Nuh uh!” and killed the party.
But! The study says nothing about wormholes and possibilities brought up by Einstein’s general theory of relativity. So maybe this one kind of time travel is impossible and the others still are? My inner child is not giving up so easily!”
Straight from Gizmodo: “The new iMacs have the super fast Thunderbolt port and Intel’s latest Sandy Bridge Core processors which makes them, well, pretty awesome. What’s not awesome? Apple has made upgrading the hard drive on the new iMacs damn near impossible.
Other World Computing is reporting that “the Apple-branded main hard drive cannot be moved, removed or replaced.” They say it’s because Apple has altered the SATA power connector from a standard 4-pin configuration to a 7-pin configuration. And since hard drive temperature control is regulated with this cable and Apple’s proprietary firmware, messing with that drive messes with everything. OWC says:
From our testing, we’ve found that removing this drive from the system, or even from that bay itself, causes the machine’s hard drive fans to spin at maximum speed and replacing the drive with any non-Apple original drive will result in the iMac failing the Apple Hardware Test.
They tried every workaround they could think of but couldn’t use a hard drive that wasn’t ordained by Apple. In short, it looks like if you want to upgrade your hard drive, your only option is to go through Apple (or alternatively, use the second drive bay). Not cool. Read the full report at OWC.
Update: Possible logic for this move: iMacs aren’t meant to be user serviceable, so Apple’s looking to economize the design by reducing the number of parts—removing the separate external sensor/cable monitoring the HDD’s temp in favor of an integrated sensor. (Mildly analogous: Soldering flash storage chips directly onto the logic board of the MacBook Airs. Less complexity, but the trade-off is it’s not user replaceable. SOP for Apple, really.)”
Straight from Gizmodo: “Upending a theory of physics maintained for over a century, researchers at the University of Michigan have discovered that magnetic fields coming from light waves are 100 million times stronger than previously believed, creating new possibilities for harvesting solar power.
According to PhysOrg, this discovery came about when researchers ran a light source through a non-electric material:
Light has electric and magnetic components. Until now, scientists thought the effects of the magnetic field were so weak that they could be ignored. What Rand and his colleagues found is that at the right intensity, when light is traveling through a material that does not conduct electricity, the light field can generate magnetic effects that are 100 million times stronger than previously expected. Under these circumstances, the magnetic effects develop strength equivalent to a strong electric effect.
With current technology, the light has to be focused at an intensity of 10 million watts per centimeter squared, which is far stronger than natural intensity of the sun. However they’re working with materials that will allow less intense light sources to produce energy (they’re currently working with lasers).
The researchers believe that this breakthrough could lead to the development of an “optical battery,” that doesn’t use semiconductors, and doesn’t need to absorb the light (which gives off heat during the process). Meaning this technology could be cheaper and more efficient. They believe that with a bit more research and better materials, 10% efficiency can be attained, which is the current percentage for commercial-grade panels.”
Straight from Gizmodo: “You gotta hand it to the TSA, they’re really good at making you hate traveling. CNN has recently obtained a list of 70 “behavioral indicators” that the TSA uses to identify potentially high risk passengers and one of ‘em is if you complain about the TSA.
It’s circular reasoning at is finest, and is best described by Michael German, a former FBI agent who now serves as legal counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union:
“We all have the right to express our views, and particularly in a situation where the government is demanding the ability to search you. It’s circular reasoning where, you know, I’m going to ask someone to surrender their rights; if they refuse, that’s evidence that I need to take their rights away from them. And it’s simply inappropriate.”
The entire TSA procedure is formerly known as Screening Passengers by Observation Technique, or SPOT. Basically, when the TSA officers casually drum up conversation with you, they’re actually judging you and marking points up if you show certain behavioral indicators. Smooth moves. Check out CNN for the full report. [CNN]“
Straight from Gizmodo: “New Jersey was prepared to auction off some old computers and laptops in a state-run auction to raise funds, a pretty common practice in our lean times. Idiotically though, the computers, which were used by the judiciary branch, the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Health and Senior Services, and the Office of Administrative Law, still contained sensitive confidential information on their hard drives. All that revealing information was about to go to the highest bidder because no one bothered to properly wipe the drives.
It would’ve been a catastrophe. Files on abused children, people’s tax returns, computer passwords, names, addresses, birth dates and other information on hundreds of foster children and abused children and Social Security numbers all would’ve went public. Heck, 46 out of the 58 hard drives examined had sensitive information inside it. How often does this happen? Why didn’t they use the right tools to erase the hard drives? Well, apparently one agency had a device that magnetically erased computer drives but never used it because employees thought it was noisy. Oh dirty jerz.
Straight from Gizmodo: “This is nefarious-sounding: The Department of Homeland Security “spent millions of dollars on mobile body scanner technology that could be used at railways, stadiums, and elsewhere,” according to a trove of documents obtained via FOIA by the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
The documents, beginning with one titled “Rail Security Pilot Study Phase II at PATH,” go back a few years and detail proposed studies and contracts with scanning technology manufacturers, discussing the potential for security measures such as body scanners in public places like mass transit. Phase I of the Rail Security Pilot, for instance, was oriented around evaluating technologies that don’t “require the collection of personally identifiable information” like x-rays. But Phase II, discussed in the documents, talks about evaluating technologies “with a potential privacy impact” like whole-body infrared images, whole-body millimeter wave and whole body terahertz images. The study proposal also talks about how passenger privacy would be protected during the study (by anonymizing the data collected, blurring faces and the like).
The crazier stuff in the docs is what’s referred to as “intelligent video,” using “multiple static cameras at different corners of a Z Backscatter Van”-think a giant, body-scanning van-along with cameras mounted on poles and buildings, designed to detect and track “one or more persons and objects using multiple cameras.” In other words, the DHS had Northeastern University working on technology to make it possible to scan and digital strip-search people basically anywhere and everywhere, like walking on the street.
The overwhelming concern in these documents is thwarting suicide bombers and “leave behind bombs.” A really fascinating detail though: One of the TSA’s key performance parameter for a “standalone backscatter x-ray system for imaging of suicide bomber explosive devices” to be developed by Rapiscan-i.e., like one of the backscatter body scanners at the airport-only require a 90 percent success rate in detecting concealed explosive devices. For all of the hassle and grandstanding and security theater, it is within the TSA’s acceptable parameters that if 10 terrorists attempt to smuggle an explosive device through one of these scanners, one of them gets through.
All in all, the documents are pretty mind-blowing: Basically all of the worst things you’ve considered the DHS and TSA might want to do, they’ve at least thought very hard about doing it, even if, as they told Forbes, “TSA has not tested the advanced imaging technology that is currently used at airports in mass transit environments and does not have plans to do so.” It doesn’t mean they won’t.
Straight from Gizmodo: “I’ve got bad news for those who have checked out the website of my favorite hacker-turned-rapper, George “Geohot” Hotz, at any point between January 2009 and now: Sony has been granted the right to acquire your IP addresses.
Bluehost, the company who maintains Hotz’s website, doesn’t have much choice in the whole matter, of course:
The approved subpoena requires the company to turn over “documents reproducing all server logs, IP address logs, account information, account access records and application or registration forms” tied to Hotz’s hosting. The Bluehost subpoena also demands “any other identifying information corresponding to persons or computers who have accessed or downloaded files hosted using your service and associated” with the http://www.geohot.com website, including but not limited to the “geohot.com/jailbreak.zip file.”
Sony justified the subpoena by claiming that the data is necessary in proving the Hotz’s distribution of a Play Station 3 hack as well as determining which city is the proper venue for an upcoming legal battle.
I’m not entirely sure how the electronics maker managed to justify three more ridiculously broad subpoenas though:
The judge also signed off on a Google subpoena seeking the logs for Hotz’s Blogger.com blog, geohotps.3.blogspot.com.
A YouTube subpoena, also approved, seeks information connected to the “geohot” account that displayed a video of the hack being used: “Jailbroken PS3 3.55 with Homebrew.” The subpoena demands data to identify who watched the video and “documents reproducing all records or usernames and IP addresses that have posted or published comments in response to the video.”
A fourth subpoena is directed at Twitter, demanding the disclosure of all of Hotz’s tweets, and “documents sufficient to identify all names, addresses, and telephone numbers associated with the Twitter account.”
We’ll see what happens with this whole mess when the showdown moves to either a San Francisco or New Jersey courthouse, but I secretly hope that Sony will just hand Hotz’s a recording deal instead of continuing to bicker over those venue choices and the little hacking incident.
But that’s just because I love the video above.”
Straight from Gizmodo: “Back in 2009, the Japanese Space Agency JAXA announced moon hole deep enough to contain a small human base. Now, the Indian Space Research Organization has discovered a “giant underground chamber” near the Moon’s equator, in the Oceanus Procellarum area.
The huge cave— discovered by the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft—is more than one mile long (1.7 kilometers) and 393 feet wide (120 meters). By comparison, the vertical hole that Jaxa discovered was only 213 feet (65 meters across) and 289 feet deep (88 meters). This new chamber is big enough to contain a small lunar city or a secret Nazi base with a few thousand UFOs.
The Indian researchers have published a paper detailing their findings and talking about the possibility of making this giant underground vault as a future human base. The settlement would be protected from radiation, micro-meteor impacts, dust and extreme temperature changes by the lava structure:
Lava provides a natural environmental control with a nearly constant temperature of minus 20 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit), unlike that of the lunar surface showing extreme variation, maximum of 130 degrees Celsius (266 degrees Fahrenheit) to a minimum of minus 180 degrees Celsius (-292 degrees Fahrenheit) in its diurnal (day-night) cycle.
They also point out that explorers would only need minimal construction, without the added cost of having to use expensive shields against the hazardous lunar environment.
If humans ever colonize this chamber, I hope they call the city Attilan.”
Straight from Gizmodo: “Here’s a whirlwind tour that takes apart almost everything you thought you knew about reality. If those BBC accents weren’t so soothing, I might actually be pretty freaked out by now. Quarks! The holographic principle! Event horizons! Parallel universes! And all softs of other goodies that I’ll need a second cup of coffee to fully deal with. There’s enough spooky science in this BBC Horizon episode to make your head spin. If that really is your head.”
Straight from Gizmodo: “It’s official: NASA and the ESA will be sending specialized probes to the Jupiter moon Europa to further investigate that icy, ocean-y place for signs of life. In 2020. Patience!
Called the Europa Jupiter System Mission, this joint initiative will see two probes dispensed into Jovian orbit, where they will scour Europa and several other moons for “the emergence of habitable worlds around gas giants.”
That quoted part is important! If you’ll remember, Kepler is tearing it up lately, discovering all sorts of planets out in the Milk Way. Many of them were in the habitable Goldilocks Zone. Some of those were earth-like, making them obvious contenders for hosting life, but some of them were gas giants, like Jupiter. At first glance that may seem like they wouldn’t support life (Jupiter does not, as far as we know), but, like Jupiter, they may have moons like Europa. They could host life! Never neglect the moons, dear readers, when you look skyward with starry eyes, dreaming about life on other worlds.
NASA’s orbiter, named the Jupiter Europa Orbiter, will analyze that moon’s 10-kilometer thick icy shell, returning data on what makes up its layers and ridges. The probe’s to-do list also includes scouting landing sites for future missions.
Thanks to an onboard laser altimeter, “ice-penetrating radar,” cameras and spectrometers used for analyzing visible, infrared and UV light, she’ll also be armed to the teeth with the kinds of gadgets necessary to learn everything there is to know about this potentially life-supporting moon.
The ESA’s Jupiter Ganymede Orbiter will survey—you guessed it—the Jovian moon Ganymede. The incredibly cool feature associated with that moon is it magnetic field (unique to that moon), as well as its own internal ocean. The JGO will study them all with a host of instruments similar to those named above.
Secondary objectives include the study of Io and Callisto, with further mission details expected in 2013. The mission has priority status, which is a good thing! Not so cool: the scheduled launch dates. NASA materials indicate the two probes would lift off sometime in February or March of 2019 or 2020 for what appears to be an ambitious 9-year mission.”
Straight from Gizmodo: “Already missing the soon to be shelved Space Shuttle? You might not have to, with private contractor United Space Alliance considering a $1.5 billion a year proposal to take the fleet private.
“It is safe. We have a lot of history, we understand how to operate it,” explains United Space Alliance’s chief. We’re not so sure about that first part—since, you know, the shuttle is being retired in part because it’s sort of falling apart. What could go wrong?”
Straight from Gizmodo: “We put up with the TSA’s potentially harmful scanners and overzealous gropings because they make our air travel safe, right? Right! Oh wait, maybe not. According to a high-ranking source inside the TSA, an undercover agent was able to pass through five full-body scanners at the Dallas Ft. Worth International Airport last weekend with a gun stuffed in her underwear. None of the security personnel lifted a finger.
The TSA did not deny the reported results of the tests, though they did offer this boilerplate statement:
Our security officers are one of the most heavily tested federal workforces in the nation. We regularly test our officers in a variety of ways to ensure the effectiveness of our technology, security measures and the overall layered system. For security reasons, we do not publicize or comment on the results of covert tests, however advanced imaging technology is an effective tool to detect both metallic and nonmetallic items hidden on passengers.
Surprisingly, none of the agents responsible for letting the firearm slide through security were disciplined. Welp, I’m glad I’m not planning any trips to Texas anytime soon.