Author Archive | HAL9000

Amateur Astronomers Track Spy Satellites

USA 193Jim Nash writes in Scientific American:

Earlier this year Iran’s defenseminister put the world on notice: His nation had developed the ability to “easily” watch spacewalking astronauts from the ground. The announcement was largely ignored, in part because it made the minister sound like a James Bond villain. The boast was also a bit anticlimactic, given that even amateur astronomers are already recording in detail what happens in low Earth orbit.

Both the technology involved and the techniques used to observe satellites and even the occasional astronaut perched outside the International Space Station (ISS) are improving, much to the presumed chagrin of governments looking to keep certain on orbital activity confidential.

In a development harkening back to the earliest days of desktop computing, highly skilled stargazers are hacking together optics, electronics and software to create sophisticated observatories of their own. In fact, one French astrophotographer, Emmanuel Rietsch, has begun selling software and hardware that make it possible for backyard astronomers to track and record satellites…

Read More: Scientific American

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Anonymous Starts Social Music Platform: Anontune

AnontuneAngela Watercutter writes on WIRED:
In a move sure to attract attention from the music industry, a small group of coders claiming to be part of Anonymous is putting together a social music platform. The rather ambitious goal: Create a service that seamlessly pulls up songs streaming from all around the internet. The project, called Anontune and still in its infancy, is designed to pull songs from third-party sources like YouTube and let anonymous users put them into playlists and share them — while keeping the service from being shut down by music industry lawsuits. Reached by e-mail, one of the creators of Anontune told Wired the project was started by a group of anons who met online six years ago on what was then an underground hacking site. The group, mostly focused at the time on “cracking,” began discussing music, favorite artists and what they would do to fix current music business models...
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Mars Viking Robots ‘Found Life’

Viking LanderReports Irene Klotz on Discovery News:
New analysis of 36-year-old data, resuscitated from printouts, shows NASA found life on Mars, an international team of mathematicians and scientists conclude in a paper published this week. Further, NASA doesn't need a human expedition to Mars to nail down the claim, neuropharmacologist and biologist Joseph Miller, with the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, told Discovery News. "The ultimate proof is to take a video of a Martian bacteria. They should send a microscope — watch the bacteria move," Miller said. "On the basis of what we've done so far, I'd say I'm 99 percent sure there's life there," he added. Miller's confidence stems in part from a new study that re-analyzed results from a life-detection experiment conducted by NASA's Viking Mars robots in 1976.
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A Universe Without Purpose

Disc CloudLawrence M. Krauss writes in the LA Times:

The illusion of purpose and design is perhaps the most pervasive illusion about nature that science has to confront on a daily basis. Everywhere we look, it appears that the world was designed so that we could flourish.

The position of the Earth around the sun, the presence of organic materials and water and a warm climate — all make life on our planet possible. Yet, with perhaps 100 billion solar systems in our galaxy alone, with ubiquitous water, carbon and hydrogen, it isn’t surprising that these conditions would arise somewhere. And as to the diversity of life on Earth — as Darwin described more than 150 years ago and experiments ever since have validated — natural selection in evolving life forms can establish both diversity and order without any governing plan.

As a cosmologist, a scientist who studies the origin and evolution of the universe, I am painfully aware that our illusions nonetheless reflect a deep human need to assume that the existence of the Earth, of life and of the universe and the laws that govern it require something more profound.

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The Hypocritical Use of Piracy As a Corporate Weapon

News CorpMyles Peterson writes on TorrentFreak:

Rupert Murdoch, media tycoon, founder and Chairman and CEO of News Corporation, has been a fanatical supporter of tougher anti-piracy legislation including PIPA and SOPA in the US. But this week it was claimed that Murdoch’s piracy crusade is a rather hypocritical one, with his News Corporation now at the center of a major piracy scandal in which it’s accused of encouraging piracy to cripple competitors.

Troubled international media giant News Corporation felt the ice crack beneath its feet this week after years of enduring ill winds blowing from phone hacking scandals in the United Kingdom and United States. The Australian Financial Review and the BBC’s Panorama programme combined to publish a four-year investigation into the operations of News Corporation subsidiaries, unveiling damaging claims of a plot to facilitate and encourage piracy with the aim of crippling pay-television rivals.

The allegations cast shadows across the main-stream media landscape, with implications for the conduct of news outlets and the arguments of anti-piracy lobby groups through to the structure of the pay-television landscape itself …

Read More: TorrentFreak

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The ‘Tacocopter’ Would Deliver Tacos Via An Unmanned Drone

TacocopterReports Stephanie Grimes on KSL TV:
The ability to have tacos delivered at their feet is an idea many people wouldn't hesitate to get behind — especially when the tacos are being delivered by a robot. The Tacocopter — an unmanned drone helicopter that gives customers tacos on demand — would without a doubt be wildly popular were it to exist throughout the nation. Taco-hungry Americans could order and pay for tacos on their smartphones, which would supply GPS coordinates to the drone. Once ordered, the tacos would be delivered as long as the customer remained in the ordering location. It exists in the Bay Area — in concept, at least. For now, the Tacocopter, which has existed since July 2011, has been grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration, as would be any unmanned commercial drone. According to FAA regulations, "unmanned aerial vehicles" cannot currently be used for commercial purposes.
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FBI Says Citibank Gave Billionaire Paul Allen’s Debit Card to ID Thief

Paul Allen in his Microsoft days with Bill Gates.

Paul Allen in his Microsoft days with Bill Gates.

David Kravets reports at WIRED’s Threat Level:

An alleged Army deserter is being charged with bank fraud in connection to the socially engineered hijacking of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s debit card.

In a complaint unsealed Monday, federal authorities allege Brandon Price, of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, obtained the billionaire’s debit card from Citibank via a telephone call to the bank’s customer service bureau in January. At Price’s request, the bank changed Allen’s address to Price’s Pittsburgh house, and overnighted him the card.

“An individual identifying himself as Paul Allen called the customer service department of Citibank. The caller stated that he had misplaced his debit card at his residence, but did not want to report it stolen. The individual then successfully ordered a new debit card on the account of Paul Allen and had it sent via UPS,” FBI agent Joseph J. Ondercin said (.pdf) in a legal filing.

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Cheney Heart Pump in High Demand

Vader ChestplateReports Katie Moisse on ABC News:

The pump that kept Dick Cheney’s blood flowing while he waited for a heart transplant has seen a surge in popularity, a trend credited in part to the 71-year-old’s successful 20-month stretch with the device.

“The reality is that many patients have come to us asking about the ‘Cheney pump,’” said Dr. Robert Kormos, director of the Artificial Heart Program at the University of Pittsburgh, referring to the Left Ventricular Assist Device or LVAD that pumped Cheney’s blood on behalf of his failing heart. “His positive presentation while on the device has very much been positive for the public impression of the therapy.”

For Cheney, the Left Ventricular Assist Device or LVAD was a bridge therapy, a temporary fix while the former vice president climbed a lengthy transplant waiting list. Cheney received his new heart Saturday at a hospital in Falls Church, Va. But for some patients, the device is a long-term solution to heart failure, a condition that kills 300,000 Americans each year …

Read More: ABC News

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