AI

Musk, Woz, Hawking, and Robotics/AI Experts Urge Ban On Autonomous Weapons 269 269

An anonymous reader writes: An open letter published by the Future of Life Institute urges governments to ban offensive autonomous weaponry. The letter is signed by high profile leaders in the science community and tech industry, such as Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, Steve Wozniak, Noam Chomsky, and Frank Wilczek. It's also signed — more importantly — by literally hundreds of expert researchers in robotics and AI. They say, "The key question for humanity today is whether to start a global AI arms race or to prevent it from starting. If any major military power pushes ahead with AI weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable, and the endpoint of this technological trajectory is obvious: autonomous weapons will become the Kalashnikovs of tomorrow. Unlike nuclear weapons, they require no costly or hard-to-obtain raw materials, so they will become ubiquitous and cheap for all significant military powers to mass-produce."
Mars

Interviews: Shaun Moss Answers Your Questions About Mars and Space Exploration 48 48

Recently the founder of the Mars Settlement Research Organization and author of The International Mars Research Station Shaun Moss agreed to sit down and answer any questions you had about space exploration and colonizing Mars. Below you will find his answers to your questions.
The Military

Report: US Military Is Wasting Millions On Satellite Comms 154 154

An anonymous reader writes: Fast information exchange is the key to a powerful military, and satellites have been an incredible boon to the commanders of modern fighting forces. But a new report from the Government Accountability Office says the U.S. military is vastly overpaying for its satellite communications, to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. They say the Department of Defense "has become increasingly reliant on commercial SATCOM to support ongoing U.S. military operations." You see, every part of the DoD is required to go through the Defense Information Systems Agency when procuring SATCOM equipment. The problem is that this process is incredibly slow, and fraught with red tape. Because of this, many in the military skip DISA and go straight to commercial providers — at a steep markup. The GAO estimates that this cost taxpayers around $45 million extra in a single year.
Government

Antineutrino Detectors Could Be Key To Monitoring Iran's Nuclear Program 79 79

agent elevator writes: Tech that analyzes antineutrinos might be the best way to keep tabs on Iran's nuclear program. The technology, which can tell how much of and what kind of plutonium and uranium are nearby, should be ready to serve as a nuclear safeguard in less than two years, according to IEEE Spectrum. In a simulation of the Arak nuclear plant, which the Iran deal requires be redesigned to make less plutonium, a detector parked outside in a shipping container could do the job.
Medicine

What Happens When Your Own Limb Is Almost Good Enough? 34 34

derekmead writes: While the media might focus on prosthetics, the technology and techniques involved in limb salvage have advanced tremendously, too, spurred in large part by America's recent military conflicts. Now, when a soldier or civilian faces a brutal limb injury, they have choices—save the limb, or amputate. Be a limb salvage patient, or an amputee. Reconstruct the limb you were born with, out of the pieces you have left over, or lose that limb altogether. And that choice is, increasingly, a really difficult one.
Security

Pawn Storm Group Makes Trend Micro IP Address a C&C Server 45 45

An anonymous reader writes: Following Trend Micro's disclosure of Russian hacking group Pawn Storm's 7-year campaign against military-industrial targets in and related to the United States, the security company has today announced that one of the IP addresses it owns has been 'designated' by the hackers as a C&C server for their spear-phishing scenario. The intent of the DNS record redirection, according to the company, is likely to be to convince others that it has been hacked (which it hasn't), or else to push one of its IP addresses into administrative blacklists.
Government

Iran Has Signed a Nuclear Accord 459 459

New submitter divide overflow writes: According to the New York Times, 'Iran and a group of six nations led by the United States have agreed to a historic accord to significantly limit Tehran's nuclear ability for more than a decade in return for lifting international oil and financial sanctions against Iran, a senior Western diplomat involved in the negotiations said on Tuesday. The deal, which President Obama had long sought as the biggest diplomatic achievement of his presidency, culminates 20 months of negotiations.' Not everyone approves.
Transportation

Supersonic Jet Could Fly NYC To London In 3 Hours 238 238

An anonymous reader writes: A new supersonic luxury plane that could fly people from New York to London in just three hours is being developed by a team of engineers. Spike Aerospace's S-512 Supersonic Jet was introduced in 2013, but the company recently announced a few updates to the plane's design. Discovery reports: "Spike Aerospace's engineers claim the S-512 could reach a maximum speed of Mach 1.8 (1,370 mph, or 2,205 km/h), which is 1.8 times the speed of sound. For comparison, the fastest Boeing 747 commercial "jumbo jet" can reach a maximum speed of Mach 0.92 (700 mph, or 1,126 km/h). If the S-512 really is built to reach these supersonic speeds, it would be as fast as an F-18 Hornet, a military fighter jet with a max speed of Mach 1.8. This would also make the supersonic jet about 450 mph (724 km/h) faster than the fastest civilian jet, according to Spike Aerospace."
Shark

CIA Shares Julia Child's Shark Repellent Recipe 41 41

coondoggie writes: Sometimes some of the coolest stories get lost in history. The CIA recently noted one of them – famous French food chef and author Julia Child's critical involvement in developing a shark repellent recipe for military personnel during WWII. The CIA reports: "Julia McWilliams (better known by her married name, Julia Child) joined the newly-created OSS in 1942 in search of adventure. This was years before she became the culinary icon of French cuisine that she is known for today. In fact, at this time, Julia was self-admittedly a disaster in the kitchen. Perhaps all the more fitting that she soon found herself helping to develop a recipe that even a shark would refuse to eat....After trying over 100 different substances—including common poisons—the researchers found several promising possibilities: extracts from decayed shark meat, organic acids, and several copper salts, including copper sulphate and copper acetate. After a year of field tests, the most effective repellent was copper acetate."
The Military

The Missile Impasse In the Iran Negotiations 163 163

Lasrick writes: Upon resuming talks to end the nuclear crisis with the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, plus Germany) in 2013, Iran made it clear that its missile program was behind a redline and would not be negotiated away. The missile program, Tehran argued, was an entirely separate issue from the nuclear program, part of the country's conventional capabilities and not aimed at deploying non-conventional weapons such as nuclear warheads. Last week, Tehran's missile program arose—seemingly suddenly—as an obstacle with the potential to derail the process altogether. Ariane Tabatabai explores the fascinating history of Iran's missile program, the largest in the Middle East, and asks whether negotiators for countries that hold such diametrically opposed views of the Iranian missile program can reach a compromise. We should know the answer to that within the next day or two.
Communications

For £70,000, You Might Be Able to Own an Enigma 65 65

In 2007, we mentioned the eBay sale of an Enigma machine; now, The Guardian reports that another one is to be auctioned off next week, with an expected selling price of about £70,000 (at this writing, that's about $108,000). According to the article, "The machine being offered for sale, which dates from 1943 and currently belongs to a European museum, will go under the hammer at Sotheby's in London on Tuesday." The new owner may have need of a restoration manual and some reproduction batteries.
Privacy

Snoopers' Charter Could Mean Trouble For UK Users of Encryption-Capable Apps 174 174

An anonymous reader writes with a story at IB Times that speculates instant messaging apps which enable encrypted communications (including Snapchat, Facebook Messenger and iMessage) could be banned in the UK under the so-called Snooper's Charter now under consideration. The extent of the powers that the government would claim under the legislation is not yet clear, but as the linked article says, it "would allow security services like the Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, and MI5, or Military Intelligence Section 5, to access instant messages sent between people to and from the country," and evidently "would give the government right to ban instant messaging apps that use end-to-end encryption." That might sound outlandish, but reflects a popular and politically safe sentiment: "'In our country, do we want to allow a means of communication between people which we cannot read? My answer to that question is: "No, we must not,"' [Prime Minister] Cameron said earlier this year following the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris."
Communications

The IT Containers That Went To War 65 65

1sockchuck writes: Parachuting a container full of IT gear into a war zone is challenging enough. In the mountains of Afghanistan, helicopters had to deliver modular data centers in three minutes or less, lest the choppers be targeted by Taliban rockets. UK vendor Cannon recently spoke with DataCenterDynamics, sharing some of the extreme challenges and lessons learned from deploying portable data centers for military units in deserts and mountains. The same lessons (except, hopefully, with a lower chance of being shot) would apply in lots of other extreme enviroments, too.
United States

Prototype Wave Energy Device Passes Grid-Connected Pilot Test 51 51

coondoggie writes: A prototype wave energy device advanced with backing from the Energy Department and U.S. Navy has passed its first grid-connected open-sea pilot testing. According to the DOE, the device, called Azura, was recently launched and installed in a 30-meter test berth at the Navy's Wave Energy Test Site (WETS) in Kaneohe Bay, on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. This pilot testing is now giving U.S. researchers the opportunity to evaluate the long-term performance of the nation’s first grid-connected 20-kilowatt wave energy converter (WEC) device to be independently tested by a third party—the University of Hawaii—in the open ocean, the DOE said.
Robotics

The DARPA Robotics Challenge Was a Bust; Let's Try Again 35 35

malachiorion writes: The DARPA Robotics Challenge, the biggest and most well-funded international robotics competition in years, was a failure. After years of grueling work on the part of brilliant roboticists around the world, and millions in funding from the Pentagon, the finals came and went with little to no coverage from the mainstream media. The only takeaway, for those who aren't extremely dialed into robotics, is that a ton of robots fell down in funny ways. There were winners, but considering how downgraded the tasks were, compared to the ones initially announced in 2012, it was closer to the first DARPA Grand Challenge, where none of the robot cars finished, than the Urban Challenge, which kicked off the race to build deployable driverless cars. So just as DARPA regrouped after that first fizzle of a race, here's my argument for Popular Science: It's time to do it again, and make falling, and getting up, mandatory.
The Military

Army Exoskeleton Prototype Helps Soldiers Learn To Shoot 86 86

An anonymous reader writes: Infantrymen live by their shooting skills, but becoming an expert marksman can take a long time. U.S. Army researchers are working on a way to improve these skills with the help of the MAXFAS, an arm exoskeleton that uses arm braces to correct involuntary arm shakes. Designed At the U.S. Army Research Laboratory by Dan Baechle, the MAXFAS has been shown to improve aim even after users have taken it off. "Soldiers need to be able to aim and shoot accurately and quickly in the chaos of the battlefield," Baechle said. "Training with MAXFAS could improve Soldiers' accuracy, and reduce current time and ammunition requirements in basic training."
The Military

Naval Research Interested In Bringing 3D Printing To Large Scale For Ships 44 44

coondoggie writes: The Navy this month will outline what it is looking for from additive manufacturing or 3D printing technology as way to bolster what it terms "fleet readiness." The Office of Naval Research will on July 15 detail its Quality Metal Additive Manufacturing (Quality MADE) program that will aim to "develop and integrate the suite of additive manufacturing software and hardware tools required to ensure that critical metallic components can be consistently produced and rapidly qualified in a cost effective manner."
Medicine

The Epidemic May be Over, But Liberia Has New Ebola Cases 11 11

Three new cases of Ebola have been reported in Liberia. Reuters reports that despite the declared end to the Ebola outbreak in that country in May, the medical community is speculating that a cluster of infectious carriers somehow survived longer than was previously believed possible, or that there is a previously unknown means of transmission. Health officials "were monitoring 175 people believed to have come into contact with the three cases, though none had yet exhibited symptoms of the disease." The report notes that "A U.S. military operation aimed at helping Liberia's government counter the outbreak has mostly withdrawn. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a U.S. health body, said it was working with local authorities to study the origin of the cases and stop the virus spreading."
The Military

Test Pilot: the F-35 Can't Dogfight 843 843

schwit1 sends this report from the War Is Boring column: A test pilot has some very, very bad news about the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The pricey new stealth jet can't turn or climb fast enough to hit an enemy plane during a dogfight or to dodge the enemy's own gunfire, the pilot reported following a day of mock air battles back in January. And to add insult to injury, the JSF flier discovered he couldn't even comfortably move his head inside the radar-evading jet's cramped cockpit. "The helmet was too large for the space inside the canopy to adequately see behind the aircraft." That allowed the F-16 to sneak up on him. The test pilot's report is the latest evidence of fundamental problems with the design of the F-35 — which, at a total program cost of more than a trillion dollars, is history's most expensive weapon. Your tax dollars at work.
United States

US Military To Develop Star Wars-Style Hoverbikes With British company 108 108

New submitter amalcolm writes: The U.S. military may soon be zooming around on Star Wars-style hoverbikes. U.K. based Malloy Aeronautics has joined forces with Survice Engineering to develop the vehicles for the Department of Defense. "The Department of Defense is interested in Hoverbike technology because it can support multiple roles," said Mark Butkiewicz, who works for Survice. "It can transport troops over difficult terrain and when it's not used in that purpose it can also be used to transport logistics, supplies, and it can operate in both a manned and unmanned asset."