Weather on Earth might be shifting in part because of human activity, but larger context in which the Earth moves has some trends to deal with as well, according to new research published in Science and summarized by Science Now: "As Earth and the other planets orbit the sun, the solar system itself travels through space. Its slow journey is taking it though a wispy expanse of gas called the Local Interstellar Cloud. Now, astronomers have discovered signs of potential turbulence in the cloud, indicated by a shift in direction of helium atoms that flow into the solar system. If the shift is real and continues for hundreds to thousands of years—a dicey extrapolation—it could be a harbinger of more dramatic changes in our solar system, notes study co-author David McComas of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. ... To detect the wind shift, researchers drew on measurements by 11 spacecraft and satellites that have recorded directly or indirectly the flow of helium atoms into the solar system. Many kinds of atoms infiltrate the heliosphere, but helium is a particularly good tracer for all of them because it is abundant and typically survives in its uncharged, atomic state all the way to Earth’s orbit, [study co-author Priscilla] Frisch says."
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Friday's moon-bound NASA launch from Wallops Island went well, but, says NBC News, "[H]ours after the 11:27 p.m. EDT (0327 GMT) liftoff, NASA officials reported that the spacecraft's reaction wheels — which spin to position and stabilize LADEE in space without using precious thruster fuel — unexpectedly shut down. By Saturday afternoon, the glitch had been traced to safety limits programmed into LADEE before launch to protect the reaction wheel system, NASA officials said. Those fault protection limits caused LADEE to switch off its reaction wheels shortly after powering them up, according to a mission status update. Engineers have since disabled the safety limits causing the glitch and taking extra care in restoring the fault-protection protocols."
dryriver writes with this excerpt from a thought-provoking report at the BBC: "China's Education Ministry says that about 400 million people — or 30% of the population — cannot speak the country's national language. Of the 70% of the population who can speak Mandarin, many do not do it well enough, a ministry spokeswoman told Xinhua news agency on Thursday. The admission from officials came as the government launched another push for linguistic unity in China. China is home to thousands of dialects and several minority languages. These include Cantonese and Hokkien, which enjoy strong regional support. Mandarin — formally called Putonghua in China, meaning 'common tongue' — is one of the most widely-spoken languages in the world. The Education Ministry spokeswoman said the push would be focusing on the countryside and areas with ethnic minorities."
coolnumbr12 writes with this excerpt from IBTimes: "Japan's magnetic-levitation train is still more than decade away from completion, but the L-Zero recently proved that it really is the world's fastest train. On a 15-mile stretch of test track, the L-Zero reached speeds of 310 miles per hour. After the successful trials, Central Japan Railway Co. is going ahead with a 5.1 trillion yen ($52 billion) plan to build a 177-mile maglev line between Tokyo and Nagoya. CJR says the trip will take just 40 minutes on the L-Zero." There are other fast trains in the world, but the L-Zero edges out the others on this list.
A week ago, we posted news that federal prosecutors were seeking jail time for Chad Dixon, an Indiana man who made money teaching others how to pass polygraph examinations. Now, reader Frosty Piss writes that Dixon "was sentenced Friday to eight months in prison. Prosecutors described Chad Dixon as a 'master of deceit.' Prosecutors, who had asked for almost two years in prison, said Dixon crossed the line between free speech protected under the First Amendment and criminal conduct when he told some clients to conceal what he taught them while undergoing government polygraphs. Although Dixon appears to be the first charged publicly, others offering similar instruction say they fear they might be next. 'I've been worried about that, and the more this comes about, the more worried I am,' said Doug Williams, a former police polygraphist in Oklahoma who claims to be able to teach people to beat what he now considers a 'scam' test."
New submitter anwyn writes "In a recent article posted on the cryptography mailing list, long time civil libertarian and free software entrepreneur John Gilmore has analyzed possible NSA obstruction of cryptography in IPSEC. He suggests that packet processing in the Linux kernel had been obstructed by one kernel developer. Gilmore suggests that the NSA has been plotting against strong cryptography on mobile phones."
theodp writes "Back in the day, leprosy patients were stigmatized and shunned, quarantined from society in Leper Colonies. Those days may be long gone, but are our mapping, GPS, and social media technologies in effect helping to create modern-day 'Leper Colonies'? The recently-shuttered GhettoTracker.com (born again as Good Part of Town) generated cries of racism by inviting users to rate neighborhoods based on 'which parts of town are safe and which ones are ghetto, or unsafe'. Calling enough already with the avoid-the-ghetto apps, The Atlantic Cities' Emily Badger writes, "this idea toes a touchy line between a utilitarian application of open data and a sly wink toward people who just want to steer clear of 'those kinds of neighborhoods.'" The USPTO has already awarded avoid-crime-ridden-neighborhoods-like-the-plague patents to tech giants Microsoft, IBM, and Google. So, when it comes to navigational apps, where's the line between utility and racism? 'As mobile devices get smarter and more ubiquitous,' writes Svati Kirsten Narula, 'it is tempting to let technology make more and more decisions for us. But doing so will require us to sacrifice one of our favorite assumptions: that these tools are inherently logical and neutral...the motivations driving the algorithms may not match the motivations of those algorithms' users.' Indeed, the Google patent for Storing and Providing Routes proposes to 'remove streets from recommended directions if uploaded route information indicates that travelers seem to avoid the street.' Even faster routes that 'traverse one or more high crime areas,' Google reasons, 'may be less appealing to most travelers'."
MojoKid writes "Tesla CEO Elon Musk has more on his mind that just cars and 4,000 MPH Hyperloop transportation systems. He also tweeted his intention of developing a hand-manipulated holographic design engine and designing a rocket part with only hand gestures, finally printing the part in titanium." And now Musk has posted the video he promised showing off the design process: "Musk showed a wireframe of the rocket part, and he was able to rotate the 3D object on a screen with one hand, and with a second hand, he zoomed in and out, moved it around the screen, and spun the object around and "caught it"--all in the air. He moved on to manipulating an actual 3D CAD model and interacting with the software; you can see that he used a Leap Motion controller. Next, he shows off a 3D projection, a freestanding glass projection (Ironman style), and interacts with the model using the Oculus Rift. Finally, he prints the part in titanium with a 3D metal printer. Note that we don't actually see him design anything; the models he works with are already made. Still, it's exciting to see new ways of doing things come to life on screen."
First time accepted submitter SGT CAPSLOCK writes "It certainly seems like more and more Internet Service Providers are taking up arms to combat their customers when it comes to data usage policies. The latest member of the alliance is Mediacom here in my own part of Missouri, who has taken suit in applying a proverbial cork to their end of a tube in order to cap the bandwidth that their customers are able to use. My question: what do you do about it when every service provider in your area applies caps and other usage limitations? Do you shamefully abide, or do you fight it? And how?"
An anonymous reader writes "Using a Lego Mindstorms set, a Mac, and optical character recognition, Austrian professor Peter Purgathofer created a makeshift ebook copier. From the article: 'It's sort of a combination of high tech meets low. The scanning is done by way of the Mac's iSight camera. The Mindstorms set does two things: Hits the page-advance button on the Kindle (it appears to be an older model, like the one in the picture above), then mashes the space bar on the Mac, causing it to take a picture.' Purgathofer calls the creation a 'reflection on the loss of long established rights.' Check out the Vimeo video for a demonstration."
Do you worry that the widespread use of plate-scanning cameras might be used in ways that violate your privacy ? Now you can ratchet your worry level up a bit: Ars Technica reports that "This week, the California State Senate approved a bill that would create the nation’s first electronic license plate. Having already passed the state’s assembly, the bill now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown (D) for his signature." From the article: "The idea is that rather than have a static piece of printed metal adorned with stickers to display proper registration, the plate would be a screen that could wirelessly (likely over a mobile data network) receive updates from a central server to display that same information. In an example shown by a South Carolina vendor, messages such as 'STOLEN,' 'EXPIRED,' or something similar could also be displayed on a license plate. ... The state senator who introduced the bill, Sen. Ben Hueso, a Democrat who represents San Diego, did not respond to Ars' multiple requests for an interview or comment. It still remains unclear as to exactly why this bill was proposed and what its objectives are. The precise technical details of the program are similarly unclear, as is how long plate information would be retained and who would have access to it."
cortex writes "University of Utah bioengineers discovered our understanding of language may depend more heavily on vision than previously thought: under the right conditions, what you see can override what you hear. In an article published in PLOS One, 'Seeing Is Believing: Neural Representations of Visual Stimuli in Human Auditory Cortex Correlate with Illusory Auditory Perceptions,' the authors showed that visual stimuli can influence neural signals in the auditory processing part of the brain and change what a person hears. In this study patients were shown videos of an auditory illusion called the McGurk Effect while electrical recordings were made from the surface of the cerebral cortex."
Frosty P writes "Congressman Rush D. Holt, a New Jersey Democrat, has proposed legislation (summary, full text) that would prohibit the agency from installing 'back doors' into encryption, the electronic scrambling that protects e-mail, online transactions and other communications. Representative Holt, a physicist, said Friday that he believed the NSA was overreaching and could hurt American interests, including the reputations of American companies whose products the agency may have altered or influenced. 'We pay them to spy,' Mr. Holt said. 'But if in the process they degrade the security of the encryption we all use, it's a net national disservice.'"
v3rgEz writes "Cambridge Consultants has rigged together about a hundred motion-triggered cameras around Kenyan watering holes to help catch and dissuade elephant poachers. 'The challenge was to create a remote monitoring system that was robust enough to withstand extreme weather conditions and animal attacks and could be easily hidden in any surroundings – all within the available budget,' according to one of the projects leads. And to help make sure all those cameras are being monitored, the team has released an iOS app that lets users review, tag, and flag images, tracking what kinds of animals pass by and keeping an eye open for any human predators on the prowl."
A moon-bound NASA rocket was launched successfully Friday evening from Virginia's Wallops Island. The launch was visible over a wide stretch of the east coast; YouTube videos are beginning to show up. The robotic probe, to study lunar dust, is the first rocket launched into outer space from the Virginia launch site.