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Communications

The Pioneer Who Invented the Weather Forecast 33

Posted by timothy
from the kept-it-hidden-in-his-conestoga dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Peter Moore has a fascinating article on BBC about how Admiral Robert FitzRoy, the man who invented the weather forecast in the 1860s faced skepticism and even mockery in his time but whose vision of a public forecasting service, funded by government for the benefit of all, is fundamental to our way of life. Chiefly remembered today as Charles Darwin's taciturn captain on HMS Beagle, during the famous circumnavigation in the 1830s, in his lifetime FitzRoy found celebrity from his pioneering daily weather predictions, which he called by a new name of his own invention — "forecasts". There was no such thing as a weather forecast in 1854 when FitzRoy established what would later be called the Met Office. With no forecasts, fishermen, farmers and others who worked in the open had to rely on weather wisdom — the appearance of clouds or the behavior of animals — to tell them what was coming as the belief persisted among many that weather was completely chaotic. But FitzRoy was troubled by the massive loss of life at sea around the coasts of Victorian Britain where from 1855 to 1860, 7,402 ships were wrecked off the coasts with a total of 7,201 lost lives. With the telegraph network expanding quickly, FitzRoy was able to start gathering real-time weather data from the coasts at his London office. If he thought a storm was imminent, he could telegraph a port where a drum was raised in the harbor. It was, he said, "a race to warn the outpost before the gale reaches them".

For FitzRoy the forecasts were a by-product of his storm warnings. As he was analyzing atmospheric data anyway, he reasoned that he might as well forward his conclusions — fine, fair, rainy or stormy — on to the newspapers for publication. "Prophecies and predictions they are not," he wrote, "the term forecast is strictly applicable to such an opinion as is the result of scientific combination and calculation." The forecasts soon became a quirk of this brave new Victorian society. FitzRoy's forecasts had a particular appeal for the horseracing classes who used the predictions to help them pick their outfits or lay their bets.

But FitzRoy soon faced serious difficulties. Some politicians complained about the cost of the telegraphing back and forth. The response to FitzRoy's work was the beginning of an attitude that we reserve for our weather forecasters today. The papers enjoyed nothing more than conflating the role of the forecaster with that of God and the scientific community were skeptical of his methods. While the majority of fishermen were supportive, others begrudged a day's lost catch to a mistaken signal. FitzRoy retired from his west London home to Norwood, south of the capital, for a period of rest but he struggled to recover and on 30 April 1865 FitzRoy cut his throat at his residence, Lyndhurst-house, Norwood, on Sunday morning. "In time, the revolutionary nature of FitzRoy's work would be recognised," says Moore. "FitzRoy's vision of a weather-prediction service funded by government for the benefit of its citizens would not die. In 1871, the United States would start issuing its own weather "probabilities", and by the end of the decade what was now being called the Met Office would resume its own forecasts in Britain."
Crime

Obama: Maybe It's Time For Mandatory Voting In US 1089

Posted by timothy
from the if-there-weren't-all-those-pesky-rights dept.
HughPickens.com writes CNN reports that when asked how to offset the influence of big money in politics, President Barack Obama suggested it's time to make voting a requirement. "Other countries have mandatory voting," said Obama "It would be transformative if everybody voted — that would counteract money more than anything," he said, adding it was the first time he had shared the idea publicly. "The people who tend not to vote are young, they're lower income, they're skewed more heavily towards immigrant groups and minority groups. There's a reason why some folks try to keep them away from the polls." At least 26 countries have compulsory voting, according to the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. Failure to vote is punishable by a fine in countries such as Australia and Belgium; if you fail to pay your fine in Belgium, you could go to prison. Less than 37% of eligible voters actually voted in the 2014 midterm elections, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts. That means about 144 million Americans — more than the population of Russia — skipped out. Critics of mandatory voting have questioned the practicality of passing and enforcing such a requirement; others say that freedom also means the freedom not to do something.
Encryption

Obama Says He's 'A Strong Believer In Strong Encryption' 220

Posted by Soulskill
from the except-when-it-helps-the-terrists dept.
An anonymous reader writes: U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with Re/code recently on a variety of topics relating to technology. The talk included the president's thoughts on encryption, which has been a controversial subject in tech circles lately after government officials (including Obama himself) have publicly complained about default encryption in modern communication tools. In the interview, he says he's a "strong believer in strong encryption," adding, "I lean probably further on side of strong encryption than some in law enforcement." Obama puts it another way, more bluntly: "There's no scenario in which we don't want really strong encryption." However, the president says the public itself is driving concern for leaving law enforcement a way in: "The first time that an attack takes place in which it turns out that we had a lead and we couldn't follow up on it, the public's going to demand answers."

Comment: No pure oxygen (Score 4, Insightful) 116

by SysKoll (#48986121) Attached to: TP-82: The Gun Cosmonauts Carried On Space Missions

Having a gun inside a thin-walled spacecraft filled with oxygen sounds crazy,

Having a spacecraft filled with pure oxygen sounds and is crazy. The Apollo 1 fire (1967) showed just how crazy it is. Which is why they don't do it anymore. Neither ISS nor the Russian capsules have a pure oxygen atmosphere. In fact, the ISS atmosphere is ground-level pressure with 20% oxygen. Only the EVA suits have a low-pressure, high-oxygen breathable mix.

Communications

NJ Museum Revives TIROS Satellite Dish After 40 Years 28

Posted by timothy
from the zip-zooming-along dept.
evanak writes TIROS was NASA's Television Infrared Observation Satellite. It launched in April 1960. One of the ground tracking stations was located at the U.S. Army's secret "Camps Evans" Signals Corps electronics R&D laboratory. That laboratory (originally a Marconi wireless telegraph lab) became the InfoAge Science Center in the 2000s. [Monday], after many years of restoration, InfoAge volunteers (led by Princeton U. professor Dan Marlowe) successfully received data from space. The dish is now operating for the first time in 40 years! The received data are in very raw form, but there is a clear peak riding on top of the noise background at 0.4 MHz (actually 1420.4 MHz), which is the well-known 21 cm radiation from the Milky Way. The dish was pointing south at an elevation of 45 degrees above the horizon.

+ - WSJ refused to publish Lawrence Krauss' response to "Science Proves Religion".

Submitted by Kubla Kahhhn!
Kubla Kahhhn! writes: Recently, the WSJ posted a controversial piece "Science Increasingly Makes a Case for God", written by non-scientist and darling of the apologist crowd, Eric Metaxas. Noted astrophysicist Lawrence Krauss wrote a simple and clear retort in a letter to the editor, which the WSJ declined to publish. Is it an example of the kind of "fair and balanced reporting" we can expect, now that Wall Street Journal is owned by Rupert Murdoch?

+ - 'Disco clam' lights up to scare predators away->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit writes: When predators get close, the bright, orange-lipped “disco clam” flashes them to scare them off. But it's not just the light that's important. Researchers have found that the clam has sulfur in its fleshy lips and tentacles and suspect that, like another clam species that drop tentacles laden with sulfuric acid to deter predators, the disco clam's sulfur also gets converted into a distasteful substance. The flashing may warn predators away, similar to the bright orange of a monarch butterfly warning birds of its toxic taste.
Link to Original Source

Comment: Re:These crazy archeologist... (Score 1) 276

by SysKoll (#48662759) Attached to: TSA Has Record-Breaking Haul In 2014: Guns, Cannons, and Swords
I "escorted" a precious cargo on a flight once. It was in a padded plastic case looking a lot like this one. We simply bought a seat for the case! It was not an antique, it was a motherboard tester prototype. We simply couldn't risk getting one of these protos damaged or lost.

Comment: These crazy archeologist... (Score 3, Insightful) 276

by SysKoll (#48653239) Attached to: TSA Has Record-Breaking Haul In 2014: Guns, Cannons, and Swords

From the paternalist, condescending article: Beyond firearms, of course, TSA officers encounter an extremely wide variety of other prohibited items at airport checkpoints, including ... an unloaded cannon.

Because archeologist or collectors should absolutely check in priceless historical artifacts! It's not like baggage handler would steal anything, or the airlines would lose luggage, ho ho, how silly.

Hey, this thing was a firearm once, right? So it's totally justified, innit? Even though the picture even shows that the thing is rusty, unable to fire, and very old.

Do you know how funny it is in Dilbert cartoon when the PHB adopts a tone of condescending smugness to assert misinformed, ill-reasoned opinions? Well, somehow, these bureaucrats don't manage to make it funny.

Receiving a million dollars tax free will make you feel better than being flat broke and having a stomach ache. -- Dolph Sharp, "I'm O.K., You're Not So Hot"

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