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NASA

Culberson As Chair of NASA Fundng Subcommittee Makes Europa Mission More Likely 56

Posted by Soulskill
from the if-we-can-land-on-a-comet,-a-moon-should-be-easy dept.
MarkWhittington writes: As many have expected, Rep. John Culberson (R-TX) has been elevated to chair the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Commerce, Justice, and Science. The subcommittee has charge of NASA funding, something of keen interest for the congressman, whose Houston district is close to the Johnson Spaceflight Center. Moreover, Culberson's enthusiasm for space exploration goes far beyond what would be expected from a Texas representative.

Culberson is a champion of a mission to Europa, a moon of Jupiter. Europa is an ice-covered moon that is thought to conceal an ocean of water, warmed by tidal forces, which might contain life. Using the heavy-lift Space Launch System, NASA could launch a large-scale probe to study Europa and ascertain whether it harbors alien life or not. Culberson's elevation makes such a mission far more likely to occur.
Robotics

Microsoft Rolls Out Robot Security Guards 138

Posted by Soulskill
from the please-register-that-copy-of-windows.-you-have-20-seconds-to-comply dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft is testing a group of five robot security guards. They contain a sophisticated sensor suite that includes 360-degree HD video, thermal imaging, night vision, LIDAR, and audio recorders. They can also detect various chemicals and radiation signatures, and do some rudimentary behavioral analysis on people they see. (And they look a bit like Daleks.) The robots are unarmed, so we don't have to worry about a revolt just yet, but they can sound an alarm and call for human officers. They weigh about 300 lbs each, can last roughly a day on a battery charge, and know to head to the charging station when they're low on power.
NASA

NASA Pondering $1.5 Million Stratospheric Airship Competition 47

Posted by Soulskill
from the to-boldly-go-where-skydivers-have-gone-before dept.
coondoggie writes: NASA this week said it was contemplating a public competition to build airships capable of reaching the stratosphere where they could remain for a period of time gathering astronomical data or watching environmental changes on the ground. Airship Challenge's goals (PDF) include: a minimum altitude of 20km, maintained for 20 hours; successful return of payload data as well as cargo up to 20kg; and a demonstration of the airship's scalability for longer/larger missions.

Comment: Re:And I would have gotten away with it, too... (Score 1) 140

by RevWaldo (#48334055) Attached to: Robot Makes People Feel Like a Ghost Is Nearby
~ ZOINKS! Robot ghosts!

~ Ruh-uh! Rhoast rhobots!

~ It's robot ghosts, Scoob.

~ Ruh-uh. Ruh-uh. Rhoast rhobots.

~ Robot ghosts!

~ Rhoast rhobots!

~ Shh! Shut up you potheads, he'll see us!

~ Ruh roh. Rhouns rike Rhemla ron rha rhag rhoday.

~ And you would know, wouldn't ya, Scoob?

~ RHEH HEH HEH HEH HEH!

.
Google

Computer Scientist Parachutes From 135,908 Feet, Breaking Record 175

Posted by Soulskill
from the touching-space dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The NY Times reports that Alan Eustace, a computer scientist and senior VP at Google, has successfully broken the record for highest freefall jump, set by Felix Baumgartner in 2012. "For a little over two hours, the balloon ascended at speeds up to 1,600 feet per minute to an altitude of 135,908 feet, more than 25 miles. Mr. Eustace dangled underneath in a specially designed spacesuit with an elaborate life-support system. He returned to earth just 15 minutes after starting his fall. ... Mr. Eustace cut himself loose from the balloon with the aid of a small explosive device and plummeted toward the earth at a speeds that peaked at more than 800 miles per hour, setting off a small sonic boom heard by observers on the ground. ... His technical team had designed a carbon-fiber attachment that kept him from becoming entangled in the main parachute before it opened. About four-and-a-half minutes into his flight, he opened the main parachute and glided to a landing 70 miles from the launch site."
Hardware

FTDI Removes Driver From Windows Update That Bricked Cloned Chips 572

Posted by Soulskill
from the righteous-backpedaling dept.
New submitter weilawei writes: Last night, FTDI, a Scottish manufacturer of USB-to-serial ICs, posted a response to the ongoing debacle over its allegedly intentional bricking of competitors' chips. In their statement, FTDI CEO Fred Dart said, "The recently release driver release has now been removed from Windows Update so that on-the-fly updating cannot occur. The driver is in the process of being updated and will be released next week. This will still uphold our stance against devices that are not genuine, but do so in a non-invasive way that means that there is no risk of end user's hardware being directly affected." This may have resulted from a discussion with Microsoft engineers about the implications of distributing potentially malicious driver software.

If you design hardware, what's your stance on this? Will you continue to integrate FTDI chips into your products? What alternatives are available to replace their functionality?
Crime

Incapacitating Chemical Agents: Coming Soon To Local Law Enforcement? 152

Posted by samzenpus
from the and-stay-down dept.
Lasrick writes To this day, Russian authorities refuse to disclose the incapacitating chemical agent (ICA) they employed in their attempt, 12 years ago, to save 900 hostages held in a theater by Chechen fighters. Malcom Dando elaborates on a new report (PDF) that Russia, China, Israel, and a slew of other countries are continuing research into ICAs, and the apparent indifference of the international community into such research. Proponents of ICAs have long promoted their use in a variety of scenarios, including that of law enforcement, because in theory these chemicals incapacitate without permanent disability. Critics, however, point out that these weapons rely on exact dosage to prevent fatality, and that the ability to 'deliver the right agent to the right people in the right dose without exposing the wrong people, or delivering the wrong dose' is a near-impossible expectation. ICAs represent the further misuse and militarization of the life sciences and a weakening of the taboo against the weaponization of toxic substances, and the idea that they could be used in law enforcement situations is a disturbing one."
Space

Astronomers Find Brightest Pulsar Ever Observed 70

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-big-or-go-home dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Astronomers using the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the NuSTAR satellite have discovered a pulsar so bright that it challenges how scientists think pulsars work. While observing galaxy M82 in hopes of spotting supernovae, the researchers found an unexpected source of X-rays very close to the galaxy's core. It was near another source, thought to be a black hole. But the new one was pulsing, which black holes don't do. The trouble is that according to known pulsar models, it's about 100 times brighter than the calculated limits to its luminosity (abstract). Researchers used a different method to figure out its mass, and the gap shrank, but it's still too bright to fit their theories.

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