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Submission + - The 'Game of Drones' Is a Live War Game Every Politician Should Play (vice.com)

derekmead writes: The Caprican-Haderach contest did not, in fact, take place in a distant land or on one of Frank Herbert’s planets in Dune, as the names of the actors might suggest. It was one scenario in a two-day war game organized by the Center for a New American Security, a national security think tank in Washington, DC.

The “Game of Drones” was designed to explore the different ways that drones could be used for tactical and strategic effect in a conflict.

The summit sought to address whether shooting down a drone might escalate tensions between countries or whether drones changed the character of a conflict by giving actors capabilities they didn’t have before. As more and more state and non-state actors acquire drones, the war game illustrated how drones could be used in .

Submission + - Digital Noise Is Creeping Out Our Brains' Fear Network (vice.com)

derekmead writes: There are a lot of noises that make us nervous. They can be inorganic and deliberate, such as the theme from Jaws, or organic and random like a blood-curdling scream or a piece of malfunctioning machinery. Hearing them makes us uneasy.

The heater is about to burst. The engine is melting. The plane is rattling apart. Or so we think.

It’s not entirely clear why we do this. Something happens in our heads when we hear things that unsettle or frighten us. But exactly how does it all kick in, and how might this complex, primal auditory fear circuit be evolving in an age awash in digital noise?

Submission + - FCC Passes Landmark Reform of 'Egregious' Prison Phone Charges (vice.com)

derekmead writes: The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to crack down on exorbitant prison phone rates, in a landmark victory for criminal justice reform advocates who have long criticized what they call abusive and predatory practices by phone companies.

The new FCC rules cap the cost of prison phone calls at 11 cents a minute for debit or prepaid calls in state and federal prisons, and reduce the cost of most inmate calls from $2.96 to $1.65 for a 15-minute in-state call, and from $3.15 to $1.65 for a 15-minute long distance call. The new policy also cracks down on excessive service fees and so-called “flat-rate calling,” in which inmates are charged a flat rate for a call up to 15 minutes regardless of the actual call duration.

Submission + - Why Cybersecurity Experts Want Open Source Routers (vice.com)

derekmead writes: A coalition of 260 cybersecurity experts is taking advantage of a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) public comment period to push for open source Wi-Fi router firmware.

The cybersecurity experts asked the FCC on Wednesday to require router makers to open-source their firmware, or the basic software that controls its core functionality, as a condition for it being licensed for use in the US. The request comes amid a wider debate on how the FCC should ensure that Wi-Fi routers’ wireless signals don’t “go outside stated regulatory rules” and cause harmful interference to other devices like cordless phones, radar, and satellite dishes.

Submission + - How Putin Tried to Control the Internet (vice.com)

derekmead writes: In this excerpt from the recently published The Red Web , Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan describe how the Kremlin has been trying to rewrite the rules for the internet to make it “secure” as it is understood by Russia’s secret services.

Vladimir Putin was certain that all things in the world—including the internet—existed with a hierarchical, vertical structure. He was also certain that the internet must have someone controlling it at the top. He viewed the United States with suspicion, thinking the Americans ruled the web and that it was a CIA project.

Putin wanted to end that supremacy.

Just as he attempted to change the rules inside Russia, so too did he attempt to change them for the world. The goal was to make other countries, especially the United States, accept Russia’s right to control the internet within its borders, to censor or suppress it completely if the information circulated online in any way threatened Putin’s hold on power.

Submission + - Former NSA Chief: I 'Would Not Support' Encryption Backdoors (vice.com)

derekmead writes: Michael Hayden, the former head of the CIA and the NSA, thinks the US government should stop railing against encryption and should support strong crypto rather than asking for backdoors.

The US is “better served by stronger encryption, rather than baking in weaker encryption,” he said during a panel on Tuesday.

Hayden said that the US government developed certain habits that led it to favor offense rather than defense in cyberspace, but that nowadays, the world has changed, and there’s a need for a change in attitude, referring to the 1990s debate over the Clipper Chip, a telephone surveillance backdoor that the US government tried to impose on telephone companies.

Submission + - Humans Are More Toxic to Wildlife than Chernobyl (vice.com)

derekmead writes: The Chernobyl disaster remains the worst nuclear accident in human history, with a death toll that is difficult to tally even decades later. Given the sobering reach of the resulting radiation contamination, you might expect the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone—the 4,200 square kilometers in the immediate vicinity of the explosion—to have suffered serious long-term ecological damage.

Surprisingly, though, a study published today in Current Biology shows that wildlife in the exclusion zone is actually more abundant than it was before the disaster. According to the authors, led by Portsmouth University professor of environmental science Jim Smith, the recovery is due to the removal of the single biggest pressure on wildlife—humans.

Submission + - The FAA Has Missed Its Congressionally Mandated Deadline to Regulate Drones (vice.com)

derekmead writes: When Congress passed the FAA Modernization Act in 2012, it gave the agency until September 30, 2015 to fully regulate commercial drones for use in the United States. Well, it's October 1, and we're left with a patchwork of regulatory band-aids, quasi-legal "guidelines," and a small drone rule that still hasn't gone into effect yet.

This news shouldn't surprise anyone. The agency has missed most every milestone—both internal and lawmaker mandated—that has been set for it. The last two years have been fraught with lawsuits, confusion on enforcement within its own local offices (some FAA agents have told pilots they can't post videos on YouTube, for example), and various conflicting guidelines as to who can fly a drone where, and for what purposes.

Submission + - How to Prevent Space War (vice.com)

derekmead writes: When most of us think of space warfare, we picture the Star Wars variety—epic battles between spaceships, lightspeed chases, and planet-blasting death rays. But in reality, the state of modern orbital warfare looks less like a space opera, and more like a slow-burn political thriller.

Astronauts representing several different countries may break bread on the International Space Station, yet geopolitical tensions between their respective nations simmer under the surface. In contrast to the pyrotechnic nuclear threats faced in the 1960s, modern space militarization is defined by subterfuge, distrust, and an ever-complexifying cast of global players.

Submission + - How Viking 1 Won the Martian Space Race (vice.com)

derekmead writes: Forty years ago today, NASA launched the Viking 1 spacecraft to Mars, where it would become the first probe to achieve a soft landing on the Martian surface. The touchdown was a major milestone in the exploration of Mars, providing the first images and data from the red planet, which had been obsessively studied from afar for centuries.

Moreover, on a geopolitical level, NASA’s success with Viking 1 was kind of like winning the Martian Triple Crown against the Soviet space program. Over the course of the 1960s and early 1970s, the USSR desperately tried to get a jump on NASA with regards to Mars exploration, and launched well over a dozen flyby, orbiter, and landing attempts.

Submission + - An Undead SOPA Is Hiding Inside an Extremely Boring Case About Invisible Braces (vice.com)

derekmead writes: The most controversial parts of SOPA, an anti-piracy bill defeated in 2012 after a massive public outcry, may end up becoming de facto law after all, depending on the outcome in an obscure case that is working its way through the legal system without anyone noticing.

Next week, the US Appeals Court for the Federal Circuit will hear oral arguments in ClearCorrect Operating, LLC v. International Trade Commission, a case that could give an obscure federal agency the power to force ISPs to block websites. In January, The Verge reported that this very legal strategy is already being considered by the Motion Picture Association of America, as evidenced by a leaked document from the WikiLeaks Sony dump.

Submission + - To Salvage or Sever: What Happens When Your Own Limb Is Almost Good Enough? (vice.com)

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.

Submission + - University Students Made a Working Model Hyperloop (vice.com)

derekmead writes: Elon Musk's Hyperloop gets people excited. Promise the ability to travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles in less than an hour, and you're going to get people salivating. But for as much as we've heard about it, we've had scarcely little to see—until a team of students at the University of Illinois decided to build their very own miniature hyperloop.

Mechanical engineering students at the university built a functioning 1:24 scale model of the Hyperloop, a “fourth mode of transportation” that sends pods through a partially pressurized tube at very high speeds, as part of a senior design project. It was designed to test some of the key components of Musk's design, which was outlined in a much-read, open source white paper published in August of 2013. That said, there are several key differences, which keep this from truly being a proof-of-concept as to whether or not the Hyperloop will ultimately work.

Submission + - Netflix Is Experimenting with Advertising (vice.com)

derekmead writes: Netflix is experimenting with advertisements that run both before and after users watch a video. It's unclear whether or not the company will eventually push ads to everyone.

For now, the company is primarily experimenting with the HBO model of pitching its own original programming to viewers. The company is only showing trailers for shows like Orange Is the New Black and House of Cards—it has not attempted to sell third party ads, and the company told me that, for the moment, only specific users in specific markets are seeing ads.

Submission + - Oldest Stone Tools Predate Previous Record Holder by 700,000 Years (vice.com)

derekmead writes: Scientists have discovered the oldest stone tools ever found, dating back some 3.3 million years to Pliocene Africa—long before the rise of humans' first ancestors in the Homo genus.

The artifacts were found near Lake Turkana, Kenya, and predate the next oldest tools by a whopping 700,000 years. That is an enormous margin, and it will have far-reaching ramifications for our understanding of how material culture initially arose in early hominin communities. An in-depth analysis of the site, its contents, and its significance as a new benchmark in evolutionary history will be published in the May 21 issue of Nature.

I have a theory that it's impossible to prove anything, but I can't prove it.