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Submission + - Former NSA Chief: I 'Would Not Support' Encryption Backdoors (

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 (

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 (

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 (

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 (

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 (

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? (

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 (

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 (

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 (

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.

Submission + - Illinois Says Rule-Breaking Students Must Give Teachers Their Facebook Passwords (

derekmead writes: School districts in Illinois are telling parents that a new law may require school officials to demand the social media passwords of students if they are suspected in cyberbullying cases or are otherwise suspected of breaking school rules.

The law (PDF), which went into effect on January 1, defines cyberbullying and makes harassment on Facebook, Twitter, or via other digital means a violation of the state's school code, even if the bullying happens outside of school hours.

A letter sent out to parents in the Triad Community Unit School District #2, a district located just over the Missouri-Illinois line near St. Louis, that was obtained by Motherboard says that school officials can demand students give them their passwords.

Submission + - Tracking the Mole Inside Silk Road 2.0 (

derekmead writes: The arrest of the Silk Road 2.0 leader and subsequent seizure of the site was partially due to the presence of an undercover US Department of Homeland Security agent, who “successfully infiltrated the support staff involved in running the Silk Road 2.0 website," according to the FBI.

Referencing multiple interviews, publicly available information, and parts of the moderator forum shared with me, it appears likely that the suspicions of many involved in Silk Road 2.0 are true: the undercover agent that infiltrated the site was a relatively quiet staff member known as Cirrus.

Submission + - Astronomers find star-inside-star 40 years after first theorized (

derekmead writes: After 40 years, astronomers have likely found a rather strange celestial body known as a Thorne–ytkow object (TZO), in which a neutron star is absorbed by a red supergiant. Originally predicted in the 1970s, the first non-theoretical TZO was found earlier this year, based on calculations presented in apaper forthcoming in MNRAS .

TZOs were predicted by astronomer Kip Thorne and Anna ytkow, who wasthen postdoctoral fellow at CalTech. The pair imagined what might happen if a neutron star in a binary system merged with its partner red supergiant.

This wouldn’t be like two average stars merging. Neutron stars are the ancient remnants of stars that grew too big and exploded. Their cores remain small—about 12.5 miles—as they shed material out into space. Red supergiants are the largest stars in the galaxy with radii up to 800 times that of our sun, but they aren’t dense.

Submission + - Japan's Alleged Death Threat-Making, Cat-Hacking Programmer Says He's Innocent (

Daniel_Stuckey writes: Inside the memory card in the cat's collar, authorities found a resentful message criticizing the police along with versions of the virus (iesys.exe) used to carry out the threat messages, which were made remotely, through other people’s computers. If you hadn’t heard about the story in the news, you'd be forgiven for confusing it with the plot of a Haruki Murakami novel.

In Tokyo District Court Wednesday, the former employee of a Japanese IT company wore a black suit, a wide smile, and pleaded not guilty to 10 charges brought against him. The Japan Times explained the string of threats were directed at “schools and kindergartens attended by the Emperor Akihito’s grandchildren,” as well as a Japan Airlines jet headed for New York. The plane had to stop midflight, costing the airline ¥9.75 million (about $93,000).

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