MarkWhittington writes: The Obama Administration has put forth its FY 2017 NASA budget proposal, according to GeekWire. The overall spending level is $19 billion, an almost $300 million cut from the current fiscal year. Much of the money comes out of the development for the Orion deep space vehicle and the heavy lift Space Launch System, the very basis of the space agency’s plans for exploring deep space beyond low Earth orbit.
insitus writes: On 10 December, Germany’s new Wendelstein 7-X stellarator was fired up for the first time, rounding off a construction effort that took nearly 2 decades and cost €1 billion. Initially and for the first couple of months, the reactor will be filled with helium—an unreactive gas—so that operators can make sure that they can control and heat the gas effectively. At the end of January, experiments will begin with hydrogen in an effort to show that fusing hydrogen isotopes can be a viable source of clean and virtually limitless energy.
Patrick O'Neill writes: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) will seek legislation requiring the ability to "pierce" through encryption to allow American law enforcement to read protected communications with a court order. She told the Senate Judiciary committee on Wednesday that she would seek a bill that would give police armed with a warrant based on probable cause the ability to read encrypted data. "I have concern about a PlayStation that my grandchildren might use," she said, "and a predator getting on the other end, and talking to them, and it's all encrypted. I think there really is reason to have the ability, with a court order, to be able to get into that."
_KiTA_ writes: Open Source Pioneer Eric S. Raymond has revealed explosive allegations on his blog, claiming that he has a source with evidence that the Ada Initiative, a tech initiative designed to support women in open source, has been attempting to frame Linus Torvalds and other high profile members of the Linux and Open Source community for sexual assault. Linus has been noted for never being alone at conferences as of late, apparently this is a defensive move due to repeated attempts to "scalp" him — getting him alone and then immediately pushing a fake claim of sexual harassment or assault to either have him arrested or pulled off Linux development.
mixed_signal writes: IEEE Spectrum has an online set of articles, or "lessons," on why big IT projects have failed, including analysis of the impacts of failed systems and the life cycles of failed projects. From the summary: "To commemorate the last decade’s worth of failures, we organized and analyzed the data we’ve collected. We cannot claim—nor can anyone, really—to have a definitive, comprehensive database of debacles. Instead, from the incidents we have chronicled, we handpicked the most interesting and illustrative examples of big IT systems and projects gone awry and created the five interactives featured here. Each reveals different emerging patterns and lessons. Dive in to see what we’ve found. One big takeaway: While it’s impossible to say whether IT failures are more frequent now than in the past, it does seem that the aggregate consequences are worse."
SMABSA writes: With British Prime Minister David Cameron announcing plans for porn users to be required to register their bank account/debit card as a means of age verification — Spiked-Online writer Stephen Beard explores the privacy implications, technical feasibility and motivations of such a plan.
Jack9 writes: As kafkaesque nightmares continue to mount, here's a pot-related event from southern california. The video of Santa Ana police officers raiding (no arrests) a dispensary, has gone viral. This resulted in some light harassment and edible consumption, by the undercover and uniformed participants. A judge has ruled that the recording, ostensibly from cameras the officers failed to destroy, has violated the privacy of said officers. The footage has been temporarily quashed as it would do "irreparable harm" to the officers, while being investigated by internal affairs.
Hussman32 writes: According to an article in the Royal Astronomical Society "A new model of the Sun’s solar cycle is producing unprecedentedly accurate predictions of irregularities within the Sun’s 11-year heartbeat. The model draws on dynamo effects in two layers of the Sun, one close to the surface and one deep within its convection zone. Predictions from the model suggest that solar activity will fall by 60 per cent during the 2030s to conditions last seen during the ‘mini ice age’ that began in 1645."
hypnosec writes: Concentrations of ozone depleting chemicals was at its peak in 1993, but over the years they have declined and a new research points out that the Montreal Protocol, which came into force in 1987, has played a major role in not only ensuring that use of these chemicals is reduced, but has also helped us avoid a severe ozone depletion.
HughPickens.com writes: Zeynep Tufekci writes in an op-ed at the NYT that machines can now process regular spoken language and not only recognize human faces, but also read their expressions. Machines can classify personality types, and have started being able to carry out conversations with appropriate emotional tenor. Machines are getting better than humans at figuring out who to hire, who’s in a mood to pay a little more for that sweater, and who needs a coupon to nudge them toward a sale. It turns out that most of what we think of as expertise, knowledge and intuition is being deconstructed and recreated as an algorithmic competency, fueled by big data. "Machines aren’t used because they perform some tasks that much better than humans, but because, in many cases, they do a “good enough” job while also being cheaper, more predictable and easier to control than quirky, pesky humans," writes Tufekci. "Technology in the workplace is as much about power and control as it is about productivity and efficiency."
According to Tufekci technology is being used in many workplaces: to reduce the power of humans, and employers’ dependency on them, whether by replacing, displacing or surveilling them. Optimists insist that we’ve been here before, during the Industrial Revolution, when machinery replaced manual labor, and all we need is a little more education and better skills but Tufekci says that one historical example is no guarantee of future events. "Confronting the threat posed by machines, and the way in which the great data harvest has made them ever more able to compete with human workers, must be about our priorities," concludes Tufekci. "This problem is not us versus the machines, but between us, as humans, and how we value one another."
MarkWhittington writes: NASA announced more details of its controversial asteroid redirect mission. The space agency has chosen to not snag an asteroid in deep space and move it to a retrograde orbit around the moon. Instead, an uncrewed spacecraft with a solar electric propulsion system will snag a boulder off of a larger asteroid and bring it to lunar orbit for an Orion spacecraft to visit.
chrisgagne writes: Apple says "You can also turn Location Services off altogether by deselecting Enable Location Services in the Privacy pane of Security & Privacy preferences. However, here's a video showing that although Location Services are turned off, Apple's com.apple.geod (their location services daemon) is still active and attempting to communicate with gsp-ssl.ls.apple.com. It's blocked from doing so by Little Snitch, whose Network Monitor is showing all of these attempts.
MikeChino writes: The New York State Attorney General's Office is demanding that GNC, Walmart, Walgreens, and Target remove store brand herbal supplements from their shelves after the pills were found to be packed with a strange array of fraudulent—and in some cases hazardous—ingredients. Popular supplements such as ginseng, valerian root, and St. John's wort sold under store brand names at the four major retailers were found to contain powdered rice, asparagus, and even houseplants, while being completely void of any of the ingredients on the label.