The Telegraph reports that previously undetected streams of meltwater have been observed beneath the Antarctic ice sheet. "The streams of water, some of which are 250m in height and stretch for hundreds of kilometres, could be destabilising parts of the Antarctic ice shelf immediately around them and speeding up melting, researchers said. However, they added that it remains unclear how the localised effects of the channels will impact on the future of the floating ice sheet as a whole. The British researchers used satellite images and radar data to measure variations in the height of the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf in West Antarctica, which reveal how thick the ice is." The paper itself is paywalled, but the abstract is available online.
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The partial government shut-down that the U.S. is experiencing right now is about to enter its second week. Various government functions and services have been disrupted (including some web sites, whether it's a good idea or not), and lots of workers on the Federal payroll have been furloughed. But since the U.S. government is involved in so many aspects of modern American life, you don't have to work for the government to be affected by the budget politics at play. So, whether or not you work for the government in any capacity, the question we'd like to hear your answer to is this: What does the shutdown mean to you, in practical terms, whether the effects are good, bad, or indifferent?
Nick Bilton at the New York Times has been writing skeptically for years about the FAA's ban on even the most benign electronic devices during takeoff and landing on commercial passenger flights. He writes in the NYT's Bits column about the gradual transformation that may (real soon now) result in slightly more sensible rules; a committee established to review some of those in-flight rules has recommended the FAA ease up, at least on devices with no plausible negative effect on navigation. From the article: "The New York Times employed EMT Labs, an independent testing facility in Mountain View, Calif., to see if a Kindle actually gave off enough electromagnetic emissions to affect a plane. The findings: An Amazon Kindle emitted less than 30 microvolts per meter when in use. That is only 0.00003 of a volt. A Boeing 747 must withstand 200 volts per square meter. That is millions of Kindles packed into each square meter of the plane. Still, the F.A.A. said “No.” ... But then something started to change: society." Of course, the rules that committees recommend aren't always the ones that prevail on the ground or in the sky.
Despite the number of companies shipping or promising them, smart watches aren't the easiest sell, and Ars Technica's review of Samsung's entry illustrates why. Despite all the processing power inside, the watch is "sluggish" even for the kind of at-a-glance convenience features that are touted as the reason to have a phone tethered to an (even smarter) phone, and for the most part seems to weakly imitate features already found on that phone. There are a few features called out as cool, like a media control app, but for the most part reviewer Rob Amadeo finds little compelling in the Galaxy Gear.
Google is apparently displeased with sites designed to extract money from arrestees in exchange for removing their mugshot pictures online, and is tweaking its algorithms to at least reduce their revenue stream. From the article at The New York Times: "It was only a matter of time before the Internet started to monetize humiliation. ... The sites are perfectly legal, and they get financial oxygen the same way as other online businesses — through credit card companies and PayPal. Some states, though, are looking for ways to curb them. The governor of Oregon signed a bill this summer that gives such sites 30 days to take down the image, free of charge, of anyone who can prove that he or she was exonerated or whose record has been expunged. Georgia passed a similar law in May. Utah prohibits county sheriffs from giving out booking photographs to a site that will charge to delete them. ... But as legislators draft laws, they are finding plenty of resistance, much of it from journalists who assert that public records should be just that: public."
The L.A. Times features a description of what space camp is like, not for for its traditional demographic of teens and pre-teens interested in science (and possibly thinking of careers in space), but for adults. The Huntsville program where writer Jane Engle spent three days playing astronaut gives adults a chance to experience simulated low gravity and fighter jet simulation. "We also spent hours inside mock-ups of a space shuttle cockpit, NASA mission control and the International Space Station, the settings for simulated shuttle missions that formed the core of our training. Working in teams, we took turns crewing the space shuttle orbiter, monitoring the mission, conducting research experiments and doing extravehicular activities, a.k.a. spacewalks, to make repairs." The price strikes me as surprisingly reasonable, too: about $550.
Microsoft made some confident sounding claims about sales of its first-generation Surface tablets before it became clear that the tablets weren't actually selling very well. So make what you will of the company's claim that the second version is "close to selling out." As the linked article points out, the company has "fallen short of offering any real explanation as to just how “close” to selling out the Surface 2 and Pro 2 really are – nor have they indicated how many were on hand to order in the first place."
dryriver writes with this excerpt from The Guardian: "Athletes and spectators attending the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February will face some of the most invasive and systematic spying and surveillance in the history of the Games, documents shared with the Guardian show. Russia's powerful FSB security service plans to ensure that no communication by competitors or spectators goes unmonitored during the event, according to a dossier compiled by a team of Russian investigative journalists looking into preparations for the 2014 Games. The journalists ... found that major amendments have been made to telephone and Wi-Fi networks in the Black Sea resort to ensure extensive and all-permeating monitoring and filtering of all traffic, using Sorm, Russia's system for intercepting phone and internet communications. Ron Deibert, a professor at the University of Toronto and director of Citizen Lab, which co-operated with the Sochi research, describes the Sorm amendments as "Prism on steroids", referring to the programme used by the NSA in the US and revealed to the Guardian by the whistleblower Edward Snowden."
CNN reports that two separate U.S. military operations have taken place this weekend in Africa; the first in Tripoli, the second in Somalia. "In the earlier raid, U.S. forces captured Abu Anas al Libi, an al Qaeda operative wanted for his role in the deadly 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa. In the second raid, a team of U.S. Navy SEALs in southern Somalia targeted the top leader of Al-Shabaab, a terrorist group linked with al Qaeda." According to the report, it's unclear for now whether the second of these attempts was successful. Unsurprisingly, the Libyan raid has raised the ire of the interim government there, which has objected to the U.S. arrest and removal of al Libi (to an undisclosed placed outside of Libya) as a kidnapping.
Boston Dynamics has been making eye-catching (and sort of creepy) military-oriented robots for several years, and we've noted several times the Big Dog utility robot. The newest creation is the untethered, gas-powered Wildcat; this is definitely not something I want chasing after me. (Not as fast as the previous, tethered version — yet.)
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Arik Hesseldahl writes that James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, says that the NSA tried to penetrate and compromise Tor, but it was only because terrorists and criminals use it, too and our "interest in online anonymity services and other online communication and networking tools is based on the undeniable fact that these are the tools our adversaries use to communicate and coordinate attacks against the United States and our allies." It was all legal and appropriate, Clapper argues, because, "Within our lawful mission to collect foreign intelligence to protect the United States, we use every intelligence tool available to understand the intent of our foreign adversaries so that we can disrupt their plans and prevent them from bringing harm to innocent Americans. Our adversaries have the ability to hide their messages and discussions among those of innocent people around the world. They use the very same social networking sites, encryption tools and other security features that protect our daily online activities." Clapper concludes that "the reality is that the men and women at the National Security Agency and across the Intelligence Community are abiding by the law, respecting the rights of citizens and doing everything they can to help keep our nation safe.""
theodp writes "In a classic example of parody coming to life," writes GeekWire's Todd Bishop, "a newly published patent filing reveals Google's ambitions to solve one of the most troublesome challenges known to humanity: Splitting the bill at the end of a meal." In its patent application for Tracking and Managing Group Expenditures, Google boasts that the invention of six Googlers addresses 'a need in the art for an efficient way to track group expenditures and settle balances between group members' by providing technology that thwarts 'group members [who] may not pay back their entire share of the bill or may forget and not pay back their share at all.'
MajikJon writes "The BBC junking policies of the '60s and '70s resulted in the loss of hundreds of episodes of the classic series in its earliest years. Through the work of ardent fans over the succeeding decades, dozens of these lost episodes have been painstaking recovered and added back into the BBC archives. Now, it seems, the searchers have struck the mother lode. According to the Wikipedia, there are currently 106 missing episodes of the serial. If reports are correct, we may finally get to see all the episodes."
New submitter billylo writes "Tech heavy industries are constantly looking for new sources of innovations. But where are the best place to find them? Increasingly, businesses are looking beyond universities and source ideas from savvy high schoolers. Cases in point: High school programming team finished in the Top 5 of MasterCard's NXT API challenge (3rd one down the list) last weekend in Toronto; Waterloo's Computing Contest high-school level winners [PDF] tackled complex problems like these [PDF]; the FIRST robotics competition requires design, CAD, manufacturing and programming all done by high schoolers. Do you have other good examples on how to encourage high schoolers to become young innovators? Do you have any other successful examples?"