Submission + - NASA May Fly Humans On the Less Powerful Version of Its Deep-Space Rocket (

An anonymous reader writes: NASA may make some big changes to the first couple flights of its future deep-space rocket, the Space Launch System, after getting a recent funding boost from Congress to build a new launch platform. When humans fly on the rocket for the first time in the 2020s, they might ride on a less powerful version of the vehicle than NASA had expected. If the changes move forward, it could scale down the first crewed mission into deep space in more than 45 years. The SLS has been in development for the last decade, and when complete, it will be NASA’s main rocket for taking astronauts to the Moon and Mars. NASA has long planned to debut the SLS with two crucial test missions. The first flight, called EM-1, will be uncrewed, and it will send the smallest planned version of the rocket on a three-week long trip around the Moon. Three years later, NASA plans to launch a bigger, more powerful version of the rocket around the Moon with a two-person crew — a mission called EM-2.

But now, NASA may delay that rocket upgrade and fly the same small version of the SLS for the crewed flight instead. If that happens, NASA would need to come up with a different type of mission for the crew to do since they won’t be riding on the more powerful version of the vehicle. “If EM-2 flies that way, we would have to change the mission profile because we can’t do what we could do if we had the [larger SLS],” Robert Lightfoot, NASA’s acting administrator, said during a Congressional hearing yesterday. NASA clarified that astronauts would still fly around the Moon on the second flight. However, the rocket would not be able to carry extra science payloads as NASA had originally planned. “The primary objective for EM-2 is to demonstrate critical functions with crew aboard, including mission planning, system performance, crew interfaces, and navigation and guidance in deep space, which can be accomplished on a Block 1 SLS,” a NASA spokesperson said in a statement to The Verge.

Submission + - How Can Users Protect Themselves From Facebook? ( 1

Nicola Hahn writes: In the wake of congressional hearings the national spotlight has been placed squarely on Mark Zuckerberg such that the discussion about user privacy tends to orbit around Facebook and Cambridge Analytica. Yet bulk data collection isn’t the work of a couple of bad apples. Corporate social media is largely predicated on stockpiling and mining user information. As Zuckerberg explained to lawmakers, it’s their business model. In other words, social media is a form of mass surveillance. Classified government documents show that it has directly enabled targeted influence campaigns as well as intelligence operations.

While Zuckerberg has offered public apologias, spurring genuine regulation will probably be left to the public. Having said that, confronting an economic sector which makes up one of the country’s largest political lobbying blocks might not be a tenable path in the short term. The best immediate option for netizens may be to opt out of social media entirely.

Submission + - Google Works Out a Slightly Scare Way For AI To Isolate Voices In a Crowd (

An anonymous reader writes: Google researchers have developed a deep-learning system designed to help computers better identify and isolate individual voices within a noisy environment. As noted in a post on the company's Google Research Blog this week, a team within the tech giant attempted to replicate the cocktail party effect, or the human brain's ability to focus on one source of audio while filtering out others—just as you would while talking to a friend at a party. Google's method uses an audio-visual model, so it is primarily focused on isolating voices in videos. The company posted a number of YouTube videos showing the tech in action.

The company says this tech works on videos with a single audio track and can isolate voices in a video algorithmically, depending on who's talking, or by having a user manually select the face of the person whose voice they want to hear. Google says the visual component here is key, as the tech watches for when a person's mouth is moving to better identify which voices to focus on at a given point and to create more accurate individual speech tracks for the length of a video. According to the blog post, the researchers developed this model by gathering 100,000 videos of "lectures and talks" on YouTube, extracting nearly 2,000 hours worth of segments from those videos featuring unobstructed speech, then mixing that audio to create a "synthetic cocktail party" with artificial background noise added. Google then trained the tech to split that mixed audio by reading the "face thumbnails" of people speaking in each video frame and a spectrogram of that video's soundtrack. The system is able to sort out which audio source belongs to which face at a given time and create separate speech tracks for each speaker. Whew.

Submission + - Tesla Relied On Too Many Robots To Build the Model 3, Elon Musk Says (

An anonymous reader writes: Elon Musk says Tesla relied on too many robots to build the Model 3, which is partly to blame for the delays in manufacturing the crucial mass-market electric car. In an interview with CBS Good Morning, Musk agreed with Tesla’s critics that there was over-reliance on automation and too few human assembly line workers building the Model 3. Earlier this month, Tesla announced that it had officially missed its goal of making 2,500 Model 3 vehicles a week by the end of the first financial quarter of this year. It will start the second quarter making just 2,000 Model 3s per week, but the company says it still believes it can get to a rate of 5,000 Model 3s per week at the midway point of 2018. Previously, Tesla has blamed bottlenecks in the production of the Model 3’s batteries at the company’s Gigafactory for the delays. But in a wide-ranging (and largely positive) interview with CBS’s Gayle King, Musk also admits it was Tesla’s over-reliance on robots in the production. Musk then said the company needs more people working in the factory and that automation slowed the Model 3 production process. He alluded to a “crazy, complex network of conveyor belts” the company had previously used and said the company eliminated it after it became clear it wasn’t working.

Submission + - Sweden installs 2kms of electrified road. (

Socguy writes: Sweden has finished it's first stretch of electrified road designed to test the viability of recharging electric vehicles as they drive. This first 2km section is along a busy shipping route and is primarily intended to recharge heavy trucks as they shuttle cargo back and forth. The cost is surprisingly cheap, at just over 1000 euros a kilometer to install. Should the test prove successful, it's not hard to imagine it will be expanded to any number of passenger vehicles. Looking to the future, widespread adoption of this technology could enable EV manufacturers to shrink the size of battery packs, significantly decreasing the cost of EV's to consumers.

Submission + - Drones + Augmented Reality = X-Ray Vision (

mr crypto writes: "Researchers from Graz University of Technology, in Styria, Austria, led by Okan Erat, want to change the way we interface with drones, using augmented reality to turn them from complicated flying robots into remote cameras that an untrained user can easily control."

Submission + - A single atom, visible to the naked eye

nickovs writes: A photograph of a single atom, visible to the naked eye, has won this years Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Science Photography Competition.

‘Single Atom in an Ion Trap’, by David Nadlinger, from the University of Oxford, shows the atom held by the fields emanating from the metal electrodes surrounding it. The distance between the small needle tips is about two millimetres.

The strontium atom is much smaller than the wavelength of the light that it is giving off, and is visible due to being excited by a blue-violet laser and then emitting visible photons.

Submission + - Boeing CEO takes aim at Musk's Starman-in-a-Tesla stunt (

Zorro writes: Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg took a shot at SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy launch during a discussion with Politico’s Robert Allbritton last night.

Muilenburg insisted that the first launch of SLS would happen next year, although he added that the key thing was consistent reliable funding over many years.

Muilenburg has said such things before, receiving an encouraging, if terse, two-word response from SpaceX supremo, Elon Musk:

        "Do it"

Submission + - A postmortem of the Facebook / Cambridge Analytica Debacle

Darkling-MHCN writes: With much of the web awash with emotive, misleading and confused analysis of the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal this article titled The Graph API: Key Points in the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica Debacle provides an excellent technical analysis of Facebook's Graph API and how it was abused by malicious players like Cambridge Analytica to get Facebook users to hand over their Facebook data..

For those who don't get it, the article starts with a pretty bad reference to an old Dire Straits song "That aint workin". Although.dire straits is a pretty apt description of Facebook's current position and "That aint workin" is a succinct analysis of Facebook's attempt to let others play on its platform with using their Graph API

Submission + - Telegram is the hot new source for pirated content (

joshtops writes: But there is one more incentive to use Telegram, which has been an open secret among hundreds of thousands of users. For much of its existence, the platform has served as a haven for online pirates, rivaling the access to illegally shared files provided by the open internet.

The instant messaging platform, which as of last month is used by more than 200 million users, is riddled with thousands of groups and channels whose sole purpose of existence is to share illegally copied movies, music albums, apps, and other content.

Channel admins told The Outline that they have not come across any resistance from Telegram despite the company, along with Apple and Google, maintaining a “zero tolerance” stance on copyright infringement. This permissiveness on Telegram’s part has led to the proliferation of a cottage industry of piracy marketplaces on the service. (Channel owners and members spoke to The Outline on the condition of anonymity.)

These channels, many of which have more than 100,000 members, have been illegally distributing hundreds of movies, television shows, and songs for years, an analysis by The Outline has found. But despite being flooded with sketchy channels, Telegram has yet to acknowledge the scope of the issue and has banned only a handful of the offenders.

Submission + - Quicken Users Locked Out On The Friday Before Taxes Due

TJ_Phazerhacki writes: The profit-driven transition to subscription-based software models has claimed another victim — On the Friday before US Tax filings are due, Quicken Users are locked out of accessing their financial information due to a server outage with no estimated recovery time. Long-time Quicken users are especially impacted by this, as a number of changes in the wake of Intuit's sale of the 30-year old product to a private equity firm have generated frustration as the new owners adopt new subscription-driven cloud-based features for software that, for many, has decades of financial information with no need or desire for always-online connectivity.

Submission + - Referendum to Split Calif. Into 3 States Will Be on Ballot (

schwit1 writes: One of several proposals aiming to split California into multiple smaller states has reportedly reached an important new goal thanks in large part to the efforts of its billionaire champion.

According to a press release this week, the CAL 3 initiative surpassed the number of signatures needed to present the measure to voters in this year's election. If state officials determine the documents are genuine, it would then qualify as an initiative to be added this November.

Submission + - Curing disease can be bad business (

tomhath writes:

The potential to deliver “one shot cures” is one of the most attractive aspects of gene therapy, genetically engineered cell therapy, and gene editing. However, such treatments offer a very different outlook with regard to recurring revenue versus chronic therapies... While this proposition carries tremendous value for patients and society, it could represent a challenge for genome medicine developers looking for sustained cash flow.

[Gilead]’s rapid rise and fall of its hepatitis C franchise highlights one of the dynamics of an effective drug that permanently cures a disease, resulting in a gradual exhaustion of the prevalent pool of patients,” the analysts wrote. The report noted that diseases such as common cancers—where the “incident pool remains stable”—are less risky for business.

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