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Submission + - Silicon Valley Readers Can Easily View the SpaceX Falcon 9 Return to Flight (perens.com)

Bruce Perens writes: A rocket launch is an awesome thing to see. The SpaceX Falcon 9, carrying 10 Iridium satellites, is expected to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc, an easy (if somewhat tedious) drive from the San Francisco Bay Area, on Sunday, January 8. There's a chance, of course, that you won't see the launch, as launches frequently scrub and reschedule, etc. My success record is about 1 in 3 so far. But you can join me in trying to see the SpaceX Falcon 9 return to flight this Sunday by following these instructions.

Submission + - Everyday things on the web the EU Commission wants to make illegal (juliareda.eu)

schwit1 writes: In a few days, scandal-prone Günther Oettinger will stop being Europe’s top internet policy maker – he’s being promoted to oversee the EU budget.

But before leaving, the outgoing Digital Commissioner submitted dangerous plans that undermine two core foundations of the internet: Links and file uploads. While Oettinger is going away, his lobby-dictated proposals are here to stay.

These proposals are pandering to the demands of some news publishers to charge search engines and social networks for sending traffic their way (yes, you read that right), as well as the music industry’s wish to be propped up in its negotiations with YouTube.

Here’s what may otherwise become illegal:
01 Sharing what happened 20 years ago
02 Tweeting a creative news headline
03 Posting a blog post to social media
04 Pinning a photo to an online shopping list
05 A search engine indexing the web for you
06 A portfolio hosting site not monitoring your uploads
07 Github allowing unmonitored commits
08 Wikipedia ACCEPTING unmonitored uploads
09 Training your own artificial intelligence

Despite all the new restrictions on hyperlinks and uploads, sites like MegaUpload, which was famously shut down by US authorities for allegedly systematically infringing copyright, would not be affected.

That’s proof: This law is not aimed at sites that actually play fast and loose with copyright – it’s meant to get social networks and search engines to fork over money to struggling European cultural industries.

Submission + - The Hysteria About Russian Hackers Obscures Important Facts 1

Nicola Hahn writes: The documents that were leaked over the course of the 2016 election have generally been framed as the product of Russian hacking. For example, a recent infographic published by the New York Times presents a nutshell summary of the basic narrative in 200 words. Almost all of the emphasis in this synopsis is placed on state-sponsored Russian hackers who are “believed” to be responsible as well as subsequent diplomatic measures taken by President Obama. Scant attention is given to the actual content of the leaked data itself, essential facts situated outside of the speculative domain of attribution and motivation. This myopia is curious. Why is the message being neglected on behalf of the alleged messenger? One reader has composed their own 200-word summary[PDF] to address this discrepancy.

Submission + - Weapons of Math Destruction Author: Models are Opinions Embedded in Math (latimes.com)

dangle writes: The LA Times has an interview with "Weapons of Math Destruction" author Cathy O'Neil discussing her concerns about the social consequences of ill-considered mathematical modeling. She discusses the example of a NYC Department of Education algorithm designed to grade school teachers that no one outside of the coders had access to. "The Department of Education did not know how to explain the scores that they were giving out to teachers," she observes. "...(T)he very teachers whose jobs are on the line don’t understand how they’re being evaluated. I think that’s a question of justice. Everyone should have the right to know how they’re being evaluated at their job," she argues. Another example discussed is a Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services risk-modeling algorithm developed by SAS to score children according to their risk of being abused so that social workers can better target their efforts. Depending on the ethical considerations, such an algorithm could intentionally overweight factors such as income or ethnicity in a way that could tip the balance between right to privacy and protection of abused minors one way or another. "I want to separate the moral conversations from the implementation of the data model that formalizes those decisions. I want to see algorithms as formal versions of conversations that have already taken place," she concludes.

Submission + - China Claims Tests of 'Reactionless' EM Drive Were Successful (popsci.com)

An anonymous reader writes: The "reactionless" Electromagnetic Drive, or EmDrive for short, is an engine propelled solely by electromagnetic radiation confined in a microwave cavity. Such an engine would violate the law of conservation of momentum by generating mechanical action without exchanging matter. But since 2010, both the United States and China have been pouring serious resources into these seemingly impossible engines. And now China claims its made a key breakthrough. Dr. Chen Yue, Director of Commercial Satellite Technology for the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) announced on December 10, 2016 that not only has China successfully tested EmDrives technology in its laboratories, but that a proof-of-concept is currently undergoing zero-g testing in orbit (according to the International Business Times, this test is taking place on the Tiangong 2 space station). If China is able to install EmDrives on its satellites for orbital maneuvering and altitude control, they would become cheaper and longer lasting. Li Feng, lead CAST designer for commercial satellites, states that the current EmDrive has only a thrust of single digit millinewtons, for orbital adjustment; a medium sized satellite needs 0.1-1 Newtons. A functional EmDrive would also open up new possibilities for long range Chinese interplanetary probes beyond the Asteroid belt, as well freeing up the mass taken up by fuel in manned spacecraft for other supplies and equipment to build lunar and Martian bases. On the military side of things, EmDrives could also be used to create stealthier, longer lasting Chinese surveillance satellites.

Submission + - Yahoo Email Scan Shows US Spy Push To Recast Constitutional Privacy (reuters.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Yahoo Inc's secret scanning of customer emails at the behest of a U.S. spy agency is part of a growing push by officials to loosen constitutional protections Americans have against arbitrary governmental searches, according to legal documents and people briefed on closed court hearings. The order on Yahoo from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) last year resulted from the government's drive to change decades of interpretation of the U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment right of people to be secure against "unreasonable searches and seizures," intelligence officials and others familiar with the strategy told Reuters. The unifying idea, they said, is to move the focus of U.S. courts away from what makes something a distinct search and toward what is "reasonable" overall. The basis of the argument for change is that people are making much more digital data available about themselves to businesses, and that data can contain clues that would lead to authorities disrupting attacks in the United States or on U.S. interests abroad. While it might technically count as a search if an automated program trawls through all the data, the thinking goes, there is no unreasonable harm unless a human being looks at the result of that search and orders more intrusive measures or an arrest, which even then could be reasonable. Civil liberties groups and some other legal experts said the attempt to expand the ability of law enforcement agencies and intelligence services to sift through vast amounts of online data, in some cases without a court order, was in conflict with the Fourth Amendment because many innocent messages are included in the initial sweep. But the general counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), Robert Litt, said in an interview with Reuters on Tuesday that the legal interpretation needed to be adjusted because of technological changes.

Submission + - SPAM: The Longest And Deepest Tunnel in The World

memomedo2018 writes: It opened on 1 June 2016, and full service began on 11 December 2016. With a route length of 57.09 km (35.5 mi), it is the world's longest and deepest traffic tunnel and the first flat, low-level route through the Alps.
The project consists of two single-track tunnels connecting Erstfeld (Uri) with Bodio (Ticino) and passing below Sedrun (Graubünden). It is part of the AlpTransit project, also known as the New Railway Link through the Alps (NRLA), which also includes the Ceneri Base Tunnel further south (scheduled to open late 2020) and the Lötschberg Base Tunnel on the other main north-south axis. The base tunnel bypasses most of the Gotthard Railway, a winding mountain route opened in 1882 across the Saint-Gotthard Massif, which is now operating at capacity, and establishes a direct route usable by high-speed rail and heavy freight trains. It is the third tunnel connecting the cantons of Uri and Ticino after the Gotthard Tunnel and the Gotthard Road Tunnel.

Link to Original Source

Submission + - Top DoE Scientist Fired by Obama Administration 1

RoccamOccam writes: Rep. Lamar Smith (R., Texas), chair of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, released a wide-ranging report on Tuesday that shows how senior Obama administration officials retaliated against a leading scientist and plotted ways to block a congressional inquiry surrounding key research into the impact of radiation.

A top DoE scientist (Dr. Noelle Metting) who liaised with Congress on the matter was fired by the Obama administration for being too forthright with lawmakers, according to the report, which provides an in-depth look at the White House’s efforts to ensure senior staffers toe the administration’s line.

Submission + - De Beers Scientists Fight the Growing Threat of Man-Made Diamonds 1

HughPickens.com writes: The WSJ reports that a small team of scientists working for De Beers is scrambling to stave off a looming threat that could tarnish the luster of natural-mined diamonds: high-quality man-made stones. For now, while synthetics make up just a fraction of the market, they have growing appeal to younger buyers — a headache for mine owners, who are under pressure to cut supply and lower prices, because traders, cutters and polishers are struggling to profit amid a credit squeeze and languishing jewelry sales. Synthetic producers can make 250,000 carats to 350,000 carats of rough diamonds annually, according to industry estimates, compared with about 135 million rough carats mined every year. But Martin Roscheisen, chief executive of Diamond Foundry Inc., a San Francisco synthetic-diamond producer with a capacity of 24,000 carats, says he believes nearly all diamonds consumers purchase will be man-made in a few decades. To counter the threat, last year De Beers helped launch a trade association with other producers to market the attraction of natural diamonds. At a plant about 30 miles west of London, De Beers scientists have been working to detect synthetic diamonds for years. The company has its own synthetic-diamond facility, called Element Six, which produces synthetic diamonds for industrial purposes, such as drilling, and helps De Beers keep up with technological developments. It also started marketing a new, cheap detector called PhosView, that uses ultraviolet light to detect lab-grown stones that quickly screens tiny synthetic diamonds. “We’re very focused on detection,” says Simon Lawson, head of Technologies U.K. at De Beers. “It underpins the integrity of natural diamonds and ensures that consumers cannot be duped into buying a synthetic diamond.” Despite the increased competition, De Beers has no intention of selling synthetics. “De Beers’ focus is on natural diamonds,” says Lawson. “We would not do anything that would cannibalize that industry.”

Submission + - Security Firm Shows How to Hack a US Voting Machine (bleepingcomputer.com) 1

An anonymous reader writes: Three days before the US Presidential Election takes place, California-based security firm Cylance showed the world how easy is to hack one of the many voting machine models that will be deployed at voting stations across the US on Election Day. The machine that Cylance researchers chose for their test was the Sequoia AVC Edge Mk1, one of the most popular models. The technique researchers created modifies the Public Counter, but also the Protective Counter, which is a backup mechanism that acts as a redundant verification system to ensure the first vote results are valid. Physical access is needed to hack the machine, but the hack takes a short time to perform. According to statements from FBI Director James Comey, hacking voting machines doesn't seem to be an issue as problematic as voter registration systems, which are connected to the Internet.

And again, these are the voter registration systems. This is very different from the vote system in the United States, which is very very hard for someone to hack into, cause it's so clunky and dispersed. It's Mary and Fred putting a machine under the basketball hoop at the gym. Those things are not connected to the Internet, but the voter registration are.


Submission + - All about life around an M-class star

RockDoctor writes: Arxiv has a review article on "The Habitability of Planets Orbiting M-dwarf Stars" (PDF). Although Star Trek had a minor smattering of "M-class planets" — a designation that tells one nothing of substance, "M-class star" is a much more meaningful designation of colour, with two size classes, the dwarfs and the red giants. M-class ("red") giants are not prospective for life — it's a short duration of the life of any star that gets into that state (most won't) and it ends badly for anything not made of tungsten carbide. M-class dwarfs, on the other hand "are our galaxy’s silent majority: they constitute 70% of the stars in the Milky Way and 40% of its stellar mass budget, yet not a single M dwarf is visible to the naked eye. They span nearly an order of magnitude in mass and two orders of magnitude in luminosity. [...] As a spectral class, M dwarfs span a larger range in mass than the next three spectral classes (F,G & K) combined." But probably the most important reason for paying attention to them is their persistence — an M-dwarf of 1/10 the mass of the Sun will burn for around 1000 times the time that the Sun does. No M-dwarf has ever turned into a red giant — there hasn't been enough time.

Therefore, if humanity ever meets an alien species, the odds of them coming from an M-dwarf are already high. If humanity ever meets an alien species that has been around a billion years longer than us and has technology we can't even dream of, then the odds of it coming from an M-dwarf are overwhelmingly high. Clearly, understanding these stars, and the influences of these stars range of properties on their planets and possible inhabitants (including our distant descendants) is a good idea. And this review article will keep you up to date for your next term paper. Or for keeping your SF magnum opus somewhere with a passing acquaintance with reality.

Submission + - All New 'Starship Troopers' Reboot in the Works 1

HughPickens.com writes: Hollywood Reporter reports that Columbia Pictures is rebooting Starship Troopers, the 1997 sci-fi film directed by Paul Verhoeven. The studio is not remaking the film but is said to be going back to the original Heinlein novel for an all-new take and no personnel from the 1997 film are involved. Verhoeven’s film, which starred Casper van Dien and Denise Richards, received critical acclaim for its surprising satire but was a disappointment at the box office, making just $121m worldwide from a $105m budget. The original movie, considered a mixed success at the time of its release went on to achieve a cult following and during the DVD boom of the 2000s, it became a mini-franchise for the studio, which produced three additional direct-to-DVD movies. The newly announced reboot is said to be more faithful to Robert A. Heinlein's original book, but is that a good idea? "Starship Troopers has been decried as promoting fascism and being racist in its creation of a society where democracy has been severely restricted and warfare against the alien "bugs" comes with its own coded terminology that hews too closely to real-world racism for many," says Graeme McMillan. "The question then becomes: in updating Starship Troopers to make it more acceptable to today's audience, can it still manage to remain faithful enough to Heinlein's original to please the existing fan base?"

Submission + - Researchers Create Undetectable Rootkit That Targets Industrial Equipment

An anonymous reader writes: Two researchers presenting at the Black Hat Europe security conference in London revealed a method of infecting industrial equipment with an undetectable rootkit component that can wreak havoc and disrupt the normal operations of critical infrastructure all over the world.

The attack targets PLCs (Programmable Logic Controllers), devices that sit between normal computers that run industrial monitoring software and the actual industrial equipment, such as motors, valves, sensors, breakers, alarms, and others.

Researchers say they packed their attack as loadable kernel module (LKM), which makes it both undetectable and reboot persistent. The attack goes after PLC pin configurations, meaning the PLC won't be able to tell which are the actual input and output pins, allowing the attacker full-control to make up bogus sensor data, send fake commands, or block legitimate ones.

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