Space

The Oceanic Pole of Inaccessibility: Where Spacecraft Go To Die (bbc.com) 56

dryriver writes: Whether you launch a satellite into space or an entire space station like the Russian Mir, the Chinese Tiangong-1 or the International Space Station, what goes up must eventually come down -- re-enter earth's atmosphere. The greater the mass of what is in space -- Mir weighed 120 tons, the ISS weighs 450 tons and will be decommissioned in a decade -- the greater the likelihood that larger parts will not burn up completely during re-entry and crash to earth at high velocity. So there is a need for a place on earth where things falling back from space are least likely to cause damage or human casualties. The Oceanic Pole Of Inaccessibility is one of two such places.

The place furthest away from land -- it lies in the South Pacific some 2,700km (1,680 miles) south of the Pitcairn Islands -- somewhere in the no-man's land, or rather no-man's-sea, between Australia, New Zealand and South America, has become a favorite crash site for returning space equipment. "Scattered over an area of approximately 1,500 sq km (580 sq miles) on the ocean floor of this region is a graveyard of satellites. At last count there were more than 260 of them, mostly Russian," reports the BBC. "The wreckage of the Space Station Mir also lies there... Many times a year the supply module that goes to the International Space Station burns up in this region incinerating the station's waste." The International Space Station will also be carefully brought down in this region when its mission ends. No one is in any danger because of this controlled re-entry into our atmosphere. The region is not fished because oceanic currents avoid the area and do not bring nutrients to it, making marine life scarce.

Businesses

Tesla Hit With Another Lawsuit, This Time Alleging Anti-LGBT Harassment (theverge.com) 160

Earlier this week, Tesla was hit with a lawsuit for racial harassment in its factories. Now, a newer lawsuit has been filed against the company alleging anti-LGBT harassment. An anonymous reader shares a report from The Verge: A former employee at Tesla's Fremont factory filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the electric carmaker, alleging he was fired in retaliation after seeking protection from anti-gay harassment, The Guardian reported today. The defendant, an assembly line worker named Jorge Ferro, claims he was taunted for being gay and threatened with violence. "Watch your back," one supervisor told him after mocking his "gay tight" clothing, the paper said. After complaining to an HR representative, Ferro was repeatedly moved to different assembly lines, but the harassment didn't stop. Ultimately, HR told him there was "no place for handicapped people at Tesla" after noticing an old scar on his wrist, according to The Guardian. He was sent home, and eventually terminated. In a strongly worded statement to the paper, Tesla denied the allegations and defended itself against the charges. "There is no company on earth with a better track record than Tesla," a spokesperson said.
DRM

Denuvo's DRM Now Being Cracked Within Hours of Release (arstechnica.com) 111

Denuvo, an anti-tamper technology and digital rights management scheme, isn't doing a very good job preventing PC games from being copied. According to Ars Technica, Denuvo releases are being publicly cracked within a day of their launch. From the report: This week's release of South Park: The Fractured but Whole is the latest to see its protections broken less than 24 hours after its release, but it's not alone. Middle Earth: Shadow of War was broken within a day last week, and last month saw cracks for Total War: Warhammer 2 and FIFA 18 the very same day as their public release. Then there's The Evil Within 2, which reportedly used Denuvo in prerelease review copies but then launched without that protection last week, effectively ceding the game to immediate potential piracy. Those nearly instant Denuvo cracks follow summer releases like Sonic Mania, Tekken 7, and Prey, all of which saw DRM protection cracked within four to nine days of release. But even that small difference in the "uncracked" protection window can be important for game publishers, who usually see a large proportion of their legitimate sales in those first few days of availability. The presence of an easy-to-find cracked version in that launch window (or lack thereof) could have a significant effect on the initial sales momentum for a big release. If Denuvo can no longer provide even a single full day of protection from cracks, though, that protection is going to look a lot less valuable to publishers.
Moon

Discovery of 50km Cave Raises Hopes For Human Colonisation of Moon (theguardian.com) 139

New submitter Zorro shares a report: Scientists have fantasised for centuries about humans colonising the moon. That day may have drawn a little closer after Japan's space agency said it had discovered an enormous cave beneath the lunar surface that could be turned into an exploration base for astronauts. The discovery, by Japan's Selenological and Engineering Explorer (Selene) probe, comes as several countries vie to follow the US in sending manned missions to the moon. Using a radar sounder system that can examine underground structures, the orbiter initially found an opening 50 metres wide and 50 metres deep, prompting speculation that there could be a larger hollow. This week scientists at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (Jaxa) confirmed the presence of a cave after examining the hole using radio waves. The chasm, 50km (31 miles) long and 100 metres wide, appears to be structurally sound and its rocks may contain ice or water deposits that could be turned into fuel, according to data sent back by the orbiter, nicknamed Kaguya after the moon princess in a Japanese fairytale. Jaxa believes the cave, located from a few dozen metres to 200 metres beneath an area of volcanic domes known as the Marius Hills on the moon's near side, is a lava tube created during volcanic activity about 3.5bn years ago.
Earth

Turning the Optical Fiber Network Into a Giant Earthquake Sensor (ieee.org) 15

Tekla Perry writes: Researchers at Stanford have demonstrated that they can use ordinary, underground fiber optic cables to monitor for earthquakes, by using innate impurities in the fiber as virtual sensors. "People didn't believe this would work," said one of the researchers. "They always assumed that an uncoupled optical fiber would generate too much signal noise to be useful." They plan a larger test installation in 2018. Their biggest challenge, they say, will not be perfecting the algorithms but rather convincing telcos to allow the technology to piggyback on existing telecommunications lines. Meanwhile, the same data is being used for an art project that visualizes the activity of pedestrians, bicycles, cars, and fountains on the surface above the cables.
Earth

Flying Insects Have Been Disappearing Over the Past Few Decades, Study Shows (theguardian.com) 178

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: The abundance of flying insects has plunged by three-quarters over the past 25 years, according to a new study that has shocked scientists. Insects are an integral part of life on Earth as both pollinators and prey for other wildlife and it was known that some species such as butterflies were declining. But the newly revealed scale of the losses to all insects has prompted warnings that the world is "on course for ecological Armageddon," with profound impacts on human society. The new data was gathered in nature reserves across Germany but has implications for all landscapes dominated by agriculture, the researchers said. The cause of the huge decline is as yet unclear, although the destruction of wild areas and widespread use of pesticides are the most likely factors and climate change may play a role. The scientists were able to rule out weather and changes to landscape in the reserves as causes, but data on pesticide levels has not been collected. The research, published in the journal Plos One, is based on the work of dozens of amateur entomologists across Germany who began using strictly standardized ways of collecting insects in 1989.
Earth

Ophelia Became a Major Hurricane Where No Storm Had Before (arstechnica.com) 179

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The system formerly known as Hurricane Ophelia is moving into Ireland on Monday, bringing "status red" weather throughout the day to the island. The Irish National Meteorological Service, Met Eireann, has warned that, "Violent and destructive gusts of 120 to 150km/h are forecast countrywide, and in excess of these values in some very exposed and hilly areas. There is a danger to life and property." Ophelia transitioned from a hurricane to an extra-tropical system on Sunday, but that only marginally diminished its threat to Ireland and the United Kingdom on Monday, before it likely dissipates near Norway on Tuesday. The primary threat from the system was high winds, with heavy rains. Forecasters marveled at the intensification of Ophelia on Saturday, as it reached Category 3 status on the Saffir-Simpson scale and became a major hurricane. For a storm in the Atlantic basin, this is the farthest east that a major hurricane has been recorded during the satellite era of observations. Additionally, it was the farthest north, at 35.9 degrees north, that an Atlantic major hurricane has existed this late in the year since 1939.
Earth

Nobel Prize Winner Argues Tech Companies Should Be Changing The World (qz.com) 152

An anonymous reader writes: Tech companies are competing to serve the wealthy, argues the winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize, complaining there's no "global vision," with big innovations instead "designed and dedicated mostly for commercial successes... while trillions of dollars are invested in developing robotics and artificial intelligence for military and commercial purposes, there is little interest in applying technology to overcome the massive human problems of the world." A genius in the tech industry "can dedicate his work to creating a medical breakthrough that will save thousands of lives -- or he can develop an app that will let people amuse themselves."

As an exception, he cites the low-cost Endless computer, which runs Linux and has 50,000 Wikipedia articles pre-installed to enable offline research -- plus more than 100 applications -- for a price of just $79. "One part of Endless's business is operated like a conventional, profit-seeking company, while the other part is a social business that provides underserved populations with educational, health, and creative services they were once denied. Endless is already being shipped around the globe by four of the five largest computer manufacturers. It has become the leading PC platform in Indonesia and much of Southeast Asia. It has also been selected as the standard operating system for the Brazilian Ministry of Education, and in coming months it will be adopted as the primary platform by a number of other Latin American countries."

The article is by Muhammad Yunus, who pioneered the concepts of microcredit and microfinance, and is taken from his new book, A World of Three Zeros: The New Economics of Zero Poverty, Zero Unemployment, and Zero Net Carbon Emissions.
China

8.5-Ton Chinese Space Station Will Crash To Earth In a Few Months (cnbc.com) 104

dryriver writes: China launched a space laboratory named Tiangong 1 into orbit in 2011. The space laboratory was supposed to become a symbol of China's ambitious bid to become a space superpower. After two years in space, Tiangong 1 started experiencing technical failure. Last year Chinese officials confirmed that the space laboratory had to be scrapped. The 8.5 ton heavy space laboratory has begun its descent towards Earth and is expected to crash back to Earth within the next few months.

Most of the laboratory is expected to burn up in earth's atmosphere, but experts believe that pieces as heavy as 100 kilograms (220 pounds) may survive re-entry and impact earth's surface. Nobody will be able to predict with any precision where those chunks of space laboratory will land on Earth until a few hours before re-entry occurs. The chance that anyone would be harmed by Tiangong-1's debris is considered unlikely.


When NASA's SkyLab fell to earth in 1979, an Australian town fined them $400 -- for littering.
Earth

Startup Plans To Clean Up Cigarette Butts Using Crows (popularmechanics.com) 205

AmiMoJo writes: A startup in the Netherlands is developing the "Crowbar," a bird feeder that takes discarded cigarette butts as payment for dispensing food. A camera recognises cigarette filters and rejects any other objects placed in the Crowbar. The idea isn't entirely original, a gentleman in the US has already built a similar device and trained crows to deposit coins. The hope is that crows will be able to keep cities clean, sort through refuse and perform other tasks for our mutual benefit.
Popular Mechanics notes that crows "are some of the smartest animals in the world," suggesting this means "we could harness their abilities for the greater good of our planet."
Businesses

The Real Inside Story of How Commodore Failed (youtube.com) 259

dryriver writes: Everybody who was into computers in the 1980s and 1990s remembers Commodore producing amazingly innovative, capable and popular multimedia and gaming computers one moment, and disappearing off the face of the earth the next, leaving only PCs and Macs standing. Much has been written about what went wrong with Commodore over the years, but always by outsiders looking in -- journalists, tech writers, not people who were on the inside. In a 34 minute long Youtube interview that surfaced on October 9th, former Commodore UK Managing Director David John Pleasance and Trevor Dickinson of A-EON Technology talk very frankly about how Commodore really failed, and just how crazy bad and preventable the business and tech decisions that killed Commodore were, from firing all Amiga engineers for no discernible reason, to hiring 40 IBM engineers who didn't understand multimedia computing, to not licensing the then-valuable Commodore Business Machines (CBM) brand to PC makers to generate an extra revenue stream, to one new manager suddenly deciding to manufacture in the Philippines -- a place where the man had a lady mistress apparently. The interview is a truly eye-opening preview of an upcoming book David John Pleasance is writing called Commodore: The Inside Story . The book will, for the first time, chronicle the fall of Commodore from the insider perspective of an actual Commodore Managing Director.
AI

We're Too Wise For Robots To Take Our Jobs, Alibaba's Jack Ma Says (scmp.com) 221

Have confidence in yourself -- technology will never replace human beings, insisted self-made billionaire Jack Ma in a keynote speech at Alibaba Cloud's Computing Conference in Hangzhou. From a report: There's one simple reason for that, the Alibaba founder said - we possess wisdom. "People are getting more worried about the future, about technology replacing humans, eliminating jobs and widening the gap between the rich and the poor," said Ma. "But I think these are empty worries. Technology exists for people. We worry about technology because we lack confidence in ourselves, and imagination for the future." Ma explained that humans are the only things on Earth that are wise. "People will always surpass machines because people possess wisdom," he said. Referencing AlphaGo, the Google artificial intelligence program that beat the world's top Go player at his own game, Ma said that there was no reason humanity should be saddened by the defeat. "AlphaGo? So what? AlphaGo should compete against AlphaGo 2.0, not us. There's no need to be upset that we lost. It shows that we're smart, because we created it."
Earth

Evidence Suggests Updated Timeline Towards Yellowstone's Supervolcano Eruption (nytimes.com) 319

Camel Pilot writes: Geologist have been aware of fresh magma moving in the Yellowstone's super volcano system. Previously this was thought to precede an eruption by thousands of years. Recent evidence by Hannah Shamloo, a graduate student at Arizona State University, demonstrates that perhaps the timeline from the underground basin filling to eruption is more on the scale of decades. A super volcano eruption has the power to alter life's story on this earth and even destroy all life on a continent. In light of this, it seems like a good time to invest some effort and resources into finding ways to prepare, delay or deflect the potential threat. The research was presented at the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior (IAVCEI) 2017 conference in Portland, Oregon.
Space

Scientists Discover Ring Around Dwarf Planet Haumea Beyond Neptune 49

A ring has been discovered around one of the dwarf planets that orbits the outer reaches of the solar system. Until now, ring-like structures had only been found around the four outer planets -- Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. The Guardian reports: "In 2014 we discovered that a very small body in the Centaurs region [an area of small celestial bodies between the asteroid belt and Neptune] had a ring and at that time it seemed to be a very weird thing," explained Dr Jose Ortiz, whose group at the Instituto de Astrofisica de Andalucia in Granada made the discovery described in the journal Nature. "We didn't expect to find a ring around Haumea, but we were not too surprised either." Haumea was recognized by the International Astronomical Union in 2008 and is one of five dwarf planets, alongside Pluto, Ceres, Eris and Makemake. They are located beyond Neptune -- 50 times farther away from the sun than Earth. Haumea, named after the Hawaiian goddess of childbirth, is unusual because of its elongated shape, comparable to a rugby ball, and its rapid rotation, spinning around once every 3.9 hours. Its diameter is approximately a third of the size of Earth's moon.
Space

SpaceX Successfully Landed the 12th Falcon 9 Rocket of 2017 (theverge.com) 118

Shortly after launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket successfully landed on one of the company's drone ships in the ocean. "It marks the 12th time SpaceX has successfully landed the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket this year, the 18th overall, and the second this week," reports The Verge. "It was also the third time that the company has successfully launched and landed a rocket that had already flown." From the report: The vehicle for this mission has flown before: once back in February, when it lofted cargo to the International Space Station and then landed at SpaceX's ground-based Landing Zone 1. Going up on this flight is a hybrid satellite that will be used by two companies, SES and EchoStar. Called EchoStar 105/SES-11, the satellite will sit in a high orbit 22,000 miles above Earth, providing high-definition broadcasts to the U.S. and other parts of North America. While this is the first time EchoStar is flying a payload on a used Falcon 9, this is familiar territory for SES. The company's SES-10 satellite went up on the first "re-flight" in March. And SES has made it very clear that it is eager to fly its satellites on previously flown boosters.
Earth

A Giant, Mysterious Hole Has Opened Up In Antarctica (vice.com) 270

Scientists are perplexed over a giant hole that has opened up in Antarctica. According to Motherboard, the "gigantic, mysterious hole" is as large as Lake Superior or the state of Maine. From the report: The gigantic, mysterious hole "is quite remarkable," atmospheric physicist Kent Moore, a professor at the University of Toronto's Mississauga campus, told me over the phone. "It looks like you just punched a hole in the ice." Areas of open water surrounded by sea ice, such as this one, are known as polynyas. They form in coastal regions of Antarctica, Moore told me. What's strange here, though, is that this polynya is "deep in the ice pack," he said, and must have formed through other processes that aren't understood. "This is hundreds of kilometers from the ice edge. If we didn't have a satellite, we wouldn't know it was there." (It measured 80,000 km^2 at its peak.) "This is now the second year in a row it's opened after 40 years of not being there," Moore said. (It opened around September 9.) "We're still trying to figure out what's going on."
Japan

Tokyo Preparing For Floods 'Beyond Anything We've Seen' (tampabay.com) 98

In the face of an era of extreme weather brought on by climate change, global cities are working to improve their defenses. The New York Times reports (Warning: may be paywalled; alternative source) of Tokyo's $2 billion underground anti-flood system that consists of tunnels that divert water away from the region's most vulnerable floodplains. The city is "preparing for flooding beyond anything we've seen," says Kuniharu Abe, head of the underground site. From the report: But even in Tokyo, the onset of more frequent and intense storms has forced officials to question whether the region's protections are strong enough, a concern that has become more urgent as the city prepares to host the 2020 Olympic Games. Across Japan, rainfall measuring more than 2 inches an hour has increased 30 percent over the past three decades, the Japan Meteorological Agency estimates. The frequency of rainfall of more than 3 inches an hour has jumped 70 percent. The agency attributes the increase of these intense rains to global warming, heralding a new era in a country that is among the world's wettest, with a language that has dozens of words for rain. [...]

Experts have also questioned the wisdom of erecting more concrete defenses in a country that has dammed most of its major river systems and fortified entire shorelines with breakwaters and concrete blocks. Some of these protections, they say, only encourage development in regions that could still be vulnerable to future flooding. In eastern Saitama, where the Kasukabe facility has done the most to reduce floods, local industry has flourished; the region has successfully attracted several large e-commerce distribution centers and a new shopping mall. Still, the Kasukabe operation remains a critical part of Tokyo's defenses, say officials at Japan's Land Ministry, which runs the site. Five vertical, underground cisterns, almost 250 feet deep, take in stormwater from four rivers north of Tokyo. A series of tunnels connect the cisterns to a vast tank, larger than a soccer field, with ceilings held up by 60-foot pillars that give the space a temple-like feel. From that tank, industrial pumps discharge the floodwater at a controlled pace into the Edo river, a larger river system that flushes the water into Tokyo Bay.

Mars

SpaceX's Mars Vision Puts Pressure on NASA's Manned Exploration Programs (marketwatch.com) 142

An anonymous reader shares a report: Entrepreneur Elon Musk's announcement late last month accelerating plans for manned flights to Mars ratchets up political and public relations pressure on NASA's efforts to reach the same goal. With Musk publicly laying out a much faster schedule than NASA -- while contending his vision is less expensive and could be financed primarily with private funds -- a debate unlike any before is shaping up over the direction of U.S. space policy. Industry officials and space experts consider the proposal by Musk's Space Exploration to land people on the red planet around the middle of the next decade extremely optimistic. Some supporters concede the deadline appears ambitious even for reaching the moon, while Musk himself acknowledged some of his projected dates are merely "aspirational." But the National Aeronautics and Space Administration doesn't envision getting astronauts to Mars until at least a decade later, a timeline NASA is finding increasingly hard to defend in the face of criticism that it is too slow.
Earth

Carbon-Emitting Soil Could Speed Global Warming, Warns 26-Year Study (theguardian.com) 203

An anonymous reader quote the Guardian: Warming soil releases more carbon into the atmosphere than previously thought, suggesting a potentially disastrous feedback mechanism whereby increases in global temperatures will trigger massive new carbon releases in a cycle that may be impossible to break... The 26-year study is one of the biggest of its kind, and is a groundbreaking addition to our scant knowledge of exactly how warming will affect natural systems. Potential feedback loops, or tipping points, have long been suspected to exist by scientists, and there is some evidence for them in the geological record. What appears to happen is that once warming reaches a certain point, these natural biological factors kick in and can lead to a runaway, and potentially unstoppable, increase in warming...

In the Science study, researchers examined plots of soil in the Harvard Forest in Massachusetts, a mixed hardwood forest in the U.S. They experimented by heating some of the plots with underground cables to 5C above normal levels, leaving others as a control. The long-term study revealed that in the first 10 years there was a strong increase in the carbon released from the heated plots, then a period of about seven years when the carbon release abated. But after this second calmer period, which the scientists attribute to the adjustment of the soil microbes to the warmer conditions, the release of carbon resumed its upward path. From 1991, when the experiment began, the plots subjected to 5C warming lost about 17% of the carbon that had been stored in the top 60cm of the soil, where the greatest concentration of organic matter is to be found...

Lead scientist Jerry Melillo, points out that currently 10 billion metric tons of carbon gets released into the atmosphere every year, but "The world's soils contain about 3,500 billion tons of carbon. If a significant amount of that is added to the atmosphere, due to microbial activity, that will accelerate the global warming process. Once this self-reinforcing feedback begins, there is no easy way to turn it off. There is no switch to flip."
ISS

Astronaut Scott Kelly Describes One Year In Space -- And Its After Effects (brisbanetimes.com.au) 200

53-year-old astronaut Scott Kelly shared a dramatic excerpt from his new book Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery in the Brisbane Times, describing his first 48 hours back on earth and what he'd learned on the mission: I push back from the table and struggle to stand up, feeling like a very old man getting out of a recliner... I make it to my bedroom without incident and close the door behind me. Every part of my body hurts. All my joints and all of my muscles are protesting the crushing pressure of gravity. I'm also nauseated, though I haven't thrown up... When I'm finally vertical, the pain in my legs is awful, and on top of that pain I feel a sensation that's even more alarming: it feels as though all the blood in my body is rushing to my legs, like the sensation of the blood rushing to your head when you do a handstand, but in reverse. I can feel the tissue in my legs swelling... Normally if I woke up feeling like this, I would go to the emergency room. But no one at the hospital will have seen symptoms of having been in space for a year...

Our space agencies won't be able to push out farther into space, to a destination like Mars, until we can learn more about how to strengthen the weakest links in the chain that make space flight possible: the human body and mind... [V]ery little is known about what occurs after month six. The symptoms may get precipitously worse in the ninth month, for instance, or they may level off. We don't know, and there is only one way to find out... On my previous flight to the space station, a mission of 159 days, I lost bone mass, my muscles atrophied, and my blood redistributed itself in my body, which strained and shrank the walls of my heart. More troubling, I experienced problems with my vision, as many other astronauts had. I had been exposed to more than 30 times the radiation of a person on Earth, equivalent to about 10 chest X-rays every day. This exposure would increase my risk of a fatal cancer for the rest of my life.

Kelly says the Space Station crew performed more than 400 experiments, though about 25% of his time went to tracking his own health. "If we could learn how to counteract the devastating impact of bone loss in microgravity, the solutions could well be applied to osteoporosis and other bone diseases. If we could learn how to keep our hearts healthy in space, that knowledge could be useful on Earth." Kelly says he felt better a few months after returning to earth, adding "It's gratifying to see how curious people are about my mission, how much children instinctively feel the excitement and wonder of space flight, and how many people think, as I do, that Mars is the next step... I know now that if we decide to do it, we can."

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