sciencehabit (1205606) writes "A flock of starlings flies as one, a spectacular display in which each bird flits about as if in a well-choreographed dance. Everyone seems to know exactly when and where to turn. Now, for the first time, researchers have measured how that knowledge moves through the flock—a behavior that mirrors certain quantum phenomena of liquid helium. Some of the more interesting findings: Tracking data showed that the message for a flock to turn started from a handful of birds and swept through the flock at a constant speed between 20 and 40 meters per second. That means that for a group of 400 birds, it takes just a little more than a half-second for the whole flock to turn."
Space.com gives an overview of the training that four astronauts are undergoing over 9 days submerged off the coast of Florida near Key Largo. The training mission, dubbed NEEMO 18, is one step toward a proposed (mid-2020s) mission to actually visit a captured asteroid in lunar orbit. In addition to the complications of working outside their school-bus sized habitat while awkwardly suited up in a low-gravity (or at least high buoyancy) environment, their mission also includes a 10-minute communications delay, to simulate the high-latency communications with mission control that would be inevitable for an actual asteroid mission. The experiments astronauts are doing during the mission, which began Monday (July 21), range from the physical to the behavioral. For example, each of the crew members sports a sensor that records how close the crew members work with each other inside the school-bus-size habitat. ... Communications with NEEMO Mission Control is usually constant, and there is the ability to send items to and from the habitat as needed. Also living inside the habitat are two support staff who are assisting with Aquarius maintenance and systems, as required. The crew members also have Internet and phone service to talk with family and friends.
mikejuk (1801200) writes After seven days the Jibo project has over $1.1 million. What is surprising is that Jibo isn't a complex piece of hardware that will do the dishes and pick up clothes. It doesn't move around at all. It just sits and interacts with the family using a camera, microphones and a voice. It is a social robot, the speciality of the founder, MIT's, Cynthia Breazeal. The idea is that this robot will be your friend, take photos, remind you of appointments, order takeaway and tell the kids a story. If you watch the promo video then you can't help but think that this is all too polished and the real thing will fall flat on its face when delivered. If it does work then worry about the hundreds of kids needing psychiatric counselling — shades of Robbie in I, Robot. Even if it is hopelessly hyped — there is a development system and I want one. It is the early days of the home computer all over again.
StartsWithABang (3485481) writes On Wednesday, The Washington Post ran a story about a very large solar flare two years ago that missed Earth, but not by too much. From a scientific point of view, what is it that happens when a solar flare interacts with Earth, and what are the potential dangers to both humans and humanities infrastructure? A very good overview, complete with what you can do — as both an individual and a power company — to minimize the risk and the damage when the big one comes. Unlike asteroids, these events happen every few centuries, and in our age of electronics, would now create a legitimate disaster.
An anonymous reader writes The FCC issued a notice on Wednesday reminding ISPs that, according to the still-intact transparency rule of the 2010 Open Internet Order, they are required to be transparent about their services. "The FCC's transparency rule requires that consumers get the information they need to make informed choices about the broadband services they purchase." Applicable scenarios include "poorly worded service offers or inaccurate counts of data against a data cap...[as well as] blocking or slowing certain types of traffic without explaining that to the customer." The transparency rule gives the FCC the power to fine ISPs for non-compliance.
jfruh writes While the Internet has made communications easier, that ease had made us very dependent on the Internet for communications — and, when disaster strikes, power and infrastructure outages tend to shut down those communications networks when we need them most. But now researchers are examining how the so-called "Internet of Things" — the proliferating array of Internet-communicating devices in our lives — can transmit emergency messages via ad-hoc networks even when the Internet backbone in a region is inoperable.
Dave Knott writes: Scientists from the University of Maryland say they have turned thin air into an "optical fiber" that can transmit and amplify light signals without the need for any cables. As described in the research, this was accomplished by generating a laser with its light split into a ring of multiple beams forming a pipe. Very short and powerful pulses from the laser are used to heat the air molecules along the beam extremely quickly. Such rapid heating produces sound waves that take about a microsecond to converge to the center of the pipe, creating a high-density area surrounded by a low-density area left behind in the wake of the laser beams. The lower density region of air surrounding the center of the air waveguide has a lower refractive index, keeping the light focused, and allowing the higher-density region (with its correspondingly higher index of refraction) to act like an optical fiber. The findings, reported in the journal Optica, have applications in long range laser communications, high-resolution topographic mapping, air pollution and climate change research, and could also be used by the military to make laser weapons.
An anonymous reader writes If you're tired of yelling at the kids without the help of technology, Toyota has a van for you. From the article: "The latest version of the company's Sienna minivan has a feature called 'Driver Easy Speak.' It uses a built-in microphone to amplify a parent's voice through speakers in the back seats. Toyota says it added Easy Speak 'so parents don't have to shout to passengers in the back.' But chances are many parents will yell into the microphone anyway. And the feature only works one way, so the kids can't talk back. At least not with amplified voices. The feature is an option on the 2015 Sienna, which is being refreshed with a totally new interior. It also has an optional 'pull-down conversation mirror' that lets drivers check on kids without turning around."
jfruh writes While several U.S. judges have refused overly broad warrants that sought to grant police access to a suspect's complete Gmail account, a federal judge in New York State OK'd such an order this week. Judge Gabriel W. Gorenstein argued that a search of this type was no more invasive than the long-established practice of granting a warrant to copy and search the entire contents of a hard drive, and that alternatives, like asking Google employees to locate messages based on narrowly tailored criteria, risked excluding information that trained investigators could locate.
Taco Cowboy sends a report into China's development of anti-satellite technology, and efforts by the U.S. and Japan to build defenses for this new potential battleground. Last year, China launched what they said was a science space mission, but they did so at night and with a truck-based launch system, which are not generally used for science projects. Experts believe this was actually a missile test for targets in geostationary orbit. U.S. and Japanese analysts say China has the most aggressive satellite attack program in the world. It has staged at least six ASAT missile tests over the past nine years, including the destruction of a defunct Chinese weather satellite in 2007. ... Besides testing missiles that can intercept and destroy satellites, the Chinese have developed jamming techniques to disrupt satellite communications. In addition, ... the Chinese have studied ground-based lasers that could take down a satellite's solar panels, and satellites equipped with grappling arms that could co-orbit and then disable expensive U.S. hardware. To defend themselves against China, the U.S. and Japan are in the early stages of integrating their space programs as part of negotiations to update their defense policy guidelines. ... Both countries have sunk billions of dollars into a sophisticated missile defense system that relies in part on data from U.S. spy satellites. That's why strategists working for China's People's Liberation Army have published numerous articles in defense journals about the strategic value of chipping away at U.S. domination in space.
Bruce Perens writes The TAPR Digital Communications Conference has been covered twice here and is a great meeting on leading-edge wireless technology, mostly done as Open Hardware and Open Source software. Free videos of the September 2014 presentations will be made available if you help via Kickstarter. For an idea of what's in them, see the Dayton Hamvention interviews covering Whitebox, our Open Hardware handheld software-defined radio transceiver, and Michael Ossman's HackRF, a programmable Open Hardware transceiver for wireless security exploration and other wireless research. Last year's TAPR DCC presentations are at the Ham Radio Now channel on Youtube.
Dave Knott (2917251) writes The media giant 21st Century Fox, the empire run by Rupert Murdoch, made an $80 billion takeover bid in recent weeks for Time Warner Inc. but was rebuffed. Time Warner on Wednesday confirmed that it had rejected a cash and stock offer from 21st Century Fox, saying that it was not in the company's best interests. Time Warner's board discussed the proposal at length and early this month it sent a terse letter rejecting the offer, saying the company was better off remaining independent. A Time Warner statement pointed to its own strategic plan, what it said was "uncertainty" over the value of 21st Century Fox stock and regulatory risks as among the reasons for its rebuff. The company said that 21st Century Fox had offered a premium of roughly 22 percent to Time Warner's closing price on Tuesday. Shares of Time Warner were up about 20 percent in premarket trading on Wednesday morning. The combined company would have total revenue of $65 billion.
DavidGilbert99 (2607235) writes "Google has announced Project Zero, a group of security experts who will hunt down security flaws in all software which touches the Internet. Among the group is a 24-year-old called George Hotz who shot to fame in 2007 when he was the first to unlock the iPhone before reverse engineering the PlayStation 3." Quoting the Project Zero announcement: You should be able to use the web without fear that a criminal or state-sponsored actor is exploiting software bugs to infect your computer, steal secrets or monitor your communications. Yet in sophisticated attacks, we see the use of "zero-day" vulnerabilities to target, for example, human rights activists or to conduct industrial espionage. This needs to stop. ... We're not placing any particular bounds on this project and will work to improve the security of any software depended upon by large numbers of people, paying careful attention to the techniques, targets and motivations of attackers. All issues will be reported to the usual public vulnerability databases after vendors are given a short period to fix their systems and software.
An anonymous reader writes Nest, Big A%@ Fans, Yale door locks, ARM, Freescale, Samsung and Silicon Labs launch the Thread Group, a standards initiative for using 6LoWPAN-based network technology with mesh capabilities optimized for home automation. Because it blends IPv6 with low-power 802.15.4 radios, a layer of security, peer-to-peer communications, and other special sauce for whole-house connectivity, Thread looks extremely promising in an increasingly crowded field. Plus, millions of units of enabled products are already deployed by way of Nest's little-known Weave technology. There's a press release. Thread is based on open technology, but it's not clear that the protocol specifications will be available for non-members. No hardware changes are required for devices with 802.15.4 radios, and the group claims the new protocol fixes enough flaws in existing standards (mostly ZigBee) to be worth the software upgrade. Promises include increased reliability (mesh network with multiple routing points), lower power use (by not requiring sensors to wake up for traffic from other sensors), and easier bridging between the mesh network and Internet (thanks to using IPv6).
mpicpp (3454017) writes with news that Germany may be joining Russia in a paranoid switch from computers to typewriters for sensitive documents. From the article: Patrick Sensburg, chairman of the German parliament's National Security Agency investigative committee, now says he's considering expanding the use of manual typewriters to carry out his group's work. ... Sensburg said that the committee is taking its operational security very seriously. "In fact, we already have [a typewriter], and it's even a non-electronic typewriter," he said. If Sensburg's suggestion takes flight, the country would be taking a page out of the Russian playbook. Last year, the agency in charge of securing communications from the Kremlin announced that it wanted to spend 486,000 rubles (about $14,800) to buy 20 electric typewriters as a way to avoid digital leaks.
AHuxley (892839) writes "The Desk reports on a FOIA request covering "... all e-mails sent by Edward Snowden" and the NSA's refusal to release all documents. "The National Security Agency has acknowledged it retains a record of e-mail communications from former contractor turned whistleblower Edward Snowden, but says those records are exempt from public disclosure under the federal Freedom of Information Act. In a letter responding to a June 27 FOIA request from The Desk, the NSA’s chief FOIA officer Pamela Phillips wrote that while the agency has retained records related to Snowden’s employment as a contractor, they are being withheld from public examination because, among other things, releasing the records 'could interfere with law enforcement proceedings, could cause an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy, could reveal the identities of confidential sources or would reveal law enforcement techniques and procedures.' Other records are being withheld because those documents were 'also found to be currently and properly classifiedand remains classified TOP SECRET, SECRET and CONFIDENTIAL.' The letter marks the first time the NSA has publicly acknowledged retaining communication and employment records related to Snowden’s time as a contractor."
Iddo Genuth (903542) writes "Israeli scientists from the Tel Aviv University perfected a method for using cell phone service towers' microwave emitters to measure rain and snow and even (for the first time ) detect fog with great accuracy over vast areas in real time. The research team members have analyzed endless amounts of raw cellular data and developed more accurate ways to measure meteorological information and added more parameters that they can now measure using their growing database. When combined with existing meteorological monitoring technologies such as radars and local ground based weather stations, the results show unprecedented level of accuracy that can give better and further weather forecast as well as special warnings about upcoming floods, fog and hail which can affect both people and crop production."
New submitter Joel Lehtonen (3743763) writes "The Finnish national digital TV broadcaster Digita is co-operating with startup company Koodilehto to start transmission of Bitcoin blockchain and transactions in Terrestrial Digital TV (DVB-T) signal that covers almost the entire Finnish population of 5 million people. The pilot broadcasting starts September 1st and lasts two months. The broadcast can be received by a computer with any DVB-T adapter (like this $20 dongle). A commercial production phase is planned to begin later this year."
An anonymous reader writes "O3b Networks is aiming to provide internet access through satellite, to the "other three billion" people in under-served equatorial regions (Africa, the Pacific, South America). O3b launched four more satellites [Thursday], to add to the four they already have in orbit. This is a very international effort; a Russian Soyuz rocket went up from South America, carrying satellites built in France. There's a video of the rocket and payloads coming together and a video of the rocket launch. There's also an academic paper describing using the O3b system from the Cook Islands in the Pacific, giving an idea of what it does and those all-important ping times."
itwbennett writes: The Federal Communications Commission, in a 3-2 party-line vote Friday, approved a plan to revamp the 17-year-old E-Rate program, which pays for telecom services for schools and libraries, by phasing out funding for voice service, Web hosting and paging services, and redirecting money to Wi-Fi. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler had proposed a $5 billion budget for Wi-Fi, but Republican commissioners and some lawmakers had questioned where the money would come from. Still, the E-Rate revamp (PDF) approved Friday contemplates a $1 billion-a-year target for Wi-Fi projects "year after year," Wheeler said.