Scientists from the International Research School of Planetary Sciences, Università d’Annunzio, Pescara[Italian language link], report that features identified on Mars strengthen the possibility of groundwater now or in the past, and that similar features on Earth have conditions that are amenable to microbial life.
Science Daily gives an overview of the research:
Monica Pondrelli and colleagues investigated the Equatorial Layered Deposits (ELDs) of Arabia Terra in Firsoff crater area, Mars, to understand their formation and potential habitability. On the plateau, ELDs consist of rare mounds, flat-lying deposits, and cross-bedded dune fields. Pondrelli and colleagues interpret the mounds as smaller spring deposits, the flat-lying deposits as playa, and the cross-bedded dune fields as aeolian.
They write that groundwater fluctuations appear to be the major factor controlling ELD deposition.
Pondrelli and colleagues also note that the ELDs inside the craters would likely have originated by fluid upwelling through the fissure ridges and the mounds, and that lead to evaporite precipitation. The presence of spring and playa deposits points to the possible presence of a hydrological cycle, driving groundwater upwelling on Mars at surface temperatures above freezing.
The research [Abstract only; full paper pay-walled] is being published in the Geological Society of America's Bulletin.
Mars holds a special place in the human imagination, but scraping dirt there looking for life seems like weak beer now that we know liquid water exists on Europa and Enceladus, or that a hydro-carbon based life might have evolved on Titan where methane flows on the surface.
The Morris County Public Safety Training Academy in Morristown, New Jersey now provides a virtual reality-based training program for the Morris County Poice. The program is intended to help officers hone their use of force decision-making skills.
From the Wired article by Issie Lapowsky:
this system, designed by a company called VirTra, is actually critical in helping police officers hone their skills as decision makers before they’re let out in the real world. Morris County installed the technology last November, smack dab in the middle of one of the most contentious periods in recent history between police and the public. And while Digiralomo, director of the county’s Department of Law and Public Safety, says that wasn’t why the academy bought the roughly $300,000 system, it’s hard not to see the connection.
Systems like VirTra’s are designed with just that in mind. “We’re finding there’s a need for cities and national agencies to train at above minimum standards,” says Bob Ferris, CEO and founder of VirTra. “With this new technology, they can better prepare officers for use of force and the life and death situations that often make the headlines.”
While the scenario described in the article isn't quite as cut and dried as this one, one can hope that this type of training can help police make better use of force decisions in the field.
The NYT reports that the Secret Service is recruiting some of its best athletes to serve as pretend fence jumpers at a rural training ground outside Washington in a program to develop a new fence around the White House that will keep intruders out without looking like a prison. Secret Service officials acknowledge that they cannot make the fence foolproof; that would require an aesthetically unacceptable and politically incorrect barrier. Prison or Soviet-style design is out, and so is anything that could hurt visitors, like sharp edges or protuberances. Instead, the goal is to deter climbers or at least delay them so that officers and attack dogs have a few more seconds to apprehend them. In addition, there might be alterations to the White House grounds but no moat, as recently suggested by Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee. “When I hear moat, I think medieval times,” says William Callahan, assistant director for the office of protective operation at the Secret Service.
The Times also reports that the Secret Service wants to spend $8 million to build a detailed replica of the White House in Beltsville, Maryland to aid in training officers and agents to protect the real thing. “Right now, we train on a parking lot, basically,” says Joseph P. Clancy, the director of the Secret Service. “We put up a makeshift fence and walk off the distance between the fence at the White House and the actual house itself. We don’t have the bushes, we don’t have the fountains, we don’t get a realistic look at the White House.” The proposed replica would provide what Clancy describes as a “more realistic environment, conducive to scenario-based training exercises,” for instructing those who must protect the president’s home. It would mimic the facade of the White House residence, the East and West Wings, guard booths, and the surrounding grounds and roads. The request comes six months after an intruder scaled a wrought-iron fence around the White House and ran through an unlocked front door of the residence and into the East Room before officers tackled him.
Eve Valkyrie is the spin off game of the popular MMO Eve, the difference between this and most other MMO's is that this game is going to be built with Virtual Reality (VR) in mind from the get go. With VR headsets not really main stream at all at the moment it is a bold strategy, but at the same time it holds a lot of intrigue and appeal to know more.
Washington Post's Fareed Zakaria writes:
If Americans are united in any conviction these days, it is that we urgently need to shift the country’s education toward the teaching of specific, technical skills. Every month, it seems, we hear about our children’s bad test scores in math and science — and about new initiatives from companies, universities or foundations to expand STEM courses (science, technology, engineering and math) and deemphasize the humanities. From President Obama on down, public officials have cautioned against pursuing degrees like art history, which are seen as expensive luxuries in today’s world. Republicans want to go several steps further and defund these kinds of majors. “Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists?” asked Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott. “I don’t think so.” America’s last bipartisan cause is this: A liberal education is irrelevant, and technical training is the new path forward. It is the only way, we are told, to ensure that Americans survive in an age defined by technology and shaped by global competition. The stakes could not be higher.
This dismissal of broad-based learning, however, comes from a fundamental misreading of the facts — and puts America on a dangerously narrow path for the future. The United States has led the world in economic dynamism, innovation and entrepreneurship thanks to exactly the kind of teaching we are now told to defenestrate. A broad general education helps foster critical thinking and creativity. Exposure to a variety of fields produces synergy and cross fertilization. Yes, science and technology are crucial components of this education, but so are English and philosophy. When unveiling a new edition of the iPad, Steve Jobs explained that “it’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough — that it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our hearts sing.”
It's another installment in a running debate, but with reports that 1/3 of student loans in the United States are delinquent, perhaps it's worth revisiting now.
An Anonymous Coward provides the following story:
A Guardian story from a week or two back shows that not all in the scientific community are as diligent or trustworthy in their research as would be hoped:
"It appeared to be one of archaeology's most sensational finds. The skull fragment discovered in a peat bog near Hamburg was more than 36,000 years old - and was the vital missing link between modern humans and Neanderthals. This, at least, is what Professor Reiner Protsch von Zieten - a distinguished, cigar-smoking German anthropologist - told his scientific colleagues, to global acclaim, after being invited to date the extremely rare skull.
However, the professor's 30-year-old academic career has now ended in disgrace after the revelation that he systematically falsified the dates on this and numerous other "stone age" relics."
"Anthropology is going to have to completely revise its picture of modern man between 40,000 and 10,000 years ago," said Thomas Terberger, the archaeologist who discovered the hoax. "Prof Protsch's work appeared to prove that anatomically modern humans and Neanderthals had co-existed, and perhaps even had children together. This now appears to be rubbish."
Damn it science.
CNN reports[Autoplay enabled] that:
Shortly before 9:00 AM today, a vehicle containing two individuals attempted an unauthorized entry at a National Security Agency gate," Jonathan Freed, NSA director of strategic communications, said in a statement.
Fox News is reporting[Autoplay enabled] that:
Two men dressed as women tried to ram a stolen car through the gate of the National Security Agency headquarters in Fort Meade with an SUV Monday morning, resulting in a shooting that left one person dead, according to authorities and sources familiar with the investigation.
The Washington Post provided further details:
Law enforcement officials familiar with the case said the two men in the vehicle were dressed as women and that they had earlier robbed another man of the SUV from a motel on Route 1 in Howard County. One of the officials, who spoke on the condition they not be named to discuss a pending case, said the incident began in Baltimore City on Sunday when the three met. The exact circumstances were still being sorted out by police. Several law enforcement officials said the trio spent the night at a Howard County motel.
[More after the break]
Twitter has launched a new app, called Periscope, that can stream live video to anyone online:
By feeding live video through Twitter to anyone online, these apps eliminate the need to upload to YouTube or transfer to broadcasters like CNN to get a wide audience.
While social media has empowered citizen journalism for years, the use of live video could become a powerful tool for these reporters and change the way people get news.
"It's not just that you can upload your video, but you can upload it to the social network, which is vastly more powerful than the Web because of that network of relationships and the virality," said Jeff Howe, a Northeastern University professor who specializes in media innovation.
"We bring you these amazing shots live from the citizen camera in the East Village..." [BUFFERING]...[BUFFERING]...[BUFFERING]
Yet another instance of using (abusing?) the blanket-term 'terrorism' comes from Europol's Rob Wainwright, through a BBC report:
"Tech firms should consider the impact sophisticated encryption software has on law enforcement", he said. "There is a significant capability gap that has to change if we're serious about ensuring the internet isn't abused and effectively enhancing the terrorist threat".
A spokesman for TechUK, the UK's technology trade association, said: "With the right resources and cooperation between the security agencies and technology companies, alongside a clear legal framework for that cooperation, we can ensure both national security and economic security are upheld".
Under the latest developments in the European Union driving it even further away from becoming a true federal state, i.e. Greece's denial of electing another "yes-men" government, Spain's upcoming elections and the possible election of a radical left government made from non-career politicians, UK's distancing itself from the EU, France's nationalistic party empowerment, Germany's internal turmoil and Iceland's withdrawal of their application for entering the EU (an event barely mentioned by mainstream media), there seems to be a rush to put pressure in signing away as many civil rights as possible, thus enhancing totalitarian-style control before "all left-hell breaks loose", something that Mr. Wainwright seems to be quite stressed about: "We have to make sure we reach the right balance by ensuring the fundamental principles of privacy are upheld so there's a lot of work for legislators and tech firms to do.", he highlights, tossing the ball to legislators.
Also mentioned in the article: how Apple's encryption, encrypted instant messaging apps and advocating surveillance are problems for law enforcement, all in the name of 'War on Terror'.
Spotted on phys.org is the story that 'exploding head syndrome' — a psychological condition in which sufferers are woken by sudden loud noises, or the sensation of an explosion inside their head, is more common in the young than previously thought.
Brian Sharpless, a Washington State University assistant professor and director of the university psychology clinic, found that nearly one in five—18 percent—of college students interviewed said they had experienced it at least once.
Some people are so put off by the experience that they don't even tell their spouse, he said."They may think they're going crazy and they don't know that a good chunk of the population has had the exact same thing," he said.
"But many people are at least relieved to get a diagnosis and learn that they aren't alone. "There's the possibility that just being able to recognize it and not be afraid of it can make it better," Sharpless said.
Medical Xpress has additional background on the condition.
Spotted at Bored Panda is a photo gallery on a Chinese farmer and his son creating giant transformer statues from scrap metal:
The Transformers franchise is hugely successful in China, so Yu Zhilin, who is a farmer but has a background in fine arts, decided to start creating robot statues from spare car parts during his spare time. Three years later, he finished his first recycled sculpture with his son Lu Yingyun, and the statues only got bigger from there. Now his enormous Optimus Prime and Bumblebee sculptures, assembled in his makeshift workshop, have gone viral!
Originally Spotted at SlipTalk
Alison Griswold writes that in an effort to improve its tanking image, SeaWorld launched a new advertising campaign this week to educate the public about its “leadership in the care of killer whales” and other work to protect whales in captivity and in the wild. As part of that head-on initiative, someone at SeaWorld decided to invite Twitter users to pose their questions to the company directly using the hashtag #AskSeaWorld. That was not a good idea as twitter users bashed Sea World relentlessly. "As easy as it is to make fun of SeaWorld here, the real question is why any company still thinks hosting an open Twitter forum could be good for public relations," writes Griswold. "So maybe SeaWorld’s social and PR folks just really have no idea what they’re doing. Even so, you’d think they’d have learned from the corporate failures before them."
Let’s review some of the times this has backfired, starting with the infamous McDonald’s #McDStories Twitter campaign of January 2012. Rather than prompting customers to share their heart-warming McDonald’s anecdotes, the hashtag gave critics a highly visible forum to share their top McDonald’s horror stories. MacDonalds pulled the campaign within two hours but they discovered that crowd-sourced campaigns are hard to control. Three years later the #McDStories hashtag is still gathering comments. "Twitter Q&As are a terrible idea.," concludes Griswold. "A well-meaning hashtag gives critics an easy way to assemble and voice their complaints in a public forum. Why companies still try them is a great mystery. Maybe they’ll all finally learn from SeaWorld and give this one horrible PR trick up for good."
Lily Hay Newman reports that when big news stories evolve into tragedies and people are flocking to read the latest bulletins online, many major newspapers have measures in place so there isn't a dancing Geico newt competing with dire news. The NYT confirmed that the site has a manual switch that can put individual articles in "sensitivity" mode. The settings seem to be either standard, "noads," or finally "tragedy," depending on the content of the story.
In the case of Germanwings Flight 4U 9525, the Times eventually upgraded to tragedy. "It’s interesting in part because it’s almost an acknowledgement that ads are invasive and uncomfortable," says Parker Higgins referring to the meta tag: meta property="ad_sensitivity" content="noads". "There are no Google results for the tag, so it looks like it hasn’t been documented," says Parker, "but it seems like a pretty low-tech way to keep possibly insensitive ads off a very sensitive story—an admirable effort." After all, the Internet is filled with lists of unfortunate ad placements, and the worst ones are probably upbeat ads intruding on solemn moments. "In these types of tragedy cases, it’s an editorial decision that we make," says a spokeswoman for CNN Digital.
The Verge had this take on some of the details of the hack and the ensuing fall-out:
...over the last few weeks, a California-based computer engineer — we’ll call him Patrick — has pitted heterosexual male against heterosexual male. Patrick’s program identifies two men who "like" one of his bait profiles (the first used prominent vlogger Boxxy's image; the second used an acquaintance who had given Patrick consent) and matched them to each other. The suitors’ messages — some aggressive, others mundane, but all of them unabashedly flirtatious — are then relayed, back and forth, to one another through the dummy profile.
Tinder is notoriously vulnerable to hacks: in 2013, a loophole in the app could be harnessed to reveal users’ locations to within 100 feet. Last summer, Valleywag reported on a number of techies who tweaked the system to automatically "mass-like" every girl they come across.
Patrick was a Tinder user (in fact, it's where he met his current girlfriend) and says that female friends of his would often complain about the messages they received on Tinder. "The original idea was to throw that back into the face of the people doing it to see how they would react." Initially, he set out to build a Twitter bot that tweeted every first message a female friend received, but then he looked into Tinder’s API and found it had little safeguard from more extensive tweaks. "Tinder makes it surprisingly easy to bot their system. As long as you have a Facebook authentication token, you can behave as a robot as if you were a person."
I remember when people would do this to each other on Usenet in alt.soc.sex chat rooms. My buddy Dave would trek to the computer cluster on the main quad to do it when he was bored; he would put himself in stitches and occasionally return very, very disturbed.
The New York Times and the BBC are reporting on the largest, human whole-genome DNA sequencing project ever performed on a single population. The research results, entitled "Large-scale whole-genome sequencing of the Icelandic population" was published on March 25, 2015 in the journal Nature Genetics .
From The New York Times article:
Scientists in Iceland have produced an unprecedented snapshot of a nation’s genetic makeup, discovering a host of previously unknown gene mutations that may play roles in ailments as diverse as Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and gallstones.
[...]In a series of papers published on Wednesday in the journal Nature Genetics, researchers at Decode Genetics, an Icelandic genetics firm owned by Amgen, described sequencing the genomes — the complete DNA — of 2,636 Icelanders, the largest collection ever analyzed in a single human population.
With this trove of genetic information, the scientists were able to accurately infer the genomes of more than 100,000 other Icelanders, or almost a third of the entire country.
[More after the break.]