"NASA is hosting a $35,000 series of challenges for 'citizen scientists' to significantly improve algorithms that identify asteroids in images captured by ground-based telescopes. The winning solution, says NASA, must increase detection sensitivity, minimize false positives, ignore imperfections in the data, and run effectively on all computer systems.
NASA is hoping to improve on current initiatives which only track an estimated 1% of all objects in solar orbit, while also identifying asteroids that can be redirected to a stable lunar orbit for further exploration. The project, which starts March 17th, is jointly run with Planetary Resources, an asteroid mining company. Project executive Jenn Gustetic introduced the project at SXSW, in a talk entitled Are we Smarter than the Dinosaurs?"
"A group of amateurs by the name ICEteam, operating from the Observatory at Bochum (Germany) - an amateur-run facility with a 20m radio telescope, have been able to detect the beacon signal from the ISEE-3/ICE Spacecraft. Yes, the one you saw on XKCD.
This is only a first step, though. The final objective of the group is to reprogram the old probe and to send it on a new mission, something ESA and NASA have decided not to try because of lack of funding. But for this they first need to be able to talk to it.
"Research done by the Free University of Bozen-Bolzanohas in Italy concluded that happy software developers are better at solving analytical problems. 'Even simple and short activities', the researchers note, 'may impact the affective states of software developers.'
Many large software companies have been providing various perks to developers, hoping that they will become more productive. Based on a study of 42 students from the Faculty of Computer Science, this research seems to validate that practice. Its findings suggest that 'the happiest software developers are more productive in analytical problem solving performance.' This is in contradiction to previous studies, most of which concluding that negative affective states foster analytic problem-solving performance.
"Physicist proposes a new type of computing at SXSW (South-by-SouthWest Interactive), known as orbital computing. From the article:
A physicist from SLAC who spoke at SXSW interactive has proposed using the state changes in the orbits of electrons as a way to build faster computers. The demand for computing power is constantly rising, but we're heading to the edge of the cliff in terms of increasing performance - both in terms of the physics of cramming more transistors on a chip and in terms of the power consumption. We've covered plenty of different ways that researchers are trying to continue advancing Moore's Law - this idea that the number of transistors (and thus the performance) on a chip doubles every 18 months - especially the far out there efforts that take traditional computer science and electronics and dump them in favor of using magnetic spin, quantum states or probabilistic logic.
A new impossible that might become possible thanks to Joshua Turner, a physicist at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, who has proposed using the orbits of electrons around the nucleus of an atom as a new means to generate the binary states (the charge or lack of a charge that transistors use today to generate zeros and ones) we use in computing."
"When does merging two companies make for more marketplace competition? When they aren't big enough to compete with the other giants in the industry. At least that's the logic behind the argument that Sprint should be allowed to acquire T-Mobile. I'm wondering what this means for MetroPCS users like me now that we're T-Mobile users by the previous merger."
"Researchers at the Polytechnic University of Valencia are using Blu-ray disks to detect the presence of Salmonella and other toxins in biological samples.
The surface of the disk is used as a platform to carry out the tests, then a Blu-ray player can identify the pathogen and determine its concentration. The technique evolved over 10 years from similar methods using first CDs and then DVDs, with Blu-ray proving more sensitive.
The researchers claim that this technique can used to detect tumoral biomarkers, food and drug allergens, and pesticides in water. Not only is this a practical and economically competitive technology, it also has similar accuracy to conventional laboratory techniques, and is applicable to clinical diagnosis and environmental monitoring."
"Can this $70 dongle stem the epidemic of password breaches? Maybe not, but its approach could improve the security of password databases.
Security researchers have developed a password storage system that uses inexpensive hardware to prevent the cracking of passwords even the most common and weak ones such as '123456', 'password', and 'letmein.'
The S-CRIB Scrambler uses an additional layer of protection over methods many websites use now to prevent mass account compromises in the event a password database is exposed during a site breach, according to a post published Friday on the University of Cambridge's Light Blue Touchpaper blog. Rather than relying solely on a one-way cryptographic hash to represent plaintext passwords, the small dongle performs an additional operation known as hash-based message authentication code (HMAC). The secret 10-character key used to generate the HMAC resides solely on the dongle. Because it's not included in password tables that are stored on servers, the key could remain secret even in the event of a major security breach."
"The Los Angeles Times reports elephants distinguish human voices by sex, age, ethnicity according to a new study.
When the voice belonged to a Maasai man, the elephants tended to sniff the air and bunch closely together for protection. But when the voice was a Kamba man's, the elephants were more nonchalant. The elephants also reacted with relative calm to the voices of Maasai women and boys, who, unlike Maasai men, generally don't take part in spearing elephants.
Voice of America says the study is available now but does not appear posted on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences site yet."
"Judge Broderick of New York federal court ruled in favor of AACS, the licensing outfit founded by Warner Bros, Disney, Microsoft, Intel and others and has granted the seizure of several domain names, servers, bank funds and social media accounts belonging to Chinese DVD ripping software company DVDFab. Adding to DVDFab's troubles, Judge Broderick also ordered several banks and payment providers to freeze or stop processing the company's funds. This includes PayPal, Amazon Payments, Visa and MasterCard.
Under U.S. law it's forbidden to distribute software with the primary intention of circumventing copyright protection. In its complaint, AACS accuses the 'DVDFab Group' of violating the DMCA's anti-circumvention clause by selling tools that can bypass their DVD encryption.
As one might expect, a new mirror is already up and running."
Papas Fritas writes:
"Scott Smith reports at AP that 26-year-old Sergio Patrick Rodriguez has been convicted of pointing a green laser at a Fresno Police Department helicopter and sentenced to spend 14 years in federal prison. 'This is not a game. It is dangerous, and it is a felony,' says US Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner. 'Those who aim lasers at aircraft should know that we will seek to convict them, and we will seek to send them to prison. The safety of aircraft and the people in them demands no less.' According to evidence presented at trial, Rodriguez and his girlfriend, Jennifer Lorraine Coleman, 23, used a high-powered green laser pointer 13 times more powerful than common pointers to repeatedly strike the cockpit of Air 1 during a clear summer night in 2012. In imposing the sentence, Judge O'Neill considered not only the severity of the offenses but Rodriguez's criminal history, numerous probation violations, and Bulldog gang affiliation. An expert said that the laser pointer that Rodriguez used was an instrument capable of inflicting serious bodily injury and death due to a high potential for crash caused by visual interference. A jury found Rodriguez guilty of attempting to interfere with safe operation of aircraft and aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. 'Lasing aircraft is not a joke or a casual prank,' says Special Agent in Charge Monica M. Miller of the FBI's Sacramento field office. 'Rodriguez's sentence clearly demonstrates the seriousness of his actions and that the FBI will work with its law enforcement partners to locate and arrest those who engage in dangerous, improper use of hand-held lasers that puts us all at risk.'
On February 11, 2014, in 12 cities, the FBI, in collaboration with the Air Line Pilots Association International and the FAA, announced the Laser Threat Awareness campaign, a nationwide effort to alert the public to the threat that aircraft laser illumination poses and the penalties for such activity. The FBI will offer up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of any individual who intentionally aims a laser at an aircraft. The program is being rolled out in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Houston and San Antonio, Texas; Los Angeles and Sacramento, California; Philadelphia; Phoenix, Arizona; Cleveland, Ohio; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; New York; and San Juan, Puerto Rico."
"Amber alerts on our smartphones are starting to become all too frequent, and like most things, they are burdened with a certain degree of Feature Creep. Not just for abducted children anymore, the Alert system in US carrier sold phones can carry Presidential Alerts, Imminent Threat Alerts (weather or forest fires mostly) and the original AMBER alert for missing children.
Its not clear the President is ever going to have a single message for the entire population, where that message will make any difference to the average citizen. But then, this category is seldom abused. Weather broadcasts are invariably too late, historically too widely distributed, and often simply redundant. And Amber Alerts are, in the majority of cases, custody disputes, where the child is never in any real danger.
Amber Alerts are quickly becoming viewed as security theater, and the most abused aspect of the entire system. This has increasing numbers of people opting out of the alerts on their phones as a result.
The Amber system is the "third rail" of child safety discussions, and few agencies are willing to address its failings. Do we need additional shades of Amber, or the ability to filter custody disputes from the system?"
From the article:
'Most likely, 50 years from now ubiquitous monitoring and surveillance will be the norm. The Internet is a tracking machine. It is engineered to track. We will ceaselessly self-track and be tracked by the greater network, corporations, and governments. Everything that can be measured is already tracked, and all that was previously unmeasurable is becoming quantified, digitized, and trackable. We're expanding the data sphere to sci-fi levels and there's no stopping it. Too many of the benefits we covet derive from it. So our central choice now is whether this surveillance is a secret, one-way panopticon or a mutual, transparent kind of "coveillance" that involves watching the watchers. The first option is hell, the second redeemable.'"
"Detroit. The passing of William Clay Ford marks the end of an era here in the Motor City. Mr. Ford, 88, who passed away on Sunday, served as Director Emeritus for the Ford Motor Company and was the last surviving grandchild of the company's founder, Henry Ford.
Mr. Ford loved the car business, serving the company for 57 years as an employee and board member, more than half of the company's 110-year history. He particularly loved the design aspect of this business, with the Lincoln Continental Mark II his lasting contribution to the stable of significant cars in the company's history.
Full editorial here, http://www.autoextremist.com/current/2014/3/10/a-m ost-remarkable-legacy.html with many other interesting comments.
If you are part of the middle class, particularly in the USA, you probably owe something to Henry Ford for raising assembly line pay to $5/day. This meant that his employees could afford to buy a Ford car. Pretty much unheard of at any of the other car companies of that era--and certainly a game changer socially and economically. How many centuries of bosses (kings, nobles, priests) and peons did it take before someone funded a middle ground?"