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posted by martyb on Wednesday October 10 2018, @02:30PM   Printer-friendly
from the that-blows dept.

Just weeks after hurricane Florence battered the US southeast with historic rains and flooding, another major hurricane is now bearing down on the Florida panhandle with 145 mph (~240 kph) winds and heavy rains forecast. From Ars Technica:

Hurricane Michael continued to intensify during Tuesday night, bringing an unprecedentedly strong storm to the northwest Florida coast on Wednesday. This is a serious situation for the Florida Panhandle and downstream areas in southeastern Alabama, Georgia, and the Carolinas.

As of the National Hurricane Center's 9am ET update, Michael had 145mph sustained winds, solidly in the range of a Category-4 major hurricane. Winds along the Florida coast were already rising above tropical storm strength at the time, all but closing the window for further evacuations as the storm nears shore and moves inland later today.

Perhaps most concerning, Michael's central pressure continued to fall during the overnight hours, down to 933 millibars by Wednesday morning. This is an indication of the storm's organization, and with Michael's satellite appearance actually improving as the storm approaches land, some slight further intensification is possible today before landfall near Panama City. If Michael's central pressure falls further, to 930 millibars, it would rank among the 10 most intense hurricanes to make landfall in the US on record in terms of central pressure.

Meteorologists are reacting to the rapidly intensifying storm with some measure of alarm. Mike Bettes, a meteorologist with The Weather Channel, noted on Twitter Wednesday morning that his crew was pulling out of Apalachicola, a small coastal community to the right of Michael's projected landfall that will likely bear the brunt of the storm's winds and surge.

If you are in the path of this storm, please take whatever measures necessary to keep yourself safe.


Original Submission

posted by takyon on Saturday October 06 2018, @08:10PM   Printer-friendly
from the let-'er-rip dept.

Brett Kavanaugh has been confirmed as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. The vote was 50-48 in favor of Kavanaugh.

Senators Collins, Flake, and Manchin had already announced their intentions to confirm Kavanaugh before the vote was held. Senator Lisa Murkowski, who was previously ready to vote "no", agreed to vote "present" instead so that Senator Steve Daines could attend his daughter's wedding instead of being present in the Senate to support Kavanaugh.

SCOTUSBlog: Kavanaugh confirmed as 114th justice
Nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court

Previously: SCOTUS's Justice Anthony Kennedy to Retire
President Trump Nominates Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the US Supreme Court
Trump's Supreme Court Pick: ISPs Have 1st Amendment Right to Block Websites

posted by takyon on Friday September 14 2018, @06:58PM   Printer-friendly
from the whoops,-wrong-valve dept.

An estimated 60 to 80 fires, 3 explosions, and numerous gas leaks were reported last night in the towns around Lawrence, MA (north of Boston). The incident has been linked to lines operated by Columbia Gas of Massachusetts. Columbia Gas has not released an official cause yet, but MEMA (The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency) and some of the local firefighters have speculated that the cause was an over-pressurized gas line. Columbia was conducting planned upgrades on the lines at the time of the incident. One person has been killed; 25 more have been injured.

I was listening to the fire radio as it happened and it sounded like complete chaos -- it was just the dispatch, but there was not a single moment of silence as they scrambled to get crews to all of the affected areas and coordinate the response across four separate towns (Lawrence, Andover, North Andover, and Methuen.) The local first responders were initially asking residents to shut off their gas lines; this quickly changed to calls for all Columbia Gas customers to evacuate, which then increased to an order for immediate evacuation of the entire area. Overnight police and fire officials were going door-to-door enforcing the evacuation, and it is not known at this time when residents may be allowed to return. The electric service has been shut down to the entire area to limit possible sources of ignition, and officials have stated there are over 8000 homes which need to be individually inspected before the residents can return.

So far, Columbia Gas has not provided any confirmation or explanation of the exact cause of this disaster...but I'm sure we've got some people here who have some speculation to offer...

The local Eagle Tribune has a number of articles with further information, and there's limited coverage in national sources like CNN.


Original Submission

posted by takyon on Thursday September 13 2018, @12:35PM   Printer-friendly
from the big-splash dept.

takyon: Florence is currently expected to make landfall in North Carolina during the early morning or afternoon on Friday. There have been mandatory evacuation orders, but they may be widely ignored.

A category 2 (formerly category 4) hurricane named "Florence" is heading for the eastern coast of the US. This being around the midpoint of the hurricane season, that's not unusual. This hurricane is, however, expected to make landfall much further north than is usual: near the border between the states of North Carolina and South Carolina. As you may recall, Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston, Texas last year with many areas receiving over 40 inches of rain (peak total was 60 inches) over a four-day period. Florence is similar in that there is a high pressure ridge just north of the point of landfall. It is anticipated that this will keep Florence part way over the ocean (picking up additional moisture) and part way over land (dumping copious amounts of rain).

Hurricanes cause damage in three ways: wind damage, storm surge, and rain (flooding).

Let's start with the wind. Recent readings (according to Wikipedia): sustained winds 110 knots (120 mph; 205 km/h) (1-min mean) gusting to 140 knots (150 mph; 250 km/h). (Aerodynamic drag is proportional to the square of the wind velocity. Stick your arm straight out the window of a vehicle travelling at 60 mph. Now take that force and double it. And then double it again. Now imagine that force being applied against something the size of a building. Widespread structural damage is likely.

Next, there's the Storm Surge which "is produced by water being pushed toward the shore by the force of the winds moving cyclonically around the storm." This would be above and beyond the normal tides for the area. For this storm, Scientists say Hurricane Florence could produce historic storm surge of up to 20 feet (~12 meters). To provide some perspective, tides around Myrtle Beach (near the northern-most part of South Carolina) usually has tides of up to 2.5 feet (0.75 meters). In short, flooding at the coast will be of historic proportions.

And then on to the rain. Expected rainfall totals over a period of four days generally range up to 20 inches — with 30 inches being possible in isolated locations. The general area has already had steady rains over recent weeks saturating the soil. Most of the rainfall will, therefore, not be absorbed by the soil but will instead just run downstream. In the mountains and hills away from the coast are a great many valleys which will further funnel the water and produce major flooding. It gets worse. Tree roots in waterlogged soil will likely give way under the onslaught of the rain and wind; many of which will fall on power lines. Power outages of several days or even over a week can be expected. Temperatures in the area vary around 70-90°F (21-32°C) so expect much food spoilage when refrigerators stop running.

Further complicating things, Hurricane Florence's risks include toxic sludge and lagoons of pig manure. In 2014, about 39,000 tons of coal ash spilled in from a pond near Eden, North Carolina. As of August 2017, Duke Energy had 31 coal ash basins in North Carolina which contained about 111 million tons of coal ash, a byproduct of burning coal to generate electricity. It contains metals including arsenic, chromium, and mercury. The extreme rainfall could cause some ash ponds to overflow and send their toxic waste downstream.

North Carolina is a top producer of turkey, chicken, and hogs. More than 10 billion pounds of wet animal waste is produced annually in the state and is held in lagoons because it's generally considered a safe way to store the manure before it's used to aid crops. Though most lagoons will likely survive the storm intact, there will certainly be some which overflow sending their "aromatic essence" downstream.

Links:

National Hurricane Center
NYT: Hurricane Florence's Path: Category 2 Storm Closes In on Carolina Coast
Ars Technica 2018-09-13: Florence is now “only” a Category 2 hurricane. That won’t matter much
Ars Technica 2018-09-12: The Hurricane Florence forecast has gone from bad to worse
Ars Technica 2018-09-10: Hurricane Florence represents a grave threat to the East Coast
CBS News: Hurricane Florence closes in on Carolinas, Virginia – live updates
Washington Post Hurricane Florence charges toward Carolinas with ‘potential for unbelievable damage’
Wikipedia entry on Hurricane Florence
GOES-East Satellite Loop
Earth.nullschool.net: earth :: a global map of wind, weather, and ocean conditions


Original Submission

posted by martyb on Wednesday September 12 2018, @06:54PM   Printer-friendly
from the Get-a-Load-of-EU dept.

European Parliament backs copyright changes

Controversial new copyright laws have been approved by members of the European Parliament. The legislation had been changed since July when the first version of the copyright directive was voted down. Critics say it remains problematic. Many musicians and creators claim the reforms are necessary to fairly compensate artists. But opponents fear that the plans could destroy user-generated content, memes and parodies.

Are EU citizens ready for the link tax and upload filter?

Also at Polygon.

[Ed addition] Since this story was submitted, Ars Technica posted a story that delves into some of the implications of the new legislation; What's in the sweeping copyright bill just passed by the European Parliament:

The legislation makes online platforms like Google and Facebook directly liable for content uploaded by their users and mandates greater "cooperation" with copyright holders to police the uploading of infringing works. It also gives news publishers a new, special right to restrict how their stories are featured by news aggregators such as Google News. And it creates a new right for sports teams that could limit the ability of fans to share images and videos online.

Today's vote was not the end of Europe's copyright fight. Under the European Union's convoluted process for approving legislation, the proposal will now become the subject of a three-way negotiation involving the European Parliament, the Council of the Europe Union (representing national governments), and the European Commission (the EU's executive branch). If those three bodies agree to a final directive, then it will be sent to each of the 28 EU member countries (or more likely 27 thanks to Brexit) for implementation in national laws.

That means that European voters who are concerned—or excited—about this legislation still have a few more months to contact their representatives, both within their national governments and in the European Parliament.

[...] The legislation avoids mentioning any specific technological approach to policing online infringement, allowing supporters to plausibly claim that this is not a filtering mandate. Yet it seems pretty clear what this will mean in practice. Big content producers want to see YouTube beef up its Content ID filtering technology—and for other online platforms to adopt similar strategies. Shifting liability for infringement from users to the platforms themselves will give content companies a lot of leverage to get what they want here.

[...] Balancing fairness to content creators against fairness to users is inherently tricky. Rather than trying to address the issue directly, the European Parliament is simply pushing the issue down to the national level, letting governments in Germany, France, Poland, and other European governments figure out the messy details.

[...] In addition to approving new rights for news publishers, the legislation also narrowly approved a new copyright for the organizers of sports teams. Copyright law already gives teams the ability to sell television rights for their games, but fans have traditionally been free to take pictures or personal videos and share them online. The new legislation could give sports teams ownership of all images and video from their games, regardless of who took them and how they are shared.

Antiterrorist Censorship: The EU Commission Wants to Kill the Decentralized Internet

This morning, as everybody was looking at the Copyright Directive adoption, the EU Commission released a proposal for a Regulation on the censorship of terrorist propaganda.

This proposal would impose new obligations to hosting service providers, including the removal in less than an hour of the reported content. This proposal trivializes police and private censorship as well as the circumvention of justice. Automated filters, which play a crucial role in the debate for the Copyright Directive, are being held as a key component for the censorship in the digital era.

I thought this article from The Register was interesting; making out that the opposition to Article 13 is dominated by astroturfing led principally by Google.

Article 13 pits Big Tech and bots against European creatives by Andrew Orlowski

Today's vote on Article 13 of the EU Directive on Copyright in the Digital Single Market in European Parliament has turned into a knife-edge referendum on whether European institutions can deal with Californian exceptionalism.

[...] The tweaks to copyright liability in Article 13 before MEPs this week have narrowed after months of horsetrading in Brussels – and they don't name names, but they're really about one company and the unique legal benefits it enjoys. That company is Google, and the perks arise from the special conditions attached to UGC [User Generated Comments] that YouTube hosts, which were originally designed for services such as cloud storage.

[...] The battle of Article 13 is remarkable for revealing two things: the extent of US technology lobbying networks in Europe, and the use of tools of automated consensus generation [...] Around 60,000 emails were received by each MEP in the build up to the June vote, while Twitter engagement appeared to be high. [...] But "What looked like grassroots movement from the outside was in fact a classic form of astroturfing – designed to create the appearance of a popular movement," [German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung's Volker] Reick said.

Previously: How The EU May Be About To Kill The Public Domain: Copyright Filters Takedown Beethoven


Original Submission #1   Original Submission #2Original Submission #3

posted by martyb on Sunday August 26 2018, @08:35PM   Printer-friendly

Mass Shooting at Video Game Tournament in Jacksonville Leaves Multiple Dead:

Multiple people were killed in a mass shooting during a video game tournament at a shopping and dining complex in downtown Jacksonville, Florida, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said Sunday afternoon. Preliminary reports say four people were killed of the 11 people who were shot at the Jacksonville Landing, according to a law enforcement official briefed on the incident.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said on Twitter there were "multiple" fatalities and "many" transported to hospitals. One suspect was dead at the scene, the Sheriff's Office said, and it was not known if there was another suspect.

Memorial Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida is treating at least three patients that were involved in the gaming shooting incident, Hospital spokesman Pete Moberg tells CNN. All of the patients are in stable condition, Moberg says.

Live Updates: Shooting at Madden tournament in Jacksonville.

The shooting occurred at the Jacksonville Landing complex during a qualifying event for the Madden 19 Tournament at the GLHF Game Bar, according to the Twitter [feed] of CompLexity Gaming, one of the gaming teams.

Also at: NY Daily News and Fox News.


Original Submission

posted by takyon on Sunday August 12 2018, @06:55AM   Printer-friendly
from the solar-powered dept.

Previously: NASA's Parker Solar Probe Set to Launch Next Week on its Journey to the Sun

Let's try this again. The Parker Solar Probe is set for launch on Sunday, aboard a Delta IV Heavy:

Parker Solar Probe (previously Solar Probe, Solar Probe Plus, or Solar Probe+, abbreviated PSP) is a planned NASA robotic spacecraft to probe the outer corona of the Sun. It will approach to within 8.86 solar radii (6.2 million kilometers or 3.85 million miles) from the "surface" (photosphere) of the Sun and will travel, at closest approach, as much as 700,000 km/h (430,000 mph).

It's the first NASA spacecraft named after a living person (Eugene Parker).

NASA Live:

NASA's Parker Solar Probe is set to launch tonight, Sunday, Aug. 12 at 3:31 a.m. Eastern. The launch window is 60 minutes. Watch NASA TV live beginning at 3 a.m. Parker Solar Probe will launch aboard a Delta IV-Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The spacecraft, about the size of a small car, will travel directly into the Sun's atmosphere about 4 million miles from our star's surface, facing heat and radiation like no spacecraft before it.

NASA stream on YouTube. NASA TV page. NYT and Florida Today.

You may also want to check out the Perseids meteor shower this weekend.

posted by martyb on Wednesday July 18 2018, @01:29PM   Printer-friendly
from the will-there-be-a-kaboom? dept.

[Update 2: Successful mission! Successful separation, clean booster and escape capsule landing.

Mission launch time:  11:11AM EDT (15:11 UTC)
Max ascent velocity:  2,236 mph
max capsule apogee:   389,846ft (119km)
Mission elapsed time: 11m17s

Overheard on the live feed that max G forces for the escape capsule was: 10G.]

[Update 1: there was a brief hold of approximately 10 minutes; countdown has resumed.]

Watch Live: Blue Origin Subjects its Rocket to High-Altitude Escape Test:

As it continues to progress toward human flights, Blue Origin will perform another potentially dangerous, uncrewed test today of its New Shepard rocket and spacecraft. Although it has not yet provided details, the company says it will fly "a high altitude escape motor test—pushing the rocket to its limits." The test is scheduled to begin at 11 am EDT (15:00 UTC) [corrected times] at the company's West Texas launch site.

This is the ninth test of the reusable New Shepard system, and the third in which it has included commercial payloads on it short suborbital flights. This time, the company is also flying a suite of materials from Blue Origin employees as a part of its internal “Fly My Stuff” program. (It's unclear at this point exactly how "abort test" and "payload" fit together in the same mission—presumably the high altitude abort will be followed by the New Shepard spacecraft pressing to orbit, but we're not exactly sure. Blue Origin will have more details about exactly what's going on when its webcast starts.)

This is not the first high-energy test of New Shepard. In October, 2016, the company conducted a lower altitude in-flight escape test when engineers intentionally triggered the spacecraft's launch abort system at about 45 seconds after launch, and an altitude of 16,000 feet. Such systems are designed to fire quickly and separate the crew capsule from the booster during an emergency.

Live feed on YouTube should start approximately 20 minutes before the 11:00 EDT (15:00 UTC) launch.

Note: it appears the launch may have originally been scheduled at 14:00 UTC but now appears to be scheduled for 15:00 UTC.

See also: spaceflightnow and space.com (which still has the original launch time).


Original Submission