2019-01-01 00:00:00 ..
2019-02-19 18:55:26 UTC
2019-02-21 03:17:22 UTC
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Derek Zimmer has a blog post over at Private Internet Access about the Firefox extension Lightbeam and how it shows graphically in realtime the benefits of privacy. Lightbeam is a continuation of the visualization project, Collusion, which was introduced in 2012. The extension shows which sites your browser is interacting with including third party connections and shows the relation between them. It has several visualization modes and the ability to save the connection history to a file. He notes that it is very useful in seeing the relation of a page to the plethora of trackers, web libraries, cookies, and all kinds of outside parties trying to gather and sell your data which it pulls in.
According to a report from CNN, WarnerMedia plans to launch its own streaming service in the fourth quarter of 2019, adding to growing list of OTT (over-the-top) services that bypass cable providers and bring television series and movies directly to viewers—most of them for a monthly fee.
The organization (formerly Time Warner) has several TV-content networks under its umbrella, including HBO, Turner, and Warner Bros. Turner's assets include CNN, TNT, TBS, Cartoon Network, Turner Classic Movies, and others. Warner Bros. produces series such as The Big Bang Theory, The Voice, and The Bachelor for distribution on other networks, as well as feature films like Crazy Rich Asians, Wonder Woman, Blade Runner 2049, Ready Player One, and Dunkirk. Warner Bros. also owns DC Comics.
WarnerMedia was acquired by communications and media behemoth AT&T in June. As viewers change habits and shift to skipping cable providers, networks like HBO and Turner that have traditionally depended on fees cable television providers pay for their content have begun shifting their focus to "direct-to-consumer" distribution via streaming video in an effort to survive the transition.
And if you're thinking, "Wait, HBO already has a streaming service—actually, two," you're right. HBO Now serves viewers who don't want to get the channel through a traditional cable TV package, and HBO Go streams episodes and films to viewers who subscribe to the cable channel.
According to a report in July shortly after the AT&T acquisition, it didn't take long for the company to start talking about plans to shake things up at the boutique channel. AT&T executives said then that they want to move HBO towards creating more content with distribution to mobile devices in mind, even if that means shaking up the formula (for example, producing 20 minute episodes instead of 60 minutes) or a drop in quality.
The Russian federal space agency, Roscosmos, launched their Soyuz MS-10 crew vehicle with two new crewmembers that were set for the International Space Station. However, the launch – which took place on Thursday at 0840 UTC from Baikonur – failed a few minutes into flight. Soyuz MS-10 was then aborted on a ballistic entry, before safely landing downrange of the launch site.
The crewed Soyuz, which would normally ferry three people to the Station, was carrying a reduced crew complement as part of Russia's initiative to keep their total crew presence on Station to just two until the launch, late next year, of their primary science lab, Nauka.
However, those plans are unlikely to apply now Soyuz MS-10 has failed to arrive at the ISS, with the Soyuz FG likely to be grounded for some time as a State Commision invesigation[sic] takes place.
Submitted via IRC for Bytram
For the first time scientists have been able to put a figure on how many faces people actually know- a staggering 5,000 on average.
The research team, from the University of York, tested study participants on how many faces they could recall from their personal lives and the media, as well as the number of famous faces they recognised.
[...] Dr Rob Jenkins, from the Department of Psychology at the University of York, said: "Our study focused on the number of faces people actually know- we haven't yet found a limit on how many faces the brain can handle.
[...] For the study, participants spent an hour writing down as many faces from their personal lives as possible -- including people they went to school with, colleagues and family. They then did the same for famous faces, such as actors, politicians, and other public figures.
The participants found it easy to come up with lots of faces at first, but harder to think of new ones by the end of the hour. That change of pace allowed the researchers to estimate when they would run out of faces completely.
The participants were also shown thousands of photographs of famous people and asked which ones they recognised. The researchers required participants to recognise two different photos of each person to ensure consistency.
The results showed that the participants knew between 1,000 and 10,000 faces.
R. Jenkins, A. J. Dowsett, A. M. Burton. How many faces do people know? Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2018; 285 (1888): 20181319 DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2018.1319
Submitted via IRC for Bytram
Experian's website exposed to world-plus-dog the PINs needed to unlock frozen accounts, allowing crooks to potentially apply for loans and credit cards as their victims.
The credit-monitor agency lets people freeze their account using a PIN that has to be submitted in when applying for stuff like loans: it's a mechanism that's supposed to stop fraudsters from exploiting stolen personal information, such as names and social security numbers, to obtain credit using someone else's identity.
However, according to financial advice site Nerdwallet this month, the credit monitoring agency had a glitch in its online account recovery process that, when exploited, could leak a stranger's recovery PIN. A miscreant could then use that number to reverse an account freeze and free up funds for plundering.
The (since fixed) bug would allow anyone who knew a person's name, address, social security number, and date of birth to have a PIN cod[sic] sent to an email address of the attacker's choosing. Recovery questions designed to prevent account theft could be circumvented by setting all answers to "none of the above."
"The form required an email address, which didn't necessarily have to be the one associated with the person's Experian account," Nerdwallet explained.
"Answering 'none of the above' to the security questions — even if some of the proffered answers were correct — gave access to that person's PIN."
Armed with that PIN, the attacker would then be able to break the credit freeze and apple to open new accounts in the victim's name. This is particularly bad in the case of Experian, as one of the main reasons for setting up a credit freeze is to mitigate the leak of precisely the private information – social security number, and date of birth – used to retrieve the PIN.
[...] Though there is no indication that the flaw was ever actively abused, the findings will no doubt cause discomfort for the millions of people who have had to freeze their credit in recent years due to data breaches, including one at Experian in 2015 that involved the records of 15 million T-Mobile US customers.
Earlier this week, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a dire warning about climate change: unless governments of the world coordinate to implement multiple long-term changes, we risk overshooting the 2°C warming scenario that countries strived to target in the Paris Agreement. This would lead to ecosystem damage, increasingly dramatic heat waves and previously-irregular weather patterns in different regions, and subsequent health impacts for humans.
Retiring coal-fired power plants is a significant action that could limit our race toward an unstable future. But Australia's officials don't quite care. According to The Guardian, the country's deputy prime minister, Michael McCormack, said that Australia would "'absolutely' continue to use and exploit its coal reserves, despite the IPCC's dire warnings the world has just 12 years to avoid climate-change catastrophe."
McCormack also reportedly said that Australia would not change its coal policies "just because somebody might suggest that some sort of report is the way we need to follow and everything that we should do."
The country's previous prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, abandoned emissions reductions targets that the nation had agreed to, and Australia's renewable energy targets are set to expire in 2020. In September, government analysis showed that Australia's greenhouse-gas emissions increased last year, and independent analysts said the country would likely not meet the greenhouse-gas emissions reductions that it committed to under the Paris Agreement. Unlike the US, Australia has not exited the Paris Agreement, but the country's current prime minister has declined to add any more money to the global climate fund.
[...] Still, Australia ranks only fourth for economic coal resources, with the US, Russia, and China ahead of it. In the US, which has the world's largest economic coal resource, the Trump administration has had a difficult time fighting to save coal. On Wednesday, US coal supplier Westmoreland filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the face of $1.4 billion in debt. That makes the company the fourth major US coal supplier to file for bankruptcy in recent years due to the significant decline in coal use.
Internalize the profits, externalize the costs?
Boeing has been building the core stage of NASA's Space Launch System rocket for the better part of this decade, and the process has not always gone smoothly, with significant overruns and multiyear delays. A new report from NASA's inspector general makes clear just how badly the development process has gone, laying the blame mostly at the feet of Boeing.
"We found Boeing's poor performance is the main reason for the significant cost increases and schedule delays to developing the SLS core stage," the report, signed by NASA Inspector General Paul Martin, states. "Specifically, the project's cost and schedule issues stem primarily from management, technical, and infrastructure issues directly related to Boeing's performance."
As of August 2018, the report says, NASA has spent a total of $11.9 billion on the SLS. Even so, the rocket's critical core stage will be delivered more than three years later than initially planned—at double the anticipated cost. Overall, there are a number of top-line findings in this report, which cast a mostly if not completely negative light on Boeing and, to a lesser extent, NASA and its most expensive spaceflight project.
The report found that NASA will need to spend an additional $1.2 billion, on top of its existing $6.2 billion contract for the core stages of the first two SLS rockets, to reach a maiden launch date of June 2020. NASA originally planned to launch the SLS rocket on its maiden flight in November 2017.
However, given all of the development problems that the SLS rocket has seen, the report does not believe a mid-2020 date is likely either. "In light of the project's development delays, we have concluded NASA will be unable to meet its EM-1 launch window currently scheduled between December 2019 and June 2020," the report states.
There are other troubling hints about schedule in this new report, too. One concerns facilities at Stennis Space Center in Southern Mississippi, where NASA will conduct a "green run" test of the core stage of the SLS rocket. This is a critical test that will involve a full-scale firing of the rocket's core stage—four main engines along with liquid hydrogen and oxygen fuel tanks—for a simulated launch and ascent into space.
The report found that Boeing's development of "command and control" hardware and software needed to conduct this test is already 18 months behind a schedule established in 2016. This means the Stennis facility won't be ready to accommodate a green run test until at least May 2019, with further delays possible.
This is critical, because often the most serious engineering problems are uncovered during the phase when key rocket components are integrated and tested. The delay in green-run testing means that any problems that crop up during that phase of development will only push the maiden launch of the SLS further into the future.
[...] SpaceX developed the not-quite-as-large-or-complex Falcon Heavy rocket for $500 million.
According to Wikipedia, Launch Prices for the Falcon Heavy (FH) range up to $150 million. Let's assume a very generous extra $100 million per flight for related launch services. That means the $11.9 billion spent so far to develop a disposable SLS could have paid for both the development of the reusable Falcon Heavy, and for 45 flights, with $400 million left over.
Admittedly, the FH cannot lift quite as much as the SLS (63 metric tons to Low Earth Orbit vs 95), but SpaceX's reusable BFR is currently slated to have a 100 metric ton payload to LEO capability.
So, I have to ask: What can the SLS accomplish that one or more FH/BFR launches cannot?
Arthur T Knackerbracket has found the following story:
In recent years, massive solar projects proposed for the Middle East have grabbed headlines with extremely low prices. Developers have announced agreements to sell their solar energy for as low as 2.34¢ per kilowatt-hour (kWh)—lower than the US' lowest prices and much lower than the average 6¢ per kilowatt-hour that the US lauded last September.
What they learned was that the numbers posted in four of the most recent Middle East solar projects were likely real, with some reasonable help from favorable government policies. Still, the numbers seem real for the region; not all cost reductions are likely to transfer to other parts of the world.
[...] The researchers primarily looked at four solar installations and their accompanying Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs). While most solar developers might not disclose what it actually costs to buy, install, and connect a solar energy plant, the PPA can be used to reverse-engineer what the costs to install a project are—in some cases. If there are significant hidden subsidies or the developer doesn't care that a PPA price is below cost, then the PPA doesn't tell us a lot.
Two of the four solar installations that the researchers looked at are located at Mohammed Bin Rashid al Maktoum Solar Park (MBR Solar Park). Phase II of the MBR Solar Park is a 200MW installation that was announced in 2015 and secured a PPA for 5.84¢ per kWh. Phase III, announced in June 2017, will add another 800MW to the park and will sell its electricity for 2.99¢ per kWh. Additionally, a May 2017 project in Abu Dhabi called Sweihan will build out 1,177MW and sell that electricity for 2.94¢ per kWh. Finally, Sakaka solar park in Northern Saudi Arabia was announced in March 2018 with a PPA price of 2.34¢ per kWh.
The researchers' paper, published this week in Nature, shows that five things caused these low prices. First, the cost of solar panels has obviously been tumbling, especially after the Chinese government recently cancelled a subsidy program for solar panels in that country, causing demand in China to drop.
The cost of labor is another factor. "With local contractors assuming most construction duties, and reported wages for construction work and even some skilled trades reported as less than US $5 by local sources, we believe that a reduction in labor costs of 50 percent relative to the US benchmark is a reasonable and perhaps even a conservative estimate," the researchers write. That's not necessarily something other countries should want to replicate: well-paying construction jobs are part and parcel of the benefit of solar energy.
The other three factors that lead to extremely low solar prices in the Middle East are easy financing on low interest rates, low taxes, and "low, but positive, profit margins," the researchers write. None of those factors are guaranteed for solar projects in other parts of the world, but creating an environment where all three exist is not a possibility exclusive to the Middle East.
-- submitted from IRC
The Federal Communications Commission should let phone companies get more aggressive in blocking robocalls, 35 state attorneys general told the commission yesterday.
The FCC last year authorized voice service providers to block more types of calls in which the Caller ID has been spoofed or in which the number on the Caller ID is invalid. But the FCC did not go far enough, and robocallers have "evolved" to evade the new rules, the 35 attorneys general wrote in an FCC filing:
One specific method which has evolved recently is a form of illegal spoofing called "neighbor spoofing." A neighbor-spoofed call will commonly appear on a consumer's caller ID with the same area code and local exchange as the consumer to increase the likelihood he/she will answer the call. In addition, consumers have recently reported receiving calls where their own phone numbers appeared on their caller ID. A consumer who answered one such call reported the caller attempted to trick her by saying he was with the phone company and required personal information to verify the account, claiming it had been hacked.
The attorneys general said they "encourage the FCC to adopt rules authorizing providers to block these and other kinds of illegally spoofed calls."
The industry can also make progress simply by using existing frameworks to authenticate legitimate calls and identify illegally spoofed calls, the attorneys general wrote. The FCC should encourage all service providers "to aggressively implement" the STIR (Secure Telephone Identity Revisited) and SHAKEN (Secure Handling of Asserted information using toKENs) protocols, they wrote.
The letter was signed by state attorneys general from Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.
[...] The FCC also heard from CTIA, the mobile industry trade group that represents AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint. The group urged the FCC to make sure that "carriers... combatting illegal robocalls in good faith must have protection from associated legal and regulatory liability."
A safe harbor as proposed by the CTIA would limit carriers' liability when they mistakenly block calls that shouldn't be blocked. This would encourage carriers to adopt the STIR and SHAKEN protocols, CTIA said.
[...] Last month, the FCC issued about $120 million dollars' worth of fines to two robocallers accused of spoofing real people's phone numbers.
U.S. House lawmakers passed legislation late Wednesday [October 3] that would give federal regulators the authority to set minimum standards for seat size and leg room on flights.
Tucked inside a 2,000-page funding bill is a provision that gives the Federal Aviation Administration a year to establish minimum pitch, width and length on airplane seats to ensure they are safe for passengers. The legislation, which funds the FAA for the next five years, passed 398-23 in the House and now goes to the Senate.
The proposed law is designed to ensure that what have become increasingly cramped planes can be evacuated quickly in an emergency. Current FAA rules require airlines to evacuate in 90 seconds or less.
That policy hasn't been updated significantly in almost two decades. Investigators at the Department of Transportation, which oversees the FAA, said in June that they plan to study whether the FAA is ensuring that today's more crowded aircraft meet federal evacuation standards.
Commercial airplane cabins have become more cramped as airlines fit more seats on board to increase profits and spread out costs among more travelers. Several carriers have reconfigured their planes to not only include more seats but also smaller lavatories in some cases.
Seat pitch, a proxy for legroom, on commercial airplanes measured about 35 inches in the middle of the 20th century, but that's now around 31 inches, according to SeatGuru. Some budget airlines, like Spirit, offer 28 inches of seat pitch.
[...] The bill also requires a government study of whether airlines' shrinking or reducing bathrooms in favor of more seats on board creates problems for passengers accessing lavatories.
Before going to vote, lawmakers scrapped a provision that would determine whether airline fees, such as those to change a travel date, are reasonable.
The US newspaper group known as Tronc announced Thursday it was reverting back to its old name Tribune Publishing, two years after a rebranding effort that drew widespread derision.
The publisher of the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News, Baltimore Sun and other newspapers gave no reason for the change, but the name Tronc—a moniker which stood for Tribune Online Content—was ridiculed both within and outside the news industry.
[...] In July, the company announced it would be cutting half the newsroom staff at the Daily News, the iconic New York tabloid.
Tronc sold its best-known newspaper, the Los Angeles Times, to biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong in June. Some reports said it has been in talks with another newspaper chain, McClatchy, owner of the Miami Herald, Kansas City Star and others.
On Wednesday, the US Air Force awarded its much-anticipated new round of "Launch Service Agreements," which provide funds to rocket companies to complete development of their boosters. There were three winners:
- United Launch Services: $967,000,000 for the development of the Vulcan Centaur launch system.
- Northrop Grumman: $791,601,015 for development of the Omega launch system
- Blue Origin: $500,000,000 for the development of the New Glenn launch system
At least two other companies were believed to be in the running for these awards, as they won grants during an earlier round of funding in 2016. It was not a surprise to see Aerojet Rocketdyne fail to win an award, as that company does not appear to have a customer for its AR1 rocket engine, which the military initially supported. It was something of a surprise not to see SpaceX win an award.
[...] These are hugely consequential awards for the rocket companies. Essentially the US Air Force, which launches more complex, heavy payloads than any other entity in the world, believes these boosters will have a significant role to play in those missions during the next decade. And when the military has confidence in your vehicle, commercial satellite contracts are more likely to follow as well.
"This is a big win for companies like United Launch Alliance, that have the space pedigree they have, and for a company like Blue Origin that is aiming to establish itself," said Phil Larson, an assistant dean and chief of staff at the University of Colorado Boulder's College of Engineering and Applied Science. "It is great to see the Air Force embracing public private partnership-type arrangements even more, and of course, with anything contract related, the devil will be in the details."
[...] the Air Force funding means ULA can press ahead toward a mid-2020 launch (at the earliest) of Vulcan. This was a huge lifeline for a company that has provided the Air Force with more than a decade of costly (but supremely reliable) launches and which has struggled in the face of stiff competition from SpaceX in recent years.
This was also a game-changing win for Northrop. This company, also, seemed unlikely to pursue development of its Omega rocket without significant government funding. The Omega rocket, which uses solid-propellant rockets for its first and second stages and a liquid hydrogen upper stage, could be ready for its first flight by 2021. Such a large award for solid-rocket booster technology was a surprise to some aerospace officials Ars spoke to.
Wednesday's announcement also was a huge vote of confidence in Blue Origin and its BE-4 rocket engine, which will power both the New Glenn and Vulcan rockets. The award will allow the company to rapidly build infrastructure needed for New Glenn, including a vertical-integration facility at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, as well as perform other certification activities.
[...] Regardless of the reasons, the lack of an award for SpaceX means that the successful, innovative, and individualistic company from California will now face three companies receiving military support as it competes with them in the the global launch industry. As ever, the battle will be epic and captivating.
Submitted via IRC for chromas
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Amazon.com Inc’s (AMZN.O) machine-learning specialists uncovered a big problem: their new recruiting engine did not like women.
The team had been building computer programs since 2014 to review job applicants’ resumes with the aim of mechanizing the search for top talent, five people familiar with the effort told Reuters.
Automation has been key to Amazon’s e-commerce dominance, be it inside warehouses or driving pricing decisions. The company’s experimental hiring tool used artificial intelligence to give job candidates scores ranging from one to five stars - much like shoppers rate products on Amazon, some of the people said.
[...] But by 2015, the company realized its new system was not rating candidates for software developer jobs and other technical posts in a gender-neutral way.
That is because Amazon’s computer models were trained to vet applicants by observing patterns in resumes submitted to the company over a 10-year period. Most came from men, a reflection of male dominance across the tech industry.
In effect, Amazon’s system taught itself that male candidates were preferable. It penalized resumes that included the word “women’s,” as in “women’s chess club captain.” And it downgraded graduates of two all-women’s colleges, according to people familiar with the matter. They did not specify the names of the schools.
Amazon edited the programs to make them neutral to these particular terms. But that was no guarantee that the machines would not devise other ways of sorting candidates that could prove discriminatory, the people said.
The Seattle company ultimately disbanded the team by the start of last year because executives lost hope for the project, according to the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Amazon’s recruiters looked at the recommendations generated by the tool when searching for new hires, but never relied solely on those rankings, they said.
I previously reviewed Rudy Rucker's Ware Tetralogy and Postsingular and found that Rudy Rucker's best work comes after ideas had the most time to percolate. Postsingular was a relative dud, although still far superior to Neal Stephenson's REAMDE. In contrast, Rainbows End is highly recommended. Indeed, it is essential reading for anyone concerned about the progression of software from desktop, web and mobile to augmented reality. The book has a shockingly similar game to Pokémon Go in addition to a plausible mix of tech mergers and new entrants in a near-future universe where smartphones have given way to wearable augmented reality.
Many books, comics and films have covered the purgatory of high school and some have covered the special purgatory of going back to high school (for a re-union or as a student). The film: 21 Jump Street is a particularly silly example of the sub-genre. Rainbows End covers a world leading humanities academic who spends years in the fugue of dementia, responds almost perfectly to medical advances and is enrolled in high school to complete his therapy. While he looks almost perfectly like a 17 year old, his contemporaries remain in decline or have bounced back with far more random results.
Almost everyone and everything from the protagonist's granddaughter to classmates to the high school syllabus pressures him into getting his own augmented reality client. It is worse than the current pressure to join social networks. Understandably, many curmudgeons never take the leap. Obviously, narrative would greatly suffer if our protagonist wasn't one of the bold few. But, whoa, what a world which awaits! It is easier to flip through augmented reality overlays than to change channel in IRC. He also gets acquainted with instant messaging, tele-presence and the innards of network jitter. He stays in contact with faculty and, from this, some of the action is set around UCSD's Geisel Library. However, the protagonist has fractious relations with family, is failing classes in a downmarket charter school, is socially awkward and makes zero progress on a personal cornerstone of academic publication. Old friends suspect that he's lost his spark. Meanwhile, new talents are frustrated by digital certificate chains, "secure" management engines, DRM and no user serviceable parts (with particular reference to vehicles). "Computer says no." is enough to test anyone's sanity.
The protagonist endures art classes which are mostly editing and sequencing augmented reality effects; shop classes which use a patronising wifi, DRM, augmented reality, servo construction set (a plausible successor to Lego Mindstorms); and "Search And Analysis", trite MBA classes for the effective use of search engines, analytics, forums and crowd-sourcing. Meanwhile, there are sub-plots involving a library digitization project, a biological threat and a hacker portrayed as a white rabbit. The white rabbit is a cheeky, winsome character more like Bugs Bunny or Roger Rabbit than Lewis Carroll's nervous White Rabbit. It is not new for an author to have a theme about literacy heritage. (Or lack thereof.) Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 covers book burning in the most literal and alarming form. Rudy Rucker covers subtle matters. For example, when the physical becomes virtual, the loss (or reduced use) of alphabetical index reduces serendipity. It also covers the matter of gifting public collections to billionaires; ostensibly in the name of progress.
Many of the characters perform double duty and this creates a soap opera bubble of reality. It feels like an author being clever with an overly constrained plot. Before the midpoint of the book, it is quite apparent that the loose ends of the plot get resolved far too tidily. Nevertheless, it is highly enjoyable and has technical merit while doing more with less. Rudy Rucker's Ware Tetralogy takes the mythical imipolex plastic of Thomas Pynchon's book: Gravity's Rainbow (written in similar style to the Illuminatus trilogy) and infuses it with general purpose artificial intelligence. Postsingular has nanobot gray goo and parallel universes. Rainbows End is more alarming because no such leaps are required.
Rainbows End by Rudy Rucker is widely available in print.
Notes:  and  These links are reproduced exactly as received and are numbered here should the submitter wish to provide corrected links in the comments.
[An] upcoming study in The Astronomical Journal, which we learned about from MIT Technology Review, suggests humanity has barely sampled the skies, and thus has no grounds to be cynical. According to the paper, all searches for extraterrestrial intelligence, or SETI, have examined barely a swimming pool's worth of water from a figurative ocean of signal space. "We haven't really looked much," Shubham Kanodia, a graduate student in astronomy who co-wrote the study, said during a NASA "technosignatures" workshop in Houston, Texas on September 26.
[...] In their study, Kanodia and his colleagues built a mathematical model of what they consider a reasonably sized cosmic haystack.
Their haystack is a sphere of space nearly 33,000 light-years in diameter, centered around Earth. This region captures the Milky Way's bustling core, as well as many giant globular clusters of stars above and below our home galaxy.
They also picked eight dimensions of a search for aliens — factors like signal transmission frequency, bandwidth, power, location, repetition, polarization, and modulation (i.e. complexity) — and defined reasonable limits for each one. "This leads to a total 8D haystack volume of 6.4 × 10116m5Hz2s/W," the authors wrote. That is 6.4 followed by 115 zeros — as MIT Technology review described it, "a space of truly gargantuan proportions."
Kanodia and his colleagues then examined the past 60 years' worth of SETI projects and reconciled them against their haystack. The researchers determined that humanity's collective search for extraterrestrials adds up to about 0.00000000000000058% of the haystack's volume. "This is about a bathtub of water in all of Earth's oceans," Kanodia said. "Or about a five-centimeter-by-five-centimeter patch of land on all of Earth's surface area."
Those numbers make humanity's search efforts seem feeble. But Kanodia views it as an opportunity — especially because modern telescopes are getting better at scanning more objects with greater sensitivity and speed. For example, he said, a 150-minute search this year by the Murchison Widefield Array covered a larger percentage of the haystack than any other SETI project in history.
Related: Stephen Hawking and Yuri Milner Announce $100 Million "Breakthrough Listen" SETI Project
Narrow SETI Targets by Looking at Places Where Earth Transits can be Seen
Either Stars Are Strange, or There Are 234 Aliens Trying to Contact Us
New Theory Suggests Radio Bursts Beyond Our Galaxy Are Powering Alien Starships
A New Theory on Why We Haven't Found Aliens Yet
Russian Physicist Proposes New Solution to the Fermi Paradox
Are We Alone? The Question is Worthy of Serious Scientific Study