NASA envisons an airborne colony on Venus, before Mars

by evilviper@pipedot.org in space on 2014-12-22 03:52 (#2W8E)

story imageThe science world has been mostly fixated on Mars and comets, but some scientists at NASA are starting to talk about Venus -- suggesting a manned mission to our closest neighbor could be simpler and less expensive than a trip to Mars.

Venus is one of the least hospitable places in the solar system. Its close proximity to the sun makes its surface unimaginably hot -- 462 degrees celsius. And its lower atmosphere is a highly pressurized oven of noxious gases. A manned mission to Venus, however, wouldn't have to involve the planet's surface. Researchers say just a few miles higher up and Venus's atmosphere boasts conditions not unlike Earth's, with more a manageable temperature and pressure. A new study by researchers at the Systems Analysis and Concepts Directorate, part of the NASA Langley Research Center, suggests astronauts could circle Venus in a helium-inflated dirigible -- conducting science experiments as they orbit.

This mission calls for a 129-meter airship floating 50 kilometers above the surface, called the High Altitude Venus Operational Concept (HAVOC), which has a small habitat suspended below and solar panels on top for power. At that level, the atmospheric pressure is one atmosphere. The temperature up that high is only 75 degrees Celsius, which is perfectly manageable. Even at 50 kilometers up, Venus’ atmosphere offers ample protection from radiation — it’s about the same level you’d experience in Canada. Mars, on the other hand, would expose astronauts to 40 times more radiation than on Earth. Power would be no problem as Venus gets 40% more solar energy than Earth and 240 times more than Mars. Since there is a thick atmosphere, the airship could use that electrical power to spin propellers or turbines for propulsion. It also has a thin atmosphere of carbon dioxide that can be used to feed photosynthetic plants.

T-Mobile granted rule-change in fight over AT&T, Verizon roaming charges

by evilviper@pipedot.org in legal on 2014-12-19 11:20 (#2W4S)

T-Mobile, the fourth-largest U.S. wireless carrier, won its bid to change rules for judging whether market leaders AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. charge smaller competitors too much to use their networks for roaming. The Federal Communications Commission in an order released today said it would grant a petition from T-Mobile, and would compare proposed roaming rates with other prices, during disputes.

As usual, Verizon claimed the rule change would "discourage investment". AT&T says T-Mobile "has other options, including building out its own broadband network", and said they will challenge the FCC's decision.

The average data roaming rate paid by T-Mobile in 2013 was 30¢/MB. With T-Mobile's $30 for 5 GByte per month plan, using your entire quota while roaming would actually cost the company about $1,500 in roaming fees. AT&T drives-up that price, charging 150 percent more than the average rate T-Mobile pays for data roaming elsewhere.

ICANN gets hacked after employees hand out private data in phishing scam

by evilviper@pipedot.org in security on 2014-12-19 10:05 (#2W4N)

ICANN has reported a major security breach. The organization, which is responsible for managing IP addresses (among other things) for the internet, was hacked late last month. Using basic spear phishing attacks, hackers managed to trick ICANN employees into giving up private credentials upon receiving emails that appeared to come from the organization itself. As a result, several internal systems have been breached.

ICANN reports that not only were internal emails accessed, but also a number of other things including an employee only wiki-page with public data, as well as the database to see who has registered a certain domain. Hackers also accessed the Centralized Zone Data System (CZDS), which allows them access to user names, addresses, emails and other contact/personal data. While certainly the most troubling of them all, the passwords stolen in the CZDS breach were encrypted and not just sitting around as plain text entries.

The organization implemented improved security measures early this year, before the attack. The group now plans to implement additional security measures.

U.S. officials previously announced plans to relinquish the federal government's control over managing the Internet to a “multistakeholder community” in March, following backlash over revelations about the National Security Agency's surveillance program. The cyber attack could fuel those wary of ICANN's transition to an international authority, who argue the move would compromise the safety of the Internet. Some opponents doubt the organization’s ability to manage the Internet for the entire globe.

Europeans were lactose intolerant for 4,000 years

by evilviper@pipedot.org in science on 2014-12-13 12:09 (#2VWY)

New research has revealed that ancient Europeans adapted the ability to digest dairy much later than expected. It’s long been known that after humans transitioned from hunter gatherers to farmers, many populations also evolved the ability to tolerate lactose, a sugar found in dairy. But new DNA evidence now shows that this ability evolved much later in certain populations - and for 4,000 years ancient Europeans were eating cheese, despite not being able to stomach it.

Scientists had estimated that lactose tolerance must have evolved around 7,000 years ago or more, when cheese-making first started. But the researchers found that the genes didn’t actually appear until 3,000 years ago. The next step is to map the distribution of the lactose-tolerant gene further, and find out more about how our genetics changed in response to our diet.

This seems to show that human evolution doesn't happen as quickly as expected, and lends some credence to the saying: Starving people have no food allergies.

Greenhouse gases could cause a wet Africa

by evilviper@pipedot.org in science on 2014-12-13 11:49 (#2VWV)

story imageNew research demonstrates that an increase in greenhouse gas concentrations thousands of years ago was a key factor in causing substantially more rainfall in two major regions of Africa. It was the most recent time during which natural global warming was associated with increases in greenhouse gas concentrations. Following a long dry spell during the glacial maximum, the amount of rainfall in Africa abruptly increased, starting around 14,700 years ago and continuing until around 5,000 years ago. So intense was the cumulative rainfall, turning desert into grasslands and savannas, that scientists named the span the African Humid Period (AHP).

Previous studies had suggested that the AHP was triggered by a ~20,000-year cyclic wobble in Earth’s orbit that resulted in increased summertime heating north of the equator. That summertime heating would have warmed the land in such a way as to strengthen the monsoon winds from the ocean and enhance rainfall. Instead, the study revealed the role of two other factors: a change in Atlantic Ocean circulation that rapidly boosted rainfall in the region, and a rise in greenhouse gas concentrations that helped enhance rainfall across a wide swath of Africa.

While the industrialized world looks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to preserve our current climate, Africa could find itself benefiting from increased emissions.

The Digital Einstein Papers

by renevith@pipedot.org in science on 2014-12-11 12:00 (#2VVE)

story imageLast week, the Princeton University Press published the Digital Einstein Papers, electronic versions of an enormous number of Albert Einstein's written works, including published papers, popular writings, and even personal correspondence with scientists and family.
The site presents all 13 volumes published to date by the editors of the Einstein Papers Project, covering the writings and correspondence of Albert Einstein (1879-1955) from his youth to 1923.

The volumes are presented in the original language version with in-depth English language annotation and other scholarly apparatus. In addition, the reader can toggle to an English language translation of most documents.
This is an incredible collection. An enormous amount of work has been put in by both projects to collect and translate the works. If you find any documents of particular interest, post a link in the comments!

Reflection on the discovery of mid-ocean ridges and the validation of continental drift theory

by zafiro17@pipedot.org in science on 2014-12-10 10:58 (#2VT3)

story imageIf you enjoy reading about the history of science, this is a great story: the history of geologist Marie Thorp, whose methodical plotting and cataloging of mid-ocean SONAR data led to the discovery and mapping of the mountainous ridges that bisect the world's oceans. That discovery in turn helped validate the geologic theory of continental drift, which until then had been dismissed by even serious, erudite scientists as a bit of poetry and imagination.
In late 1952, as Tharp was replotting the ocean floor, Heezen took on another deep-sea project searching for safe places to plant transatlantic cables. He was creating his own map, which plotted earthquake epicenters in the ocean floor. As his calculations accumulated, he noticed something strange: Most quakes occurred in a nearly continuous line that sliced down the center of the Atlantic. Meanwhile, Tharp had finished her second map—a physiographic diagram giving the ocean floor a 3-D appearance—and sure enough, it showed the rift again. When Heezen and Tharp laid their two maps on top of each other on a light table, both were stunned by how neatly the maps fit.
An interesting read that's surprisingly heart-warming: amazing to see how facts become knowledge and knowledge leads to understanding.

EFF introduces the "troll-proofed defensive patent license"

by zafiro17@pipedot.org in legal on 2014-12-10 10:43 (#2VT1)

In the movement toward patent reform, the Patent Office, Congress, and the courts aren't the only targets for change. Individual and corporate patent owners have steps they can take to reduce the harmful effects of software patents and disempower patent trolls, largely through alternative licensing schemes. The EFF announces:
We're excited to announce the first set of patents released under one such scheme, the Defensive Patent License (DPL). The 23 patents, owned by EFF cofounder John Gilmore, were created by Pixel Qi, a startup that aimed to advance low-power LCD screens. With these patents under the DPL, anyone can license them royalty-free as long as they license their own patents (and commit to licensing future patents) under the same terms—even if they don't have any patents at all.

The Defensive Patent License, pioneered by a team at NYU and Berkeley law schools with support from EFF, sets out to create an environment where patents aren't bludgeons for offensive litigation campaigns, abused by companies to engage in expensive lawsuits and by trolls to threaten true innovators. Inspired by free software and free cultural license, the DPL allows for patent-owners and developers to benefit from openly sharing their portfolio.
Interested in more? Check out the EFF's Hacking the Patent System Guide [PDF], available from their website. Back under the bridge with you, trolls!

Advertisers are outraged that 23% of video ads are viewed by robots

by zafiro17@pipedot.org in internet on 2014-12-10 10:38 (#2VSY)

Pity those poor advertisers, who are outraged, to say the least. A recent study has shown that computers being remotely operated by hackers account for almost one in four views of digital video ads worldwide. The fraud leads advertisers to spend approximately $6.3 billion dollars per year for advertising that doesn't have any impact whatsoever. The fake views, which also account for 11 percent of other display ads, often take place in the middle of the night when the owners of the hijacked computers are asleep.

The advertising unions are understandably upset.
“We’re being robbed,” said Bob Liodice, president and chief executive officer of the New York-based association, which has 640 members that spend more than $250 billion a year in advertising. “This isn’t about system inefficiencies or process sloppiness. This is about criminal activity.”
But others would say, that's the way the game is played. No word on who wrote the software that manages these fake video views, or who benefits. Finally, pity the poor robots, people, forced to watch video ads all day and night: what a dreary existence!

The Pirate Bay is gone for good

by zafiro17@pipedot.org in internet on 2014-12-10 10:30 (#2VSW)

story imageIt's not that the Pirate Bay may cease to exist, although with this most recent raid by Swedish authorities, that may be true as well. It's that since a couple of years ago, the Pirate Bay has become a shadow of its former self, and changed in ways some users would call fundamental.
TPB has become an institution that people just expected to be there. Noone willing to take the technology further. The site was ugly, full of bugs, old code and old design. It never changed except for one thing – the ads. More and more ads was filling the site, and somehow when it felt unimaginable to make these ads more distasteful they somehow ended up even worse.

The original deal with TPB was to close it down on it’s tenth birthday. Instead, on that birthday, there was a party in it’s “honour” in Stockholm. It was sponsored by some sexist company that sent young girls, dressed in almost no clothes, to hand out freebies to potential customers. There was a ticket price to get in, automatically excluding people with no money. The party had a set line-up with artists, scenes and so on, instead of just asking the people coming to bring the content. Everything went against the ideals that I worked for during my time as part of TPB.<\a>

What's next for The Pirate Bay?
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