Attention Mars Explorers: Besides Low-Gravity, There's Also Radiation
The director of astrobiology at Columbia University saw something this week that he just had to respond to: Elon Musk "talking about
sending 1 million people to Mars by 2050, using no less than three Starship launches per day (with a stash of 1,000 of these massive spacecraft on call)."
Iwastheone shared this article from Scientific American:
The martian radiation environment is a problem for human explorers that cannot be overstated... For reasons unclear to me, this tends to get pushed aside compared to other questions to do with Mars's atmosphere (akin to sitting 30km [18.6 miles] above Earth with no oxygen), temperatures, natural resources (water), nasty surface chemistry (perchlorates), and lower surface gravitational acceleration (1/3rd that on Earth). But we actually have rather good data on the radiation situation on Mars (and in transit to Mars) from the Radiation Assessment Detector (RAD) that has been riding along with the Curiosity rover since its launch from Earth.
The bottom line is that the extremely thin atmosphere on Mars, and the absence of a strong global magnetic field, result in a complex and potent particle radiation environment. There are lower energy solar wind particles (like protons and helium nuclei) and much higher energy cosmic ray particles crashing into Mars all the time. The cosmic rays, for example, also generate substantial secondary radiation -- crunching into martian regolith to a depth of several meters before hitting an atomic nucleus in the soil and producing gamma-rays and neutron radation... [I]f we consider just the dose on Mars, the rate of exposure averaged over one Earth year is just over 20 times that of the maximum allowed for a Department of Energy radiation worker in the US (based off of annual exposure)....
[Y]ou'd need to put a few meters of regolith above you, or live in some deep caves and lava tubes to dodge the worst of the radiation. And then there are risks not to do with cancer that we're only just beginning to learn about. Specifically, there is evidence that neurological function is particularly sensitive to radiation exposure, and there is the question of our essential microbiome and how it copes with long-term, persistent radiation damage. Finally, as Hassler et al. discuss, the "flavor" (for want of a better word) of the radiation environment on Mars is simply unlike that on Earth, not just measured by extremes but by its make up, comprising different components than on Earth's surface.
To put all of this another way: in the worst case scenario (which may or may not be a realistic extrapolation) there's a chance you'd end up dead or stupid on Mars. Or both.
Boeing's New 777X, the World's Largest Twin-Engine Jet, Completes Maiden Flight
Today Boeing's new 777X aircraft completed its maiden flight, reports CNBC:
The plane is the largest twin-engine jet ever built and has a wingspan so wide — more than 235 feet — it features folding wingtips that reduce that width by more than 20 feet so the plane can fit into various airport taxiways and gates. The 777X-9 is slightly longer than Boeing's most iconic plane: the hump-backed 747, which is fading away as airlines opt for twin-engine aircraft that require less fuel...
The 777X, which lists for $422.2 million although airlines usually receive discounts, can fit up to 426 passengers in a two-class configuration. Boeing had 344 firm orders for the 777X at the end of the third quarter, according to a company filing, and Emirates is its biggest single customer.
By allowing more passengers on a single flight, the plane's wide-body design achieves a smaller carbon footprint, Forbes reports. And an expected shortage of trained pilots might also help convince airlines to use the new plane.
The decision may also be driven by future airport and airspace congestion. With passenger numbers expected to double over the next 20 years, it will be a real challenge for infrastructure to keep up. Fewer planes required to fly all those people would be an advantage... More planes flying requires more pilots trained to fly them and an over-reliance of narrow-bodies exacerbates the problem. The 777X can be flown by current generation 777-trained pilots, Boeing says.
It's a claim that will no doubt undergo more serious scrutiny by regulators following the 737 MAX tragedies — as will the whole aircraft — but that may be in Boeing's favor, helping to restore confidence.
2009 Crash of Boeing 737 NG Now Receiving New Scrutiny
JoeyRox shares a disturbing story about a Boeing 737 NG flight carrying 128 passengers that crashed in 2009, killings its three pilots, another crew member and five passengers. But "the Dutch investigators focused blame on the pilots for failing to react properly when an automated system malfunctioned and caused the plane to plummet into a field," the New York Times reported this week.
"The fault was hardly the crew's alone, however. Decisions by Boeing, including risky design choices and faulty safety assessments, also contributed to the accident on the Turkish Airlines flight."
But the Dutch Safety Board either excluded or played down criticisms of the manufacturer in its final report after pushback from a team of Americans that included Boeing and federal safety officials, documents and interviews show. The crash, in February 2009, involved a predecessor to Boeing's 737 Max, the plane that was grounded last year after accidents in Indonesia and Ethiopia killed 346 people and hurled the company into the worst crisis in its history.
A review by The New York Times of evidence from the 2009 accident, some of it previously confidential, reveals striking parallels with the recent crashes — and resistance by the team of Americans to a full airing of findings that later proved relevant to the Max.
In the 2009 and Max accidents, for example, the failure of a single sensor caused systems to misfire, with catastrophic results, and Boeing had not provided pilots with information that could have helped them react to the malfunction. The earlier accident "represents such a sentinel event that was never taken seriously," said Sidney Dekker, an aviation safety expert who was commissioned by the Dutch Safety Board to analyze the crash.
Dekker's study accused Boeing of trying to deflect attention from its own "design shortcomings" and other mistakes with "hardly credible" statements that admonished pilots to be more vigilant, according to a copy reviewed by The Times.
[That 2009 study was never made public -- until Tuesday, after the New York Times had published its story.
The same day Boeing announced they'd stopped production on the 737 Max.]
The Times also reports that after the first fatal 737 Max crash in 2018, one Ohio State professor who has advised the FAA sent an email to a colleague citing research from the 1990s on automation-triggered disasters -- as well as Boeing's 2009 crash. "That this situation has continued on for so long without major action is not how engineering is supposed to work.
After the second fatal 737 Max crash, he told he Times he was appalled. "This is such of a failure of responsibility," he said. "We're not supposed to let this happen.
Consider Switching From Internet Explorer, Says US Homeland Security
While Microsoft Edge is right on track to replace Internet Explorer, it seems that the last one is a bigger security liability then you may think. In a newly released advisory, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) [an agency within America's Department of Homeland Security] is warning users about an IE vulnerability.
To keep your personal data safe and don't expose your PC to dangerous malware, the agency further recommends "Consider using Microsoft Edge or an alternate browser until patches are made available." As a reminder, this is not the first international agency that ranks IE's security very low, as Germany's BSI shared a couple of months back a similar study.
Lifehacker's senior technology editor notes that the new vulnerability affects "
various permutations of Internet Explorer 9, 10, and 11 across Windows 7, 8.1, and Windows 10 (as well as various editions of Windows Server).
"The bad news is that Microsoft won't likely patch this problem until February -- when the next major batch of security updates hits." But they offer a work-around of their own until then which involves opening an administrative command prompt to restrict access to the deprecated JScript library used by the exploit.
Otherwise, don't click on links from strangers, and if you're using IE switch to Edge. And Microsoft explains what will happen if you used Internet Explorer to visit a web site designed to exploit the vulnerability. "If the current user is logged on with administrative user rights, an attacker who successfully exploited the vulnerability
could take control of an affected system.
"An attacker could then install programs; view, change, or delete data; or create new accounts with full user rights."
What Happens When 'Ring Neighbors' Are Always Watching?
The New York Times reports on "Ring Neighbors," a local social networking service launched by Amazon in 2018 where users "share videos of delivery people carelessly throwing packages, or failing to wait for an answer at the door; others share footage of mail people navigating treacherous ice, or merely waving at the camera."
On a U.S. Postal Service forum, a mail carrier asked: "Anyone else feel kind of creeped out that people are recording and watching you, up close, deliver mail to their house or is it just me...?" The company also selects videos from its users to be shared on Ring TV, a video portal run by the company, under categories such as "Crime Prevention," "Suspicious Activity" and "Family & Friends." The videos are, essentially, free ads: The terrifying ones might convince viewers to buy cameras of their own; funny or sweet ones, at a minimum, condition viewers to understand front-door surveillance as normal, or even fun...
Ring videos also provide a constant stream of news and news-like material for media outlets. The headlines that accompany those videos portray an America both macabre and surreal: "Screams for Help Caught on Ring Camera," in Sacramento; "Man pleads for help on doorbell camera after being carjacked, shot in Arizona," in Phoenix; "WOMAN CAUGHT ON MEDFORD DOORBELL CAMERA WITH STOLEN GUN," in Oregon; "Alien abduction' caught on doorbell cam," in Porter, Tex. (it was a glitch); "Doorbell camera captures Wichita boy's plea for help after getting lost." And then there are videos like one shared by Rob Fox, in McDonough, Ga., in which his dog, locked out of the house, learns to use his doorbell. Mr. Fox posted the video to Facebook and then Reddit, from which the story drew news coverage. Ring contacted him, too, he said, to ask whether the company could use the footage in marketing materials.
Elsewhere, the footage is billed as entertainment. In early December, "America's Funniest Home Videos," which has been aggregating viewer videos since the 1980s, released a best-of compilation: "Funny Doorbell Camera Fails." It is composed almost entirely of people falling down...
Home surveillance means you're never quite home, but you're never completely away from home, either.
Footage from one Florida camera showed a bearded man who "
licks the doorbell repeatedly. Then he stands back and stares," according to the Times.
And they also report that Ring cameras are now also
being stolen, "leaving their owners with a final few seconds of footage — a hand, a face, a mask — before losing their connections."
Utah Man Builds Bulletproof Stormtrooper Suit With 3-D Printer
schwit1 quotes CNN's report on a software engineer who who really loves
Star Wars costumes:
"I kind of incorporated all of the things that I've learned in 3-D printing and DIY into this project," said Nils Rasmusson. Over the course of nine months, he printed the suit and put it together. "I had to figure out — how do you put all of these pieces together? There's no tutorial or instructions on this," he said.
The helmet alone is made up of 19 different pieces fabricated on the printer. Rasmusson said he used five printers, humming for about 400 to 600 hours, to fabricate the suit out of plastic filament.
It's even bulletproof. His friend works for a company that bulletproofs cars...
Coming Soon: an Open Source eBook Reader
Electronic component distributor Digi-Key will be
producing a small manufacturing run of the "open hardware" ereader from the Open Book Project, reports Gizmodo:
The raw hardware isn't as sleek or pretty as devices like the Kindle, but at the same time there's a certain appeal to the exposed circuit board which features brief descriptions of various components, ports, and connections etched right onto the board itself for those looking to tinker or upgrade the hardware. Users are encouraged to design their own enclosures for the Open Book if they prefer, either through 3D-printed cases made of plastic, or rustic wooden enclosures created using laser cutting machines. With a resolution of just 400x300 pixels on its monochromatic E Ink display, text on the Open Book won't look as pretty as it does on the Amazon Kindle Oasis which boasts a resolution of 1,680x1,264 pixels, but it should barely sip power from its built-in lithium-polymer rechargeable battery -- a key benefit of using electronic paper.
The open source ereader -- powered by an ARM Cortex M4 processor -- will also include a headphone jack for listening to audio books, a dedicated flash chip for storing language files with specific character sets, and even a microphone that leverages a TensorFlow-trained AI model to intelligently process voice commands so you can quietly mutter "next!" to turn the page instead of reaching for one of the ereader's physical buttons like a neanderthal. It can also be upgraded with additional functionality such as Bluetooth or wifi using Adafruit Feather expansion boards, but the most important feature is simply a microSD card slot allowing users to load whatever electronic text and ebook files they want. They won't have to be limited by what a giant corporation approves for its online book store, or be subject to price-fixing schemes which, for some reason, have still resulted in electronic files costing more than printed books.
NASA's Curiosity Rover Recovers From Glitch on Mars
NASA's Mars rover Curiosity "lost its orientation...partway through its last set of activities," reported a planetary geologist on the rover's team Monday.
lost track of its position in space and the position of its various parts like its robotic arm. "Thus, Curiosity
stopped moving, freezing in place until its knowledge of its orientation can be recovered. Curiosity kept sending us information, so we know what happened and can develop a recovery plan...."
shares the rest of the story:
"We learned this morning that plan was successful and Curiosity was ready for science once more!" mission team member Scott Guzewich, an atmospheric scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, wrote in another update on Tuesday. This latest recovery shouldn't come as a shock; Curiosity has overcome numerous setbacks since landing inside Mars' 96-mile-wide (154 kilometers) Gale Crater in August 2012. The rover has had issues with its memory and its wheels, for example, but has always bounced back...
Curiosity is now climbing the foothills of Mount Sharp, the 3.4-mile-high (5.5 km) mountain that rises from Gale Crater's center. The rover is reading the rocks for clues about Mars' long-ago climate transition, which turned the Red Planet from a relatively warm and wet place to the cold desert world it is today.
CNET notes that Curiosity is currently
NASA's only working rover on Mars.
Alan Turing's Doctorate & Knighthood Medal Recovered 36 Years After Theft
McGruber shares the news that several of Alan Turing's historic personal effects have been recovered nearly 36 years after they were stolen. From a report:
In filings in the U.S. District Court of Colorado Friday, federal officials say they seized the British mathematician's Princeton University degree, his Order of the British Empire medal and several photos, school reports and letters from his time at Sherborne School, a boarding school in Dorset, England.
According to the seizure notices, a woman named Julia Turing approached the University of Colorado Boulder in January 2018, saying she wanted to loan Alan Turing's memorabilia to the library. Archivists at the library determined that the items were stolen from Sherborne in 1984... Julia Turing isn't related to Alan Turing, but she changed her last name from Schwinghamer in 1988, according to the complaint...
A month after she reached out to the University of Colorado Boulder, federal officials searched Julia Turing's home in Conifer and recovered the items.
shared this quote from a member of the government committee that decided Turing should appear on the U.K.'s new £50 note.
"[He was] the father of computer science, a significant influence on the modern field of artificial intelligence and most importantly, his work at Bletchley Park during the second world war led a team of code-breakers to crack the German Enigma code."
New Trailer, Gameplay Videos Released For Upcoming 'DOOM Eternal'
Id software has released
a new trailer for their upcoming Doom sequel set on a demon-infested planet Earth in the year 2151. And
uploaded a 10-minute clip of gameplay while Collider
released 15 minutes.
Doom Eternal takes everything that was gloriously batshit about Doom 2016, throws it in a Lamborghini full of Slayer albums and catapults it into the sun. This game is out of its goddamn mind in the best possible way, and I literally cannot wait to get my hands on the full version... The Fortress of Doom is massive. I wasn't able to access every area, and could only guess at the function of some of the areas I did see. One section had the original Doom Marine costume on display in a glass case, and the game's director, Hugo Martin confirmed that the skin is an unlockable. Moreover, he indicated that there are several unlockable player skins in the game, including one he was clearly excited about but couldn't reveal, saying that it was still in the licensing approval stage...
Doom Eternal, like its predecessor, is a fast game, pitting you against hordes of powerful enemies that force you to constantly be on the move and quick-swapping weapons to inflict maximum damage while avoiding death. You have a few tools at your disposal to earn guaranteed life, ammo, and armor, which are the over-the-top glory kills, the terrifying chainsaw, and the brand-new flame belcher respectively. Glory kills are special instant-death maneuvers you can unleash on enemies after staggering them, and the addition of a retractable arm blade has heightened the graphic absurdity of them to such a degree that I was giggling like an idiot every time I pulled one off.
I spent the next three hours murdering my way across three massive levels that were incredibly varied in terms of design, beginning in a blasted post-apocalyptic city, then moving to a vast overgrown temple, and finally ending up in a heavily-fortified arctic base... Each stage had a completely different feel -- the city was very ground-based, with dark subway tunnels and skeletal office buildings. The temple was spread out across what felt like miles, with an unexpected amount of verticality and traversal thanks to the new climbing mechanic. Yep, Doom Guy can now cling to certain walls, as well as swing from poles to extend his jump and gain access to distant ledges. The climbing controls are a bit funky, like Spider-Man with a rotator cuff injury, but the traversal puzzles are fun and satisfying, and allow for some truly massive environments...
Martin promised that players will continue to be introduced to new enemies and environments right up until the end of the 22+ hour campaign. He describes Doom Eternal as a thinking person's action game, and that the team's goal was to create a combat puzzle worth your time.
DOOM Eternal is scheduled to be released on March 20th.
Framework Developer 'Ragequits' Open Source Community, Citing Negative Comments, 'Very Few Provide Help'
The maintainer of the popular Rust web framework Actix has quit the project -- though he's backed off threats to make its code private and delete its repository, instead appointing a new maintainer. "Be a maintainer of large open source project is not a fun task," he'd
complained last week on GitHub. "You alway face with rude and hate, everyone knows better how to build software, nobody wants to do home work and read docs and think a bit and very few provide any help...
"You felt betrayed after you put so much effort and then to hear all this shit comments, even if you understand that that is usual internet behavior.... Nowadays supporting actix project is not fun, and be[ing] part of rust community is not fun as well."
The Register reports:
Actix Web was developed by Nikolay Kim, who is also a senior software engineer at Microsoft, though the Actix project is not an official Microsoft project. Actix Web is based on Actix, a framework for Rust based on the Actor model, also developed by Kim. The web framework is important to the Rust community partly because it addresses a common use case (development web applications) and partly because of its outstanding performance. For some tests, Actix tops the Techempower benchmarks.
The project is open source and while it is popular, there has been some unhappiness among users about its use of "unsafe" code... Safe code is protected from common bugs (and more importantly, security vulnerabilities) arising from issues like variables which point to uninitialized memory, or variables which are used after the memory allocated to them has been freed, or attempting to write data to a variable which exceeds the memory allocated. Code in Rust is safe by default, but the language also supports unsafe code, which can be useful for interoperability or to improve performance.
There is extensive use of unsafe code in Actix, leading to debate about what should be fixed. Kim was not always receptive to proposed changes... Kim said that he did not ignore or delete issues arbitrarily, but only because he felt he had a better or more creative solution than the one proposed -- while also acknowledging that the "removing issue was a stupid idea." He also threatened to "make [Actix] repos private and then delete them...." Since then, matters have improved. The Github repository was restored and Kim said, "I realized, a lot of people depend on actix. And it would be unfair to just delete repos... I hope new community of developers emerge. And good luck!"
developer news site DevClass wrote that "The apparent 'ragequit' has prompted questions about the dynamics within the open source community." Over 120 GitHub users have now
signed a sympathetic letter to Nikolay from "users, contributors, and followers of your work in the Rust community," saying "We are extremely disappointed at the level of abuse directed towards you."
"Working on open source projects should be rewarding, and your work has empowered thousands of developers across the world to build web services with Rust. It's incredibly tragic for someone who has contributed so much to the community, to be made to feel so unwelcome that they feel that they have no other choice than to leave. This is not the kind of community we want."
Did America Steal Its Space Force Logo From 'Star Trek'?
On Friday America's commander-in-chief revealed the logo for the newest branch of its military, Space Force. CNBC immediately reported that the logo "
has boldly gone where Star Trek has gone before."
The Pentagon and White House did not immediately respond to CNBC's query as to why the Space Force and Star Trek logos -- both with blue globes, white stars, and swooshed rings around a sleek space ship -- looked similar.
"The U.S. government took a thing from a TV show and made it the official emblem of a branch of the military, "
tweeted a culture writer for the New York Times.
But conservative national security commentator John Noonan argued it looks more
like the logo for America's Air Force Space Command (founded in 1982). "So the Air Force originally stole the Star Trek logo?" someone asked him on Twitter -- prompting this wry reply.
"Well, that was certainly the joke we made 15 years ago."
it may actually be the other way around. One Star Trek fan site claims that the Starfleet logo never even appeared on the original Star Trek or Star Trek: The Next Generation series, and wasn't created until
after the Air Force's logo, during the fourth season of Deep Space Nine (around 1996), by American graphic designer
In the Star Trek Sticker Book, on the cover of which the logo of Starfleet Command is shown at a large size, Mike Okuda writes, "The Starfleet Command seal was first seen in 'Homefront' (Deep Space 9) and later in 'In the Flesh' (Voyager), although the agency itself, of course, dates back to the original Star Trek series.
"The symbol was intended to be somewhat reminiscent of the NASA emblem."
EFF Defends Bruce Perens Victory Against 'Open Source Security' in Appeals Court
Bruce Perens (Slashdot reader #3872) co-founded the Open Source Initiative with Eric Raymond in 1998. (And then
left it this January 2nd.)
But in 2017 Perens was also sued
partly over comments made in a Slashdot discussion. He's just shared
a video from the 9th Circuit Appeals Court hearing -- along with this update:
Open Source Security Inc. and their CEO, Mr. Bradley Spengler, sued me for 3 Million dollars for defamation, because I wrote this blog post, in which I explained why I thought they were in violation of the GPL. They lost in the lower court, and had to file this $300,000 bond to pay for my defense, which will be awarded to my attorneys if the appeals court upholds the lower court's finding.
Because OSS/Spengler are in Pensylvania and I am in California, this was tried before a Magistrate in Federal court, with the laws of California and the evidentiary rules of the Federal Court. Thus, I am now in the 9th Circuit for appeal.
The first attorney to appear is for OSS/Spengler. The second works for EFF, and the third for O'Melveny. In my opinion EFF and O'Melveny did a great job.
If you are interested in the case, I have a partial archive of the case documents from PACER, and a link to PACER where the rest can be found, here.
A Man Diagnosed With Wuhan Coronavirus Near Seattle Is Being Treated Largely By a Robot
An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNN:
The first person diagnosed with the Wuhan coronavirus in the United States is being treated by a few medical workers and a robot. The robot, equipped with a stethoscope, is helping doctors take the man's vitals and communicate with him through a large screen, said Dr. George Diaz, chief of the infectious disease division at the Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Washington. "The nursing staff in the room move the robot around so we can see the patient in the screen, talk to him," Diaz said, adding the use of the robot minimizes exposure of medical staff to the infected man. It's unclear when the patient will be released because the CDC, which is set to provide the discharge details, has recommended additional testing. "They're looking for ongoing presence of the virus," Diaz told CNN on Thursday. "They're looking to see when the patient is no longer contagious."
Clayton Christensen, Father of 'Disruptive Innovation,' Dies At 67
Clayton Christensen, the business scholar who coined the term "disruptive innovation,"
died of cancer treatment complications on Thursday at age 67. The Verge reports:
You may not immediately recognize his name, but the tech industry -- and every resulting industry -- is built on the framework of technology disruption and innovation that Christensen devised. The crux of Christensen's theory is that big, successful companies that neglect potential customers at the lower end of their markets (mainframe computers, in his famous example) are ripe for disruption from smaller, more efficient, more nimble competitors that can do almost as good a job more cheaply (like personal computers). One need look no further than the biggest names in Silicon Valley to find evidence of successful disrupters, from Napster to Amazon to Uber to Airbnb and so on.
And scores of notable tech leaders have for years cited Christensen's 1997 book The Innovator's Dilemma as a major influence. It's the only business book on the late Steve Jobs' must-read list; Netflix CEO Reed Hastings read it with his executive team when he was developing the idea for his company; and the late Andy Grove, CEO of Intel, said the book and Christensen's theory were responsible for that company's turnaround. [...] He later refined his thinking on disruption, introducing the concept of "jobs to be done," which stressed the need to focus on customers' needs, and acknowledged that disruption was a great way to start a company, but not a good way to grow a company. "It's not a manual for how to grow or how to predict what customers want. [Jobs to be done] is the second side of the same coin: How can I be sure that competitors won't kill me and how can I be sure customers will want to buy the product? So it's actually a very important compliment to disruption."