Originally posted on TIME:
There’s been a lot of discussion and a tremendous amount of speculation lately about the nature of drones and their role in our society as useful tools and hobbyist toys.
Last year, while celebrating my birthday in Maine, I was given a drone fitted with a high-definition camera. After a quick introduction to the mechanics of operating the contraption and a few words about its idiosyncrasies, I loaded the appropriate app on my iPad and went down to the beach.
In just a few minutes I was hooked. In near silence, the drone rose, hovered, and dove, silently and surreptitiously photographing us and the landscape around us. The photos and video were stunning. By assuming unusual vantage points, the drone allowed me to “see” so much more of my surroundings than usual. The view I was “seeing” on my iPad with the help of the drone would have otherwise been…
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From a great tumblr site, spaceexp: This chart provides a comparison of the distances driven by various wheeled vehicles on the surface of Mars and Earth’s moon. Of the vehicles shown, NASA’s Mars rovers Opportunity and Curiosity are still active and the totals listed are distances driven as of July 28, 2014. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] Bill Whittle: It’s Been 45 Years Since Man Walked on the Moon for the First Time. Have We Been Challenged Since?Posted: July 20, 2014
Its been 45 years since man walked on the moon for the first time. Have we been challenged since? Or are we a windless sail, full of potentital without a direct challenge? We tamed a continent, we conquered the skies, and we did fly to the moon–don’t let us, as a people, only have political discussion as our challenge.
“When Apollo 11 landed on the moon 45 years ago, this space station that we live on was science fiction”
International Space Station astronauts Steve Swanson and Reid Wiseman salute the Apollo 11 mission on the 45th anniversary of its launch.
“But today it is reality thanks to the legacy of the Apollo astronauts…”
“When Apollo 11 landed on the moon 45 years ago,” says Swanson, “this space station that we live on was science fiction. But today it is reality thanks to the legacy of the Apollo astronauts and all the nations that have followed the path to space since then.”
For Popular Mechanics, Darren Orf reports: To the tech-obsessed or the well-informed DIYer, MakerBot is a name synonymous with additive manufacturing. Despite the rapid growth of 3D printing, however, it can still seem like a far-out future technology to plenty of Americans. Now, the company hopes to go mainstream with the help of Home Depot, announcing a partnership to sell and demonstrate MakerBot Replicators in 12 select stores in the U.S. This pilot program will be based primarily in Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York.
The MakerBot models will appear in specially designed kiosks (pictured above), and MakerBot-trained retail staffers will give continuous demonstrations. They’ll also let you keep whatever they print during a demonstration—your very own 3D-printed souvenir. Read the rest of this entry »
A dramatic spike in the number of Americans with permits to carry concealed weapons coincides with an equally stark drop in violent crime, according to a new study, which Second Amendment advocates say makes the case that more guns can mean safer streets.
“When you allow people to carry concealed handguns, you see changes in the behavior of criminals.”
- John R. Lott, Crime Prevention Research Center
The study by the Crime Prevention Research Center found that 11.1 million Americans now have permits to carry concealed weapons, up from 4.5 million in 2007. The 146 percent increase has come even as both murder and violent crime rates have dropped by 22 percent.
Six states don’t require a permit for legal gun owners to conceal their weapons, and Lott notes those states have some of the lowest violent crime rates in the nation.
“When you allow people to carry concealed handguns, you see changes in the behavior of criminals,” said the center’s president, John R. Lott, a Fox News contributor. “Some criminals stop committing crimes, others move on to crimes in which they don’t come into contact with victims and others actually move to areas where they have less fear of being confronted by armed victims.”
Increasing gun ownership, litigation and new state laws have all contributed to the rise in concealed carry permits. In March, Illinois became the 50th state to begin issuing concealed weapons permits. But the cost and other requirements for obtaining the permits varies greatly, from South Dakota, where a permit requires $10, a background check and no training, to Illinois, where the cost of obtaining a permit comes to more than $600 when the fee and cost of training programs are taken into account. Read the rest of this entry »
Science fiction writers have come up with a plausible scenario for a floating city above the fiery planet.
For CityLab, James McGirk writes: Why worry about building a colony on Mars when instead you could float one high above the surface of Venus? Science fiction writer Charles Stross recently revived the idea of building a Venutian colony when he suggested, cheekily, that billionaires ought to be compelled to donate to massive humanity-improving projects. He suggested two: a Manhattan Project-like focus on developing commercial nuclear fusion, or the construction of a floating city on Venus.
The second planet from the Sun might seem like a nasty place to build a home, with a surface temperature hot enough to melt lead and an atmosphere so dense it would feel like being submerged beneath 3000 feet of water. But the air on Venus thins out as you rise above the surface and cools considerably; about 30 miles up you hit the sweet spot for human habitation: Mediterranean temperatures and sea-level barometric pressure. If ever there were a place to build a floating city, this would be it.
Believe it or not, a floating city might be a feasible project. Scientist and science fiction author Geoffrey Landis presented a paper called “Colonizing Venus” [PDF] at the Conference on Human Space Exploration, Space Technology & Applications International Forum in Albuquerque, New Mexico back in 2003. Breathable air floats in Venus’s soupy carbon dioxide atmosphere, which means on Venus, a blimp could use air as its lifting gas, the way terrestrial blimps use helium to float in our much thinner atmosphere.
A group of science fiction authors and scientists have been discussing the idea on the blog Selenian Boondocks, which founder Jonathan Goff describes as “a blog I founded to discuss space politics, policy, technology, business, and space settlement.” One of the biggest problems with a lunar or Martian colony is that an astronaut’s bones and muscles deteriorate in low gravity. No one knows yet how much gravity a human needs to prevent deterioration, but Venus’s gravity is the closest to Earth’s, at about 9/10ths. Mars only has a third of the gravity that the Earth does, while the moon has a mere sixth. Read the rest of this entry »
The Future of Underwater Surveillance?
For Defense Tech, Kris Osborn reports: The Navy is testing a stealthy, 4 foot-long fish-shaped autonomous underwater vehicle designed to blend in with undersea life and perform combat sensor functions, service officials explained.
The so-called “bio-memetic” undersea vehicle is currently being developed as part of the Chief of Naval Operations Rapid Innovation Cell, or CRIC – a special unit set up by CNO Adm. Jonathan Greenert in 2012 to explore the feasibility of rapidly turning around commercially available technologies for Naval military use.
“You could have a sub with a fish-like UUV tethered onto a cable, giving real time feedback as opposed to current ones that come back for a download…”
– Capt. Jim Loper, Navy Warfare Development Command
“It mimics a fish. It looks like a fish. We call it robo-tuna, affectionately, but it is a UUV (unmanned undersea vehicle). It does not have a propeller or a jet. It actually swims by flipping its tail around,” said Capt. Jim Loper, concepts and innovation department head, Navy Warfare Development Command, Norfolk. Read the rest of this entry »
A photo through two floating water droplets
More from the 4th of July links
Washington College professor John Conkling, who is the former director of the American Pyrotechnics Association and the co-author of Chemistry of Pyrotechnics, breaks down the science of fireworks and offers a laboratory demonstration of various color fuels in action.
For Techdirt, Mike Masnick reports: The other shoe just dropped when it comes to how the federal government illegally spies on Americans. Last summer, the details of the NSA‘s“backdoor searches” were revealed. This involved big collections ofcontent and metadata (so, no, not “just metadata” as meaningless as that phrase is) that were collected under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act (FAA). This is part of the program that the infamous PRISM effort operates under, and which allows the NSA to collect all sorts of content, including communications to, from or about a “target” — where a “target” can be incredibly loosely defined (i.e., it can include groups or machines or just about anything). The “backdoor searches” were a special loophole added in 2011 allowing the NSA to make use of “US person names and identifiers as query terms.” In the past, it had been limited (as per the NSA’s mandate) to only non-US persons.
“…the CIA is doing these kinds of warrantless fishing expeditions into the communications of Americans as well, but at least the CIA tracks how often it’s doing so. Of course, when it comes to metadata searches, the CIA doesn’t bother.”
This morning, James Clapper finally responded to a request from Senator Ron Wyden concerning the number of such backdoor searches using US identifiers that were done by various government agencies. And, surprisingly, it’sredaction free. The big reveal is… that it’s not just the NSA doing these searches, but the CIA and FBI as well. This is especially concerning with regards to the FBI. This means that the FBI, who does surveillance on Americans, is spying on Americans communications that were collected by the NSA and that they’re doing so without anything resembling a warrant. Oh, and let’s make this even worse: the FBI isn’t even tracking how often it does this. It’s just doing it willy nilly:
The FBI does not track how many queries it conducts using U.S. person identifiers. The FBI is responsible for identifying and countering threats to the homeland, such as terrorism pilots and espionage, inside the U.S. Unlike other IC agencies, because of its domestic mission, the FBI routinely deals with information about US persons and is expected to look for domestic connections to threats emanating from abroad, including threats involving Section 702 non-US. person targets. To fulfill its mission and avoid missing connections within the information lawfully in its possession, the FBI does not distinguish between U.S. and non- U.S. persons for purposes of querying Section 702 collection. It should be noted that the FBI does not receive all of Section 702 collection; rather, the FBI only requests and receives a small percentage of total Section 702 collection and only for those selectors in which the FBI has an investigative interest. Read the rest of this entry »