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Soft Target: Security Holes in Power Grid Have Federal Officials Scrambling

In Congress, the vulnerability of the power grid has emerged as among the most pressing domestic security concerns

A report chronicling the vulnerability of the power grid said: “Many of the grid’s important components sit out in the open, often in remote locations, protected by little more than cameras and chain-link fences.” (Patrick Tehan / Bay Area News Group / February 2, 2014)  http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-grid-security-20140407,0,5068036.story#ixzz2z4sPXbaq

A report chronicling the vulnerability of the power grid said: “Many of the grid’s important components sit out in the open, often in remote locations, protected by little more than cameras and chain-link fences.” (Patrick Tehan / Bay Area News Group)

For the LATimes, Evan Halper writes: Adam Crain assumed that tapping into the computer networks used by power companies to keep electricity zipping through transmission lines would be nearly impossible in these days of heightened vigilance over cybersecurity.

When he discovered how wrong he was, his work sent Homeland Security Department officials into a scramble.

Crain, the owner of a small tech firm in Raleigh, N.C., along with a research partner, found penetrating transmission systems used by dozens of utilities to be startlingly easy. After they shared their discovery with beleaguered utility security officials, the Homeland Security Department began sending alerts to power grid operators, advising them to upgrade their software.

The alerts haven’t stopped because Crain keeps finding new security holes he can exploit.

“There are a lot of people going through various stages of denial” about how easily terrorists could disrupt the power grid, he said. “If I could write a tool that does this, you can be sure a nation state or someone with more resources could.”

“Many of the grid’s important components sit out in the open, often in remote locations, protected by little more than cameras and chain-link fences.”

Those sorts of warnings, along with vivid demonstrations of the grid’s vulnerability, such as an incident a year ago in which unknown assailants fired on a power station near San Jose, nearly knocking out electricity to Silicon Valley, have grabbed official attention. In Congress, the vulnerability of the power grid has emerged as among the most pressing domestic security concerns.

It is also among the most vexing. Read the rest of this entry »

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Astronaut Pee Turned Into Fuel

astronaut_urine_recycling

Alyssa Denigelis reports: It’s a classic fact that astronaut urine can be processed into drinkable water. Now a new bioreactor could turn the waste filtered from that pee into an energy source as well.

When water supplies run low on a space mission, astronaut urine can be treated to become drinking water. But the waste removed is still, well, waste. University of Puerto Rico scientists Eduardo Nicolau and Carlos R. Cabrera, working in collaboration with the NASA Ames Research Center, came up with a new approach to make use of the waste.

Read the rest of this entry »


RAIL GUNS!

Two words: RAIL GUNS!

 

 


First Instagram from Space

 


Is The Flying Car Finally Here?

flying-car
What will personal transportation look like in the future? Maybe like this, if aerospace company Terrafugia succeeds in its efforts to build TF-X.

Introducing TF-X

For CNNTeo Kermeliotis, reports: Ever since the early 1960s when we were glued to the animated sitcom “The Jetsons“, whimsical visions of a futuristic space utopia filled our imaginations leaving people asking themselves: “Where’s my flying car?”

Point taken, but perhaps now, as our childhood dreams move slowly closer to reality, we should also start pondering this: if a flying car was here today, in the real world and not in the realm of science fiction, would we feel comfortable controlling it safely while cruising thousands of feet up in the air? Would we possess the technical skills required to even get it off the ground, let alone land it without a scratch?

Before you dash to the door and sprint to your nearest pilot school to sign up for flight lessons, take a moment to meet Carl Dietrich, the chief executive and co-founder of aerospace company Terrafugia.

Dietrich and his team are working to bring consumers closer to the prospect of a practical flying car, envisioning a vehicle that does not require its operator to be a trained pilot. Thus, Boston -based Terrafugia announced last May it had started working on the concept of TF-X, a four-seat, plug-in hybrid electric car that can do vertical take-offs and landings.

terrafugia-tf-x-plane
A rendering of the TF-X concept.

Who makes the calls?

Although not driverless, Dietrich says the TF-X could increase the level of so-called “human directed local autonomy,” a term he describes as a “big fancy phrase” that essentially means that the vehicle’s operator won’t need to have the knowledge or skills of a pilot. Read the rest of this entry »


[PHOTO] Concept Model: Saturn V and Space Shuttle Combo

saturn-shuttle

Saturn-Shuttle / The concept model for a Saturn V and Space Shuttle combo.

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Discovery, Science to Televise Live Moon Landing

Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Discovery and Science Channels are headed to the moon.

The sibling cable networks have signed on to chronicle the Google Lunar XPRIZE competition for privately funded teams to land an unmanned craft on the moon by Dec. 31, 2015.

Lesley Goldberg writes:  The networks will chronicle the historic race with a miniseries event that follows teams from around the world as they race to complete the requirements for the grand prize: landing a craft on the surface of the moon, traveling 500 meters and transmitting live pictures and video back to Earth.

Science and Discovery will follow the entire process — from testing and lift-off to live coverage of the winning lunar landing, estimated to take place in 2015.

“The $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE offers all the ingredients of fantastic television; stakes, competition, big characters and mind-blowing visuals.

Read the rest of this entry »


M.I.T. Meets Tumblr: The Anatomy of a Forgotten Social Network

While network scientists have been poring over data from Twitter and Facebook, they’ve forgotten about Tumblr. Now they’ve begun to ask how this network differs from the rest.

Tumblr
The study of social networks has gripped computer scientists in recent years. In particular, researchers have focused on a few of the biggest networks that have made their data available, such as some mobile phone networks, Wikipedia and Twitter.

“One interesting question is whether Tumblr more closely resembles a blogosphere network than a microblogging network like that of Twitter.”

But in the rush, one network has been more or less ignored by researchers: Tumblr, a microblogging platform similar to Twitter. So an interesting question is how the network associated with Tumblr is different from the Twitter network.

Today we get an answer thanks to the work of Yi Chang and pals at Yahoo Labs in Sunnyvale. These guys point out that relatively little is known about Tumblr compared to other networks like Twitter and set out to change this.

The basic statistics are straightforward. Tumblr is a microblogging service with about 160 million users who together have published over 70 billion posts.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Largest Submarine in The U.S. Navy

USS Pennsylvania is a United States Navy Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine which has been in commission since 1989. The Ohio class is a class of nuclear powered submarines used by the United States Navy. 

YouTube.


The Next Age of Invention

24_1-jm

For City JournalJoel Mokyr writes:  The statement “everything that could be invented has been invented” is frequently misattributed to the late-nineteenth-century American patent commissioner Charles Holland Duell. The Economistonce credited him with the remark, and sites such as “kool kwotes” still reproduce it. In fact, Duell believed the opposite. “In my opinion,” he wrote at the turn of the century, “all previous advances in the various lines of invention will appear totally insignificant when compared with those which the present century will witness. I almost wish that I might live my life over again to see the wonders which are at the threshold.” While this prediction turned out to be on the money, the belief that “the end of invention” is near is very much alive in our age, despite ample evidence of accelerating technological progress.

“Most states today realize that peaceful interstate competition in the marketplace requires staying current with the most advanced technology—but terrorists and rogue states want to stay current, too, for very different reasons…”

Pessimism is most prevalent among economists such as Northwestern University professor Robert J. Gordon, who expects growth to slow to a small fraction of what it was in the past. Gordon predicts that the disposable income of the bottom 99 percent of Americans will grow at just 0.2 percent per year—one-tenth the average rate of U.S. economic growth in the twentieth century. Innovation, he maintains, will not be enough to offset the headwinds that will buffet Western industrialized economies in the next half-century—aging populations, declining educational achievement, and rising inequality. And he is not alone in this dismal view. In The End of Science, published in 1996, journalist John Horgan declared that “the modern era of rapid scientific and technological progress appears to be not a permanent feature of reality, but an aberration, a fluke. . . . Science is unlikely to make any significant additions to the knowledge it has already generated. There will be no revelations in the future comparable to those bestowed upon us by Darwin or Einstein or Watson and Crick.”

“The argument that “if we don’t do this, someone else will” should prove more powerful than the concerns of groups that regard a new technology with suspicion.”

Certainly, it is difficult to know exactly in which direction technological change will move and how significant it will be. Much as in evolutionary biology, all we know is history. Yet something can be learned from the past, and it tells us that such pessimism is mistaken. The future of technology is likely to be bright. Read the rest of this entry »


Vintage Atomic Photo of the Day: How Isotopes Are Made

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Click for full-sized image

 

 

 

 


The Quest for Immortality: We May Already Know How We Will Cure Death. Should We?

Aubrey de Grey is head of a Silicon Valley-based research team bent on reversing aging just in time for de Grey to live forever. David Alvarado & Jason Sussberg

Aubrey de Grey is head of a Silicon Valley-based research team bent on reversing aging just in time for de Grey to live forever. David Alvarado & Jason Sussberg

Christopher Mims writes:  A pair of advocates—they do legitimate research too, but their ardor is so intense, it’s hard to call them scientists—believe that they will, within their lifetimes, make ours the first generation of humans to live forever.

“Once we are really truly repairing things as fast as they go wrong, game over. We will have the ability to live indefinitely.”

– Aubrey de Grey

Their quest is elegantly laid out in The Immortalists, a new documentary making its way around the film festival circuit. The Immortalists follows the triumphs and tragedies of three years in the lives of William H. Andrews and Aubrey de Grey, two men who prove just as interesting as the work they’re doing. The Immortalists is really a film about death, not life, which is what makes it so fascinating.

Here’s the trailer:

The goal of Andrews and de Grey is not merely to extend life, but to actually reverse the aging process. “Once we are really truly repairing things as fast as they go wrong, game over,” de Grey says in the film. “We will have the ability to live indefinitely.”

Read the rest of this entry »


Vintage Sci-Fi Illustration of the Day

future-city

vintagefuture


Space History Photo of the Day: ‘Big Joe’, 1959

rocket-launch
Atlas launch vehicle carrying the Big Joe capsule, September 9, 1959

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