How Big is the Orion Capsule? This Big

Orion Command Module Pad Abort (PA-1) Test Article Transport From Holloman Air Force Base to White Sands Missile Range.


[PHOTO] Westinghouse Demonstrates an Electric Razor Using X-Ray Technology, 1941

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Photograph by Westinghouse Electric Corp

theoddsideofme – 


Lawrence Wascher: A Rare, Personal Look at Oliver Sacks’s Early Career

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The world was saddened to learn of neurologist and best-selling author Oliver Sacks’s terminal illness through a recent op-ed. With Sacks’s new autobiography out this month, Lawrence Weschler shares early stories and diary entries about Sacks, his close friend, before Sacks achieved worldwide fame.

 writes: This past February 19, fans and friends of Oliver Sacks learned, by way of an article he published in The New York Times, that the great neurologist and medical chronicler had terminal cancer. “Nine years ago,” he explained, “it was discovered that I had a rare tumor of the eye, an ocular melanoma. The radiation and lasering to remove the tumor ultimately left me blind in that eye. But though ocular melanomas metastasize in perhaps 50 percent of cases, given the particulars of my own case, the likelihood was much smaller. I am among the unlucky ones.”I have been both a longtime fan and a longtime friend of Sacks’s—and, what is more, had once, for a period of four years several decades ago, been his impending biographer. Back in those days, in the early 1980s—some years after the publication of his not yet celebrated masterpiece Awakenings and just before the spate of books, beginning with The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, that would bring him fame—Oliver was something of a recluse, living alone in a modest clapboard house out on City Island, in the Bronx, commuting each day to his medical rounds at the state hospitals and nursing homes that constituted his principal employers. Back then, he had relatively few friends and was regularly available for the frequent meals and forays that came to constitute the early days of our friendship.I had originally written him a letter, sometime in the late 70s, from my California home. Somehow back in college I had come upon Awakenings, published in 1973, an account of his work with a group of patients who had been warehoused for decades in a home for the incurable—they were “human statues,” locked in trance-like states of near-infinite remove following bouts of a now rare form of encephalitis. Some had been in this condition since the mid-1920s. These people were suddenly brought back to life by Sacks, in 1969, following his administration of the then new “wonder drug” L-dopa, and Sacks described their spring-like awakenings and the harrowing siege of tribulations that followed. In the book, Sacks gave the facility where all this happened the pseudonym “Mount Carmel,” an apparent reference to Saint John of the Cross and his Dark Night of the Soul. But, as I wrote to Sacks in that first letter, his book seemed to me much more Jewish and Kabbalistic than Christian mystical. Was I wrong?
Oliver Sacks, medical storyteller extraordinaire, in Manhattan on the edge of the Hudson, 1990. By Ken Shung/MPTVImages.com.

Oliver Sacks, medical storyteller extraordinaire, in Manhattan on the edge of the Hudson, 1990. By Ken Shung/MPTVImages.com.

He responded with a hand-pecked typed letter of a good dozen pages, to the effect that, indeed, the old people’s home in question, in the Bronx, was actually named Beth Abraham; that he himself came from a large and teeming London-based Jewish family; that one of his cousins was in fact the eminent Israeli foreign minister Abba Eban (another, as I would later learn, was Al Capp, of Li’l Abner fame); and that his principal intellectual hero and mentor-at-a-distance, whose influence could be sensed on every page of Awakenings, had been the great Soviet neuropsychologist A. R. Luria, who was likely descended from Isaac Luria, the 16th-century Jewish mystic.

Our correspondence proceeded from there, and when, a few years later, I moved from Los Angeles to New York, I began venturing out to Oliver’s haunts on City Island. Or he would join me for far-flung walkabouts in Manhattan. The successive revelations about his life that made up the better part of our conversations grew ever more intriguing: how both his parents had been doctors and his mother one of the first female surgeons in England; how, during the Second World War, with both his parents consumed by medical duties that began with the Battle of Britain, he, at age eight, had been sent with an older brother, Michael, to a hellhole of a boarding school in the countryside, run by “a headmaster who was an obsessive flagellist, with an unholy bitch for a wife and a 16-year-old daughter who was a pathological snitch”; and how—though his brother emerged shattered by the experience, and to that day lived with his father—he, Oliver, had managed to put himself back together through an ardent love of the periodic table, a version of which he had come upon at the Natural History Museum at South Kensington, and by way of marine-biology classes at St. Paul’s School, which he attended alongside such close lifetime friends as the neurologist and director Jonathan Miller and the exuberant polymath Eric Korn. Oliver described how he gradually became aware of his homosexuality, a fact that, to put it mildly, he did not accept with ease; and how, following college and medical school, he had fled censorious England, first to Canada and then to residencies in San Francisco and Los Angeles, where in his spare hours he made a series of sexual breakthroughs, indulged in staggering bouts of pharmacological experimentation, underwent a fierce regimen of bodybuilding at Muscle Beach (for a time he held a California record, after he performed a full squat with 600 pounds across his shoulders), and racked up more than 100,000 leather-clad miles on his motorcycle. And then one day he gave it all up—the drugs, the sex, the motorcycles, the bodybuilding. By the time we started talking, he had been pretty much celibate for almost two decades.

[Read the full story here, at Vanity Fair]

Early on, Oliver had agreed to let me write his biography, and I began filling what would become 14 notebooks of accounts of our meetings and conversations. Much of our time consisted of his telling me ever more (to his mind) scandalous tales in the hopes that I, too, might finally concur in his estimation that his homosexuality was a terrible blight, a disfiguring canker on his character, which I just as regularly refused to do. He would not be assuaged. Midway through the process, he began to have second thoughts about our whole biographical project. Was there any way that I could tell his story without the homosexual stuff? Alas, there wasn’t.
Read the rest of this entry »


Oliver Sacks, Neurologist Who Wrote ‘Awakenings,’ Dies at 82

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The acclaimed author, whose book Awakenings inspired an Oscar nominated film of the same name, reportedly died of cancer at his home in New York.

“He died surrounded by the things he loved and the people he loved, very peacefully, after an illness he had known about since January this year. He taught us a great deal, right up until the very end.”

In February he wrote about his illness – and being “face to face with dying”.

His publicist Jacqui Graham paid tribute to Dr Sacks, saying he was “unlike anybody I have ever met”, while JK Rowling said he was “inspirational”.

Dr Sacks was best known for his writing, including his book Awakenings – his account of how he brought a group of patients “back to life” after they spent years in “frozen states” after an illness.

Image caption Dr Sacks received a CBE from the Queen in October 2008

Image caption Dr Sacks received a CBE from the Queen in October 2008

The film version, which starred Robert De Niro and Robin Williams, was nominated for three Academy Awards in 1991, including best picture.

“He always taught us what it was to be human, and he taught us what it is to die.”

— His publicist Jacqui Graham, paying tribute to Dr Sacks

Dr Sacks, who was born in London but had lived in New York since 1965, was also the author of several other books about unusual medical conditions, including The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat and The Island Of The Colorblind.

He was awarded several honorary degrees recognising his contribution to science and literature, as well as a CBE in 2008 in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. Read the rest of this entry »


Buzz Aldrin Joins Florida Institute of Technology, Forming ‘Master Plan’ for Colonizing Mars within 25 Years

 In this July 20, 1969 file photo, astronaut Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin Jr. stands next to a U.S. flag planted on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission. Aldrin and Neil Armstrong were the first men to walk on the lunar surface. During a ceremony in Melbourne, Fla. on Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015, Aldrin announced he is teaming up with the Florida Institute of Technology to develop "a master plan" for colonizing Mars within 25 years. (Neil A. Armstrong/NASA via AP)

MELBOURNE, Fla. (AP) — Marcia Dunn reports: Buzz Aldrin is teaming up with Florida Institute of Technology to develop “a master plan” for colonizing Mars within 25 years.

“The Pilgrims on the Mayflower came here to live and stay. They didn’t wait around Plymouth Rock for the return trip, and neither will people building up a population and a settlement.”

— Buzz Aldrin

The second man to walk on the moon took part in a signing ceremony Thursday at the university, less than an hour’s drive from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. The Buzz Aldrin Space Institute is set to open this fall.

The 85-year-old Aldrin, who followed Neil Armstrong onto the moon’s surface on July 20, 1969, will serve as a research professor of aeronautics as well as a senior faculty adviser for the institute. Read the rest of this entry »


[PHOTO] En Route to the First Moon Landing: Gemini 5, Fifty Years Ago

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[PHOTO] This is How Fast the Space Probe Is

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This is how fast the space probe is.

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Gavin Andresen on Why Bitcoin Will Become Unreliable Next Year Without an Urgent Fix 

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The man who took over stewardship of Bitcoin from its mysterious inventor says the currency is in serious trouble.

Tom Simonite reports: The way things are going, the digital currency Bitcoin will start to malfunction early next year. Transactions will become increasingly delayed, and the system of money now worth $3.3 billion will begin to die as its flakiness drives people away. So says Gavin Andresen, who in 2010 was designated chief caretaker of the code that powers Bitcoin by its shadowy creator. Andresen held the role of “core maintainer” during most of Bitcoin’s improbable rise; he stepped down last year but still remains heavily involved with the currency (see “The Man Who Really Built Bitcoin”).

Andresen’s gloomy prediction stems from the fact that Bitcoin can’t process more than seven transactions a second. That’s a tiny volume compared to the tens of thousands per second that payment systems like Visa can handle—and a limit he expects to start crippling Bitcoin early in 2016. It stems from the maximum size of the “blocks” that are added to the digital ledger of Bitcoin transactions, the blockchain, by people dubbed miners who run software that confirms Bitcoin transactions and creates new Bitcoin (see “What Bitcoin Is and Why It Matters”).

[Read the full text here, at MIT Technology Review]

Andresen’s proposed solution triggered an uproar among people who use or work with Bitcoin when he introduced it two weeks ago. Rather than continuing to work with the developers who maintain Bitcoin’s code, Andresen released his solution in the form of an alternative version of the Bitcoin software called BitcoinXT and urged the community to switch over. If 75 percent of miners have adopted his fix after January 11, 2016, it will trigger a two-week grace period and then allow a “fork” of the blockchain with higher capacity. Critics consider that to be a reckless toying with Bitcoin’s future; Andresen, who now works on Bitcoin with the support of MIT’s Media Lab, says it is necessary to prevent the currency strangling itself. He spoke with MIT Technology Review’s San Francisco bureau chief, Tom Simonite.

How serious is the problem of Bitcoin’s limited transaction rate?

It is urgent. Looking at the transaction volume on the Bitcoin network, we need to address it within the next four or five months. As we get closer and closer to the limit, bad things start to happen. Networks close to capacity get congested and unreliable. If you want reliability, you’ll have to start paying higher and higher fees on transactions, and there will be a point where fees get high enough that people stop using Bitcoin. Read the rest of this entry »


[VIDEO] Who’s Up For Some High-Speed Crash Tests? Is 124 MPH Too Fast?

 


Now You Can Make Diamonds in a Microwave

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Lab-Grown Diamonds Made In A Microwave Are Now A Thing. 

 reports: Diamonds really are forever, now that we can manufacture them.

“The man-made diamonds are starting to be sold by retailers such as Wal-Mart , although they still make up just a small fraction of total diamond sales.”

There’s a growing market for man-made jewels grown in science labs, Bloomberg reports. The diamonds are made by placing a carbon seed in a microwave chamber and superheating the substance into a plasma ball, which crystallizes into the much-desired jewels. Experts can only tell the difference between the manufactured diamonds and traditionally mined ones using a machine…(read more)

Source: Fortune


Coming to Construction Sites: Drone Overlords

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Drones are being used to capture video footage that shows construction progress at the Sacramento Kings’ new stadium.

Will Knight writes: For some construction workers, any thoughts of slacking off could soon seem rather quaint. The drones will almost certainly notice.

“It’s not new to the construction industry that there would either be people standing and observing operations, or that there would be fixed cameras. Yes, making this autonomous has a different feeling for the workers.”

The workers building a lavish new downtown stadium for the Sacramento Kings in California are being monitored by drones and software that can automatically flag slow progress.

“But you have to keep in mind that it’s not really questioning the efficiency of the workers, it’s questioning what resources these guys need to be more efficient.”

The project highlights the way new technologies allow manual work to be monitored and scrutinized, and it comes as productivity in other areas of work, including many white collar jobs, is being tracked more closely using desktop and smartphone software.

Software developed at the University of Illinois can show different stages of construction.

Software developed at the University of Illinois can show different stages of construction.

“We highlight at-risk locations on a site, where the probability of having an issue is really high. We can understand why deviations are happening, and we can see where efficiency improvements are made.”

— Mani Golparvar-Fard, an assistant professor in the department of civil engineering at the University of Illinois, who developed the software with several colleagues

Once per day, several drones automatically patrol the Sacramento work site, collecting video footage. That footage is then converted into a three-dimensional picture of the site, which is fed into software that compares it to computerized architectural plans as well as a the construction work plan showing when each element should be finished. The software can show managers how the project is progressing, and can automatically highlight parts that may be falling behind schedule.

[Read the full story here, at MIT Technology Review]

“We highlight at-risk locations on a site, where the probability of having an issue is really high,” says Mani Golparvar-Fard, an assistant professor in the department of civil engineering at the University of Illinois, who developed the software with several colleagues. It can show, for example, that a particular structural element is behind schedule, perhaps because materials have not yet arrived. “We can understand why deviations are happening, and we can see where efficiency improvements are made,” Golparvar-Fard says.

Such additional scrutiny is controversial. It raises worries over worker privacy, for instance, and fears that people may be encouraged to work excessive hours.

Another project involves tracking the activity of individual construction workers in video footage.

Another project involves tracking the activity of individual construction workers in video footage.

“Such additional scrutiny is controversial. It raises worries over worker privacy, for instance, and fears that people may be encouraged to work excessive hours.”

Golparvar-Fard concedes that this could be an issue, but he defends the idea. “It’s not new to the construction industry that there would either be people standing and observing operations, or that there would be fixed cameras,” he says. “Yes, making this autonomous has a different feeling for the workers. But you have to keep in mind that it’s not really questioning the efficiency of the workers, it’s questioning what resources these guys need to be more efficient.” Read the rest of this entry »


The End of the Internet Dream?

internet-dream-blackhat

In 20 years, the Web might complete its shift from liberator to oppressor. It’s up to us to prevent that.

Earlier this month Jennifer Granick was the keynote speaker at Black Hat 2015. This is a modified version of the speech she delivered. A video of the speech is also available.

Jennifer Stisa Granick1*1a9jKrvPw4_bJRN-nafmWw writes: Twenty years ago I attended my first Def Con. I believed in a free, open, reliable, interoperable Internet: a place where anyone can say anything, and anyone who wants to hear it can listen and respond. I believed in the Hacker Ethic: that information should be freely accessible and that computer technology was going to make the world a better place. I wanted to be a part of making these dreams — the Dream of Internet Freedom — come true. As an attorney, I wanted to protect hackers and coders from the predations of law so that they could do this important work. Many of the people in this room have spent their lives doing that work.

“What does it mean for companies to know everything about us, and for computer algorithms to make life and death decisions? Should we worry more about another terrorist attack in New York, or the ability of journalists and human rights workers around the world to keep working? How much free speech does a free society really need?”

For better or for worse, we’ve prioritized things like security, online civility, user interface, and intellectual property interests above freedom and openness. The Internet is less open and more centralized. It’s more regulated. And increasingly it’s less global, and more divided. These trends: centralization, regulation, and globalization are accelerating. And they will define the future of our communications network, unless something dramatic changes.

Twenty years from now,

• You won’t necessarily know anything about the decisions that affect your rights, like whether you get a loan, a job, or if a car runs over you. Things will get decided by data-crunching computer algorithms and no human will really be able to understand why.

• The Internet will become a lot more like TV and a lot less like the global conversation we envisioned 20 years ago.

• Rather than being overturned, existing power structures will be reinforced and replicated, and this will be particularly true for security.

•Internet technology design increasingly facilitates rather than defeats censorship and control.

It doesn’t have to be this way. But to change course, we need to ask some hard questions and make some difficult decisions.

medium-internet

What does it mean for companies to know everything about us, and for computer algorithms to make life and death decisions? Should we worry more about another terrorist attack in New York, or the ability of journalists and human rights workers around the world to keep working? How much free speech does a free society really need?

[Read the full text here, at Medium]

How can we stop being afraid and start being sensible about risk? Technology has evolved into a Golden Age for Surveillance. Can technology now establish a balance of power between governments and the governed that would guard against social and political oppression? Given that decisions by private companies define individual rights and security, how can we act on that understanding in a way that protects the public interest and doesn’t squelch innovation? Whose responsibility is digital security? What is the future of the Dream of Internet Freedom?

internet-freedom-medium

For me, the Dream of Internet Freedom started in 1984 with Steven Levy’s book “Hackers, Heroes of the Computer Revolution.” Levy told the story of old school coders and engineers who believed that all information should be freely accessible. They imagined that computers would empower people to make our own decisions about what was right and wrong. Empowering people depended on the design principle of decentralization. Decentralization was built into the very DNA of the early Internet, smart endpoints, but dumb pipes, that would carry whatever brilliant glories the human mind and heart could create to whomever wanted to listen. Read the rest of this entry »


Mass Grave Reveals Prehistoric Warfare in Ancient European Farming Community

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Shattered skulls and shin bones of 7000-year-old skeletons may point to torture and mutilation not previously observed in early Neolithic Linear Pottery culture.

The chance discovery of a mass grave crammed with the battered skeletons of ancient Europeans has shed light on the lethal violence that tore through one of the continent’s earliest farming communities.

“This is a classic case where we find the ‘hardware’: the skeletal remains, the artefacts, everything that is durable we can find in the graves. But the ‘software’: what people were thinking, why they were doing things, what their mindset was at this time, of course was not preserved.”

In 2006, archaeologists were called in after road builders in Germany uncovered a narrow ditch filled with human bones as they worked at a site in Schöneck-Kilianstädten, 20km north-east of Frankfurt.

They have now identified the remains as belonging to a 7000-year-old group of early farmers who were part of the Linear Pottery culture, which gained its name from the group’s distinctive style of ceramic decoration.

In the seven metre-long, V-shaped pit, researchers found the skeletons of 26 adults and children, who were killed by devastating strikes to the head or arrow wounds. The skull fractures are classic signs of blunt force injuries caused by basic stone age weapons.

A fractured adult shin bone from the mass grave, which could indicate torture or posthumous mutilation. Photograph: Christian Meyer

A fractured adult shin bone from the mass grave, which could indicate torture or posthumous mutilation. Photograph: Christian Meyer

Along with close-quarter fighting, attackers used bows and arrows to ambush their neighbours. Two arrowheads made of animal bone were found in the soil stuck to the skeletons. They are thought to have been inside the bodies when they were placed in the pit.

More than half of the individuals had their legs broken in acts of apparent torture or posthumous mutilation. The smashed-in shin bones could represent a new form of violent torture not seen before in the group.

[Read the full text here, at The Guardian]

In the Linear Pottery culture, each person was given their own grave within a cemetery, the body carefully arranged and often buried with grave goods such as pottery and other possessions. By contrast, in the mass grave the bodies lay scattered.

Christian Meyer, an archaeologist who led the study at the University of Mainz, believes the attackers meant to terrorise others and demonstrate that they could annihilate an entire village. The site of the mass grave, which dates back to about 5000BC, is located near an ancient border between different communities, where conflict was likely. Read the rest of this entry »


International Space Station Gets Special Delivery: Japanese Whiskey – For Science

space-whiskey-cargo-NASA

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Marcia Dunn reports: Spirits arrived at the International Space Station on Monday. Not the ghostly ones, but the kind you drink — distilled spirits.

“The six astronauts won’t be sneaking a sip. It’s all for science.”

A Japanese company known for its whiskey and other alcoholic beverages included five types of distilled spirits in a space station cargo ship. The station’s big robotic arm — operated by Japanese astronaut Kimiya Yui — grabbed onto the supply craft launched Wednesday by his homeland. Flight controllers helped anchor it down.

The supply ship contains nearly 10,000 pounds of cargo, including the six liquor samples. Suntory Global Innovation Center in Tokyo wants to see if alcoholic beverages mellow the same in space as they do on Earth.

[Also see – うん!Suntory Plans Space-Aged Whiskey]

The samples will be used for experiments and will spend at least a year in orbit before being returned to Earth. An identical set of samples will be stored on the ground in Japan. Read the rest of this entry »


What is The Deep Web?

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From the Hall of Electric Living: Elektro the Amazing Westinghouse Moto-Man

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Startups Vie to Build an Uber for Health Care

Melinda-Beck-WSJ

Are house calls better than ER visits?

Melinda Beck writes: Darren Gold had a stomach virus the first time he used an app called Heal to summon a doctor to his Beverly Hills home. He liked the Stanford-trained doctor who showed up so much that he called Heal again when his 2-year-old son had a fever, and again when the whole family had colds.

“Such ventures are fueled by a confluence of trends, including growing interest in the so-called sharing economy, where technology connects providers with excess capacity and consumers who want on-demand services.”

The charges—$99 each for the first two visits; $200 for the family—weren’t covered by insurance, but Mr. Gold, who owns a corrugated-box company, says that was still a bargain compared with taking time off work to go to the doctor. “Now, whenever my son bumps himself, he says, ‘Daddy, we need to get the doctor here,’” Mr. Gold says.

“Many doctors and nurses who work for hospitals are eager for extra work in their off-hours, the companies say. The services carry malpractice insurance, but say overall low overhead keeps prices down.”

Heal is one of several startups putting a high-tech spin on old-fashioned house calls—or “in-person visits,” since they can take place anywhere. The services provide a range of nonemergency medical care—from giving flu shots to treating strep throats and stitching lacerations—much like a mobile urgent-care clinic.

“And thanks to the boom in mobile-medical technology, providers can carry key equipment with them, from portable blood analyzers to hand-held ultrasounds.”

The companies use slightly different models. Pager, in New York City, dispatches doctors or nurse practitioners via Uber, for $200. Heal, in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Orange County, Calif., promises to “get a doctor to your sofa in under an hour” for $99. (A medical assistant goes along to do the driving and parking.)

RetraceHealth, in Minneapolis, has a nurse practitioner consult with patients via video (for $50), and only comes to their homes if hands-on care like a throat swab or blood draw is necessary (for $150).

 uber-of-health-care-wsj

“The companies are attracting venture-capital investment and partnerships with hospital systems, which increasingly see in-home care as a way to reduce unnecessary ERs visits and readmissions.”

Atlanta-based MedZed sends a nurse to a patient’s home to do a preliminary exam. Then the nurse connects via laptop with a doctor who provides a treatment plan remotely. Several Atlanta practices use MedZed as a way to offer patients extended hours without having to keep their offices open.

Most of the services don’t accept insurance, but they say patients can pay with health savings accounts or submit out-of-network claims.

[Read the full story here, at WSJ]

Such ventures are fueled by a confluence of trends, including growing interest in the so-called sharing economy, where technology connects providers with excess capacity and consumers who want on-demand services. Many doctors and nurses who work for hospitals are eager for extra work in their off-hours, the companies say. The services carry malpractice insurance, but say overall low overhead keeps prices down.

And thanks to the boom in mobile-medical technology, providers can carry key equipment with them, from portable blood analyzers to hand-held ultrasounds. Read the rest of this entry »


Better Informed Than Congress: China’s Cyber Spies Reading Emails of Senior Obama Administration Officials Since 2010

President Barack Obama reflects during a meeting with his full Cabinet in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Sept. 10, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The email grab — first codenamed ‘Dancing Panda’ by U.S. officials, and then ‘Legion Amethyst’ — was detected in April 2010, according to a top secret NSA briefing from 2014. The intrusion into personal emails was still active at the time of the briefing and, according to the senior official, is still going on. 

Robert Windrem reports: China’s cyber spies have accessed the private emails of “many” top Obama administration officials, according to a senior U.S. intelligence official and a top secret document obtained by NBC News, and have been doing so since at least April 2010.

chinese hackers

The email grab — first codenamed “Dancing Panda” by U.S. officials, and then “Legion Amethyst” — was detected in April 2010, according to a top secret NSA briefing from 2014. The intrusion into personal emails was still active at the time of the briefing and, according to the senior official, is still going on.

In 2011, Google disclosed that the private gmail accounts of some U.S. officials had been compromised, but the briefing shows that private email accounts from other providers were compromised as well.

An NSA slide shows the organization of the Chinese government’s hacking units, with separate operations run by the Chinese military and by state security. NBC News

An NSA slide shows the organization of the Chinese government’s hacking units, with separate operations run by the Chinese military and by state security. NBC News

The government email accounts assigned to the officials, however, were not hacked because they are more secure, says the senior U.S. intelligence official.

The senior official says the private emails of “all top national security and trade officials” were targeted.

[Read the full text here, at NBC News]

The Chinese also harvested the email address books of targeted officials, according to the document, reconstructing and then “exploiting the(ir) social networks” by sending malware to their friends and colleagues.

White-House-Jarret-Axelrod-Oval-Office

The time period overlaps with Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account while Secretary of State from Jan. 21, 2009 to Feb. 1, 2013. The names and ranks of the officials whose emails were actually grabbed, however, were not disclosed in the NSA briefing nor by the intelligence official. Read the rest of this entry »


Moon Rocket, Battery Powered

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Robots Could Steal the Election

google-steal

 writes: Imagine an election—A close one. You’re undecided. So you type the name of one of the candidates into your search engine of choice. (Actually, let’s not be coy here. In most of the world, one search engine dominates; in Europe and North America, it’s Google.) And Google coughs up, in fractions of a second, articles and facts about that candidate. Great! Now you are an informed voter, right? But a  study published this week says that the order of those results, the ranking of positive or negative stories on the screen, can have an enormous influence on the way you vote. And if the election is close enough, the effect could be profound enough to change the outcome.

OS X 10.10.3 Google 2-step

In other words: Google’s ranking algorithm for search results could accidentally steal the presidency. “We estimate, based on win margins in national elections around the world,” says Robert Epstein, a psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology and one of the study’s authors, “that Google could determine the outcome of upwards of 25 percent of all national elections.”

computer-lady

Epstein’s paper combines a few years’ worth of experiments in which Epstein and his colleague Ronald Robertson gave people access to information about the race for prime minister in Australia in 2010, two years prior, and then let the mock-voters learn about the candidates via a simulated search engine that displayed real articles.

One group saw positive articles about one candidate first; the other saw positive articles about the other candidate. (A control group saw a random assortment.) The result: Whichever side people saw the positive results for, they were more likely to vote for—by more than 48 percent. The team calls that number the “vote manipulation power,” or VMP. The effect held—strengthened, even—when the researchers swapped in a single negative story into the number-four and number-three spots. Apparently it made the results seem even more neutral and therefore more trustworthy.

[Read the full text here, at WIRED]

But of course that was all artificial—in the lab. So the researchers packed up and went to India in advance of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, a national campaign with 800 million eligible voters. (Eventually 430 million people voted over the weeks of the actual election.) “I thought this time we’d be lucky if we got 2 or 3 percent, and my gut said we’re gonna get nothing,” Epstein says, “because this is an intense, intense election environment.” Voters get exposed, heavily, to lots of other information besides a mock search engine result. Read the rest of this entry »


The New Steve Jobs?

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un attends a military dril


Vintage Book Cover: ‘The Core of All Matter’

Atoms


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