Saturday, May 19, 2012

Can We Trust Killer Robots?

The X-47B, the Navy's prototype for an unmanned strike plane. The aircraft may eventually be able to set off on a flight plan, identify targets and fire weapons. Northrup Grunmman

Could We Trust Killer Robots? -- Wall Street Journal

A drone may never have a sense of morality, but it might perform better than a human soldier in sparing the innocent.

In the year 2015, somewhere over the tribal territories of Pakistan, an American MQ-9 Reaper drone patrols a complex "kill zone"—an area of terrorist activity in which large numbers of civilians are also present. But on this mission, the drone isn't piloted from afar. It's on its own.

The aircraft moves closer to gather information about a potential target. Infrared cameras, heat sensors and other tools of surveillance determine whether the target is indeed a militant, examining, for instance, whether he seems ready to attack. The drone's computer system ranks the suspect on a scale from -1 (a noncombatant) to +1 (a confirmed combatant). Having determined that no children or other civilians are in the vicinity, and that everything else is in order, it chooses a weapon and fires. It then assesses the damage and either fires again or, if the enemy is dead, continues its patrol.

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My Comment: Such weapon systems will perform according to what their designers plan .... so yes .... we can trust them .... but to a point .... more specifically .... those who program such systems are the ones who will be held accountable if things go wrong.

SpaceX Rocket Launch Aborted In Last Half-Second

ABORT! Embarrassment As Historic Launch Of First Private Mission Into Space Is Cancelled Just A SECOND Before Lift-Off -- Daily Mail

* Launch delayed after 'computer problems' on board commercial rocket
* Trip is first time private firm have sent flight to International Space Station
* Launch of $133m flight now delayed until Tuesday

A private space cargo firm's historic launch to the International Space Station descended into chaos this morning when the mission was abandoned just one second before lift-off.

The unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was set to blast off from Cape Canaveral just before 10am this morning (GMT) along with its Dragon capsule loaded with 1,000lbs of space station provisions.

But with just seconds before the rocket took to the skies, apparent technical problems left it rooted to the launch pad, with lift-off subsequently abandoned for another three days.

Read more ....

My Comment: Try again in 3 days.

Friday, May 18, 2012

US At Risk Of 'Catastrophic Cyber-Attack'

US At Risk Of 'Catastrophic Cyber-Attack' Says Intelligence Panel Chairman -- The Hill

The United States is woefully unprepared to counter a “catastrophic cyber-attack” that's expected within 12 to 24 months, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said Thursday.

The House has been doing its part, Rogers said, easily passing his cybersecurity bill last month while his own committee on Thursday adopted its spending bill for fiscal 2013 by a unanimous 19-0 vote. But the White House, citing privacy concerns, has issued a veto threat against the legislation that would allow the government to inform private companies about impending cyber-attacks.

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My Comment: These predictions have been floating around for years .... and I guess one day it will actually happen.

Memristors: A Different Kind Of Computer Memory Chip

Memristors employing more "exotic" materials will probably make it into devices first

Memristors In Silicon Promising For Dense, Fast Memory -- BBC

Researchers have revealed details of a promising way to make a fundamentally different kind of computer memory chip.

The device is a "memristor", a long-hypothesised but only recently demonstrated electronic component.

A memristor's electronic properties make it suitable for both for computing and for far faster, denser memory.

Researchers at the European Materials Research Society meeting now say it can be made much more cheaply, using current semiconductor techniques.

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My Comment: New materials .... new advances.

How Exercise Affects The Brain

How Exercise Affects The Brain: Age And Genetics Play A Role -- Science Daily

ScienceDaily (May 18, 2012) — Exercise clears the mind. It gets the blood pumping and more oxygen is delivered to the brain. This is familiar territory, but Dartmouth's David Bucci thinks there is much more going on.

"In the last several years there have been data suggesting that neurobiological changes are happening -- [there are] very brain-specific mechanisms at work here," says Bucci, an associate professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.

From his studies, Bucci and his collaborators have revealed important new findings:

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My Comment: Makes sense to me.

Is Google About To Sink The Navy?

Ship-shape: Google will soon be able to show the location of every vessel at sea and maps of the ocean floor

Is Google About To Sink The Navy? Major Security Concerns Over Search Giant's Plans to Track EVERY Ship At Sea And Make Information Available To Anyone -- Daily Mail

* Search engine has plans to map the entire ocean floor over next five years
* Google has spent $3million on satellite technology and claims it is better at tracking ships than most governments

Google is set to track the world's warships and make the data available to billions of internet users, raising concerns over the security of the American naval fleet.

The search engine plans to offer the coordinates and identity of virtually all vessels at sea on Google Maps after spending around $3million on satellite technology.

The company continues to consult with the U.S. Navy over the plans, as well as with the defence departments of countries around the world.

Read more ....

Previous Post: Google Can Track Ships At Sea -- Including US Navy

My Comment: I suspect that in the event of war and/or major terror threat .... this Google tool will be put offline.

Did North Korea's GPS Jamming Cause A Drone Crash?

GPS Loss Kicked Off Fatal Drone Crash -- New Scientist

Hopes that a new breed of commercial drones can be easily integrated into civilian airspace have been dashed after it was revealed that the loss of the technology likely to make it all possible - automatic GPS navigation between waypoints - led to a fatal accident last week.

The news comes after the maker of a surveillance drone that crashed into its control truck in Incheon, South Korea on 10 May, killing one of the company's engineers and injuring the two remote pilots, has confirmed that loss of the aircraft's GPS signal was an initiating event in the accident.

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My Comment: This is news that should give drone operators pause.

Solar Eclipse Visible From California To Texas This Sunday

Solar Eclipse Visible From California to Texas Sunday Afternoon -- ABC News

If you live in a band across the southwestern United States, twilight will seem to come early on Sunday afternoon, well before the sun actually sets.

The cause: a rare annular solar eclipse -- a ring of sunlight as the new moon, passing between Earth and the sun, blocks most, but not all, of the sun's disc.

This is not the kind of total eclipse of which you usually see pictures -- the moon blocking the sun completely, creating a few moments of near-night in the middle of the day, with only the sun's ethereal corona visible around the moon's edges. The sky will darken a bit, but there will still be a blindingly bright ring (an "annulus" in Latin) of sun, and it's dangerous to look directly at it.

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My Comment:
Too far up north to see it. Good luck to those who will be able to see it.

Larger Screens For Apple's iPhones

Manufacturers say Apple has placed an order for larger display screens for the next generation of iPhone. The WSJ's Juro Osawa tells Deborah Kan about what's in store for the new device.

Apple Moves Toward Larger iPhone Screens -- Wall Street Journal

HONG KONG—The new iPhone that Apple Inc. AAPL +0.94% is expected to unveil this year is likely to have a larger display than its current models have, with the company ordering bigger screens from its Asian suppliers, people familiar with the matter said.

The new screens measure at least 4 inches diagonally, the people said, compared with 3.5 inches on Apple's latest model, the iPhone 4S. Production is set to begin next month, the people said. Analysts have predicted that the next iPhone will come out in the fall.

Apple declined to comment.

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My Comment: It's about time.

History To Be Made With First Commercial Space Flight To International Space Station

An aerial view of the Falcon 9 rocket with the Dragon capsule spacecraft on the launch pad at SLC-40, Cape Canaveral, Florida

History To Be Made With First Commercial Space Flight To International Space Station Tomorrow... With A Cargo Of Socks And Underwear -- Daily Mail

On Saturday at 4.55 a.m (EST) a Falcon 9 rocket will launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida and hopefully become the first private commercial flight to rendezvous with the International Space Station (ISS).

Ferrying the Dragon capsule into space, the mission to the ISS will be to deliver 1,000 pounds of non-essential cargo after passing a series of test maneuvers over the course of three days.

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My Comment: I wish them the best.

Google Can Track Ships At Sea -- Including US Navy

Google Can Track Ships At Sea -- Including US Navy; Detailed Maps Planned of Sea Bottom -- Aol Defense

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA: Google will soon make public information about virtually every ship at sea, giving the current location and identity even of American warships. Meanwhile, the company is consulting with the Navy and others about security issues.

Google paid several million dollars for the satellite technology to pinpoint ships' locations. "These things cost three million dollars for the whole program," Michael Jones, "Chief Technology Advocate" at Google Ventures, said at the annual Joint Warfighting Conference held by the US Naval Institute and the electronics industry group AFCEA. Google has talked to representatives of 50 navies worldwide about their new technology and has discovered it tracks ships better than their own commanders can. "I watch them and they can't see themselves," Jone said. "It angers me as a citizen that I can do this and the entire DoD can't."

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My Comment: I guess this explains why Iran is doing this.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tiny Satellites Serving As Soldiers' Eyes

Swarm Of Tiny Satellites Would Serve As Soldiers' Eyes --

Enemy fighters use commercial satellite images to plot attacks on U.S. troops, but most U.S. soldiers can't get the same images because of technical or classification restrictions. The Pentagon says that problem can be gotten around through swarms of small satellites capable of providing on-demand battlefield images for any U.S. soldier with a tablet.

Read more ....

Update #1: DARPA seeks to develop small reconnaissance satellites that are cheaper to build than UAVs -- Military & Aerospace
Update #2: A new network of satellites -- CNet

My Comment: Makes you wonder ....

.... Enemy fighters use commercial satellite images to plot attacks on U.S. troops, but most U.S. soldiers can't get the same images because of technical or classification restrictions.

NASA Fixes The 'Big House'

NASA Vehicle Assembly Building. Wikipedia

NASA Renovates Its Biggest, Baddest House -- Time

The best time to do a little renovating is when everyone is out of the house — something homeowners know and something NASA appears to appreciate too. The space agency is experiencing empty-nest syndrome in a big way, with the shuttles heading for museum retirement and the next manned American space vehicle not scheduled to fly until 2016 — unless it's 2018 or 2025 or who knows when?

Read more ....

My Comment: I rather have them building space-craft than renovating "The Building" .... but .... with nothing else to do .... I guess this is the next best thing.

The Amazing Porsche 918 Spyder

Porsche 918 Spyder. Courtesy Porsche

The Amazing Porsche 918 Spyder Is The Hybrid You've Been Waiting For -- Business Insider

Much like the Chevy Volt, Porsche's latest supercar is a plug-in hybrid.

However, the 918 Spyder is a wee bit more exciting.

Instead of a little four cylinder engine and a battery pack, the 918 has a 570 horsepower V8 combined with electric motors that generate 200 horsepower. For those of you that don't like math, total output is 770 horsepower.

Read more ....

More News On The Amazing Porsche 918 Spyder

Porsche 918 Spyder takes shape --
Porsche 918 Supercar: Fine-Tuning a 770-Horsepower Hybrid -- Wall Street Journal
Porsche's 78 mpg supercar takes shape -- FOX News
Porsche's 918 Spyder hybrid on track for 2013 release, now with 770 bhp and 94 mpg -- Gizmag
Porsche 918 Spyder prototype returns to the road with polished black and white shell -- Endgadget
Porsche 918 Spyder enters next phase, prototypes begin testing -- Ubergizmo
Caught: Porsche 918 Spyder Prototype Testing in Europe -- Automobile
Spyshots: 2014 Porsche 918 Spyder -- Autoevolution
918 Spyder: Porche's supercar hybrid prototype -- CBS News
918 Alert! Porsche's stinging spyder grows closer to becoming reality -- Autoweek

Can Anyone Take Down Facebook

Can Anything Take Down The Facebook Juggernaut? -- Epicenter

Sometime in early 2004, as Mark Zuckerberg was furiously coding the first iterations of The Facebook in his Harvard dorm room, the Internet passed what then seemed to be an impressive milestone: 750 million people worldwide had become connected. The exact birthdate of the Internet is difficult to pin down, but it’s fair to say that it took at least three decades for the net to reach a population of that size.

Today, after just eight years in existence, Facebook now has more than 750 million users all by itself. At that astonishing rate of growth, the company is on track to accomplish much more than just a multibillion-dollar IPO. Facebook is on the cusp of becoming a medium unto itself—more akin to television as a whole than a single network, and more like the entire web than just one online destination.

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My Comment: I am one of those who are skeptical that Facebook will continue in the manner that it has. Like Google .... it's just a web page that many find interesting and useful today. Tomorrow .... who knows what may arise from someone's garage or dorm-room.

A Super Early Interview With A Barefoot, Beer Drinking Mark Zuckerberg

WATCH: A Super Early Interview With A Barefoot, Beer Drinking Mark Zuckerberg -- Business Insider

In 2005, shortly after Facebook was founded, Mark Zuckerberg was interviewed in his startup's first Palo Alto office.

The interview was 40 minutes long. It was shot by Ray Hafner and Derek Franzese for a documentary, "Now Entering."

Facebook had just hit 3 million users and bought a keg to celebrate.

Read more

Google Revamps Search ‘Knowledge Graph’

Google Revamps Search ‘Knowledge Graph’ To Provide Instant Answers -- The Telegraph

Google is to add more context to search results, in a bid to understand ‘what you mean’ and provide instant answers.

The changes, which roll out in America first and then around the world, will see different options for search queries grouped into likely sets of possibilities.

Writing on the Google Search Blog, Google’s Amit Singhal said that, for instance, the site would now know that a question on the Taj Mahal could be about the Indian mausoleum, the musician or a local restaurant.

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My Comment: This is an improvement (I hope).

Advances In Drone Tech

Forget The Helicopter: New Drone Cuts Cost Of Aerial Video -- Autopia

The average episode of Top Gear runs around $1 million to produce. But those high-style, high-flying – and incredibly expensive – aerial shots just got slightly more affordable with the introduction of a new quadrocopter specifically developed for shooting automotive action.

Christopher Kippenberger and his Berlin, Germany-based production company, Kippenberger Racing, have been hard at work over the last few months putting the finishing touches on a customized drone capable of shooting high-resolution video. And unlike a helicopter rental, which can easily run tens of thousands of dollars after insurance, fuel, pilot costs and airspace approval, Kippenberger’s quadrocopter will only set you back around $5,000 after the two-man operation builds you a made-to-order drone.

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My Comment: Will this become an essential tool at FOBs in some future date .... we shall see.

With Threats Of War And Sanctions .... This is What Concerns Iran

Iran threatens to sue Google for not labeling Persian Gulf on its maps Photo by Google Maps

Iran Threatens To Sue Google For Leaving Persian Gulf Nameless -- Haaretz

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman says internet giant could face 'serious damages'; Tehran takes offence to some Arab states' insistence on calling the body of water the Arabian Gulf.

A senior Iranian official said Thursday that Tehran could sue Google over dropping the name of the Persian Gulf on Google Maps.

The threat comes after the famous search engine left the body of water between Iran and the Arabian Peninsula nameless on its online map service.

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My Comment:I guess Iran does not care about comments like this one.

Dogs May Have Helped Man Out-Compete Neaderthals

Dogs 'Helped Man Out-Compete With Neanderthals' -- The Telegraph

Dogs could have been the deciding factor which enabled modern humans to out-compete with Neanderthals and colonise Europe, researchers claim.

Man's relationship with his best friend has lasted 32,000 years, with cave-dwelling hunter-gatherers using dogs to carry supplies so that they could save their energy for hunting.

The bond between man and dog arose at around the time Neanderthals began to surrender their dominance over Europe, which had lasted for the previous 250,000 years.

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My Comment:
It appears that man's best friend has been a friend for a very long time.

Paralysed Woman Uses Brain Power Alone To Take Control Of A Robotic Arm

Paralysed Woman Uses Mind To Control Robotic Arm -- The Telegraph

A paralysed woman has used brain power alone to take control of a robotic arm and lift a bottle of coffee to her lips after a pioneering operation.

For the first time in 15 years the woman was able to raise the bottle, take a sip and place it back on a table simply by imagining herself doing so.

The feat was possible thanks to a brain implant which translates the patient's thoughts into commands to be carried out by a free-standing robotic arm.

Doctors said the experiment proved that so-called "brain-computer interfaces" could dramatically improve the lives of paralysed people by enabling them to carry out simple tasks like eating and drinking independently.

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My Comment: Impressive.

An Over-The-Counter HIV Test That Diagnoses In Just 20 Minutes

OraQuick HIV Test Already available for use inside doctor's offices, Pennsylvania-based Orasure's quick HIV test could soon be available to consumers for rapid testing in the home.

FDA Panel Endorses An Over-The-Counter HIV Test That Diagnoses In Just 20 Minutes -- Popular Science

It’s no cure, but it could mark a significant victory in the fight against HIV. A 17-member advisory panel for the Food and Drug Administration has endorsed an over-the-counter HIV test that would allow consumers to test themselves for the AIDS-causing virus in the privacy of their own homes in just 20 minutes. While the test is not perfect, the advisory panel has deemed that the benefits of regular in-home testing outweigh potential risks, and have recommended the FDA approve the test for over-the-counter sales.

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My Comment:
This will be in high demand product.

Does Sugar Make You Stupid?

Does Sugar Make You Stupid? Study Suggests It Sabotages Learning And Memory -- Daily Mail

* Fructose is commonly added to processed foods such as soft drinks
* It was found to hamper memory and slow brain activity

Too much sugar could be making you stupid, according to researchers.

The suggestion follows tests in the laboratory comparing high-fructose corn syrup, which is six times sweeter than cane sugar and a common ingredient in processed foods, with omega-3 fatty acids, known to aid memory and learning.

In an experiment on rats, one group had a sugary diet for six weeks and another was fed healthily.

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My Comment: I will stick with the caffeine drinks to boost my learning and memory.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Fiction May One Day Become Reality

Pentagon: That Fictional Drone From That Unreleased Video Game Sure Looks Cool -- Popular Science

Art imitates life they say, and every now and then life imitates art. Which is only slightly terrifying when the art being imitated is a Call of Duty title and the real-world entity doing the imitating is the Pentagon. A fictional drone from a video game that hasn’t even been released yet has inspired a DoD office to consider pursuing the same drone in real life, Brookings Institute 21st Century Defense Initiative director and all-around drones guru Peter Singer tells Innovation News Daily.

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My Comment: After watching this video, I had only one question. When are the soldiers in the field going to get this tech.

Global Food Shortages And Higher Prices Around The Corner

Expert Warns Of Global Food Shortages And Higher Prices -- Sydney Morning Herald

AS MUCH food is wasted in developed countries as is produced in sub-Saharan Africa.

This ''eye-popping'' statistic highlights one of the big changes urgently required to meet the challenge of feeding 9 billion people by 2050, a visiting expert in agriculture and economics has said.

Chris Barrett, of Cornell University, warns there is ''dangerous complacency'' about global food security. Professor Barrett, who will give a public lecture on Wednesday night at the University of Sydney, said that demand for food is about to rise significantly, particularly as a result of population growth in developing countries, rises in income and the migration of people to towns and cities.

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My Comment: The focus has always been on oil and resource conflicts .... and the geopolitics that it spawns. The coming food and water shortages in the developing world is something that we in the West are not accustomed to .... but I suspect will have to get use to as refugee numbers start to swell from these areas.

A Review Of The Porsche Cayman R

Porsche Cayman R. Photo by Basem Wasef/Wired

No, Officer, I Don't Know How Fast I Was Going: A Review Of The Porsche Cayman R -- Wired

n this unprecedented age of obscene horsepower and affordable performance, the Porsche Cayman R is the Jenyne Butterfly of the sports car world.

Who is Jenyne Butterfly? Look her up, preferably not at work.

Ms. Butterfly’s sinewy muscles are cut on gracile bone, and articulate her long limbs with purposeful flexibility. She’s graced with the sort of physique you’d associate with an Olympic swimmer or an extreme yogi. She also possesses a preternatural ability to fling herself across a pole with fluid undulations that appear to disobey the laws of physics.

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My Comment: A car clearly built for speed.

China Pushes To Have Supercomputers

China's Tianhe-1A is the second most powerful supercomputer in the world. Photo: Nvidia

Intel Feeds China’s Supercomputers With New Xeon Chip -- Wired Enterprise

China took the world by surprise last year when it unveiled a previously unknown supercomputer called the Sunway BlueLight MPP. It’s one of the world’s top supercomputers and here’s the kicker: It uses ShenWei SW-3 microprocessors that are made in China.

Now, Intel has introduced a new Xeon chip that could provide Chinese companies with an incentive to stick with Intel, already the top provider of microprocessors to supercomputers worldwide. The chip, called the E5-4600, essentially fuses four Xeon chips and as many as 32 processor cores into one package that is more efficient at shipping around data between various parts of the computer.

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My Comment:
China`s push into supercomputers should surprise no one.

Advances In "intelligence Clothing" Could Save U.S. Military Lives

Photo By U.S. Army Spc. Sara Wakai

Intelligent Clothing Could Save US Military Lives -- Yahoo News/Live Science

When soldiers fall wounded on future battlefields, their smart uniforms may instantly report the location of gunshot wounds or even detect traces of nuclear, biological or chemical attacks in blood and sweat. That intelligent clothing could make a lifesaving difference in medical care and give U.S. commanders a sense of battles unfolding as casualties mount.

The smart uniforms would include medical sensors built into the fabric to monitor the health of U.S. troops, according to a notice issued by the Pentagon's Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) on May 7. Such clothes would not only detect where wounds occurred and how deep they go, but also report a fallen soldier's location with GPS coordinates and pass along other critical information for battlefield medics.

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My Comment
: This research looks very promising.

Why Canines Yawn After Their 'Dog Tired' Owners

Open wide: Yawning is infectious - for dogs such as this Basset hound mid-yawn. Daily Mail

Revealed: Why Canines Yawn After Their 'Dog Tired' Owners -- The Telegraph

Dogs are compelled to yawn if they hear their owners do the same, a study has suggested.

Researchers claimed that dogs responded only to an audio cue such as a yawn even if they didn’t see the action taking place.

The study found this was particularly noticeable when the dogs were listening to the yawns of people they knew.

Scientists suggested the findings, presented at the National Ethology Congress in Lisbon, showed canines had empathy to human behaviours.

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My Comment:
It should be noted that sometimes the owners yawn after their dogs do (at least in my case).

Nasa Probe Sees The 'Edge' Of Our Solar System For First Time

Detecting clues: The discovery, by Nasa's Interstella Boundary Explorer (IBEX) ship, gives the most complete glimpse yet of what lies beyond our solar system

The Outer Limits: Nasa Probe Sees The 'Edge' Of Our Solar System For First Time - And It's Completely Different From What We Thought -- Daily Mail

* Solar system 'travelling more slowly than thought'
* 'Bow shock' - like a sonic boom in space - does not exist
* 25 years of research turned on its head
* Detected by the orbitiing IBEX probe, with information from Nasa's two Voyager craft

Nasa's probes have seen the 'edge' of our solar system for the first time - and it's completely different from what scientists thought.

Our solar system is flying through space more slowly than we thought - and Nasa's IBEX - Interstellar Boundary Explorer - has found it doesn't have a 'bow shock', an area of gas or plasma that shields our solar system as it hurtles though space

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My Comment: This is what I love above space science .... learning things that we never thought of before.

Rise And Fall Of An Underwater Volcano

Rise And Fall Of Underwater Volcano Revealed -- BBC

The violent rise and collapse of an underwater volcano in the Pacific Ocean is captured in startling clarity for the first time.

Researchers studying the Monowai volcano, near Tonga, recorded huge changes in height in just two weeks.

The images, gathered by sonar from a research ship, shed new light on the turbulent fate of submarine mountains.

Published in the journal Nature Geoscience, the findings were made during a seabed survey last year.

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My Comment: I wish they had an underwater camera to capture all of this.

Interview With A Safecracker

Interview With A Safecracker -- Marginal Revolution

Interesting throughout, here is one bit:

Q: How realistic are movies that show people breaking into vaults? A: Not very! In the movies it takes five minutes of razzle-dazzle; in real life it’s usually at least a couple of hours of precision work for an easy, lost combination lockout.

Most vault lockouts are caused by malfunctions. A bank employee over-winds the time lock, a technician makes a mistake servicing the vault, or there was no maintenance because the bank has initiated yet another round of cost cutting.

Another 10-20% of my income comes from law enforcement searches and seizures or estate, aka “dead relative” openings. They hire me and I drill it open, but these are not situations where I like to hang around too long.

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My Comment
: A fascinating read.