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NASA Releases 2018 Edition of Spinoff

Posted: 30 Jan 2018 09:05 AM PST

NASA tries to justify its existence yet again:

The 2018 edition of NASA's annual Spinoff publication, released Tuesday, features 49 technologies the agency helped create that are used in almost every facet of modern life. These include innovations that help find disaster survivors trapped under rubble, purify air and surfaces to stop the spread of germs, and test new materials for everything from airplanes to athletic shoes.

[...] In Spinoff 2018, you'll learn how:

  • Ultra-sensitive radar technology used to detect gravity fluctuations was repurposed to identify the vital signs of disaster survivors trapped under rubble;
  • A technique developed to preserve plants in a spacecraft led to devices that eliminate bacteria, viruses, molds and volatile organic compounds from air, surfaces and even laundry;
  • One company's work on high-speed stereo photogrammetry for space shuttle analysis now enables low-cost, highly-accurate materials testing to improve designs for everything from running shoes to jetliners.

[...] Other highlights include: artificial intelligence that helps drones avoid collisions and could one day enable self-driving cars; a business jet that is both the fastest and the most efficient in its class; and a computer program that, 50 years after its creation, is still used to design cars, buildings and much more.

[...] The book also features a Spinoffs of Tomorrow section that highlights 20 NASA technologies ripe for commercial application and available for licensing. These include an algae photobioreactor that cleans wastewater while producing biofuels, a revolutionary all-in-one gear and bearing, and the combined technologies of the highly dexterous humanoid robot Robonaut 2.

Spinoff 2018.

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NASA Tests Light, Foldable Plane Wings for Supersonic Flights

Posted: 30 Jan 2018 07:32 AM PST

NASA is experimenting with planes whose outer wing sections can fold up or down depending on the current flight conditions. Even more interesting is that they are doing it with "shape memory alloy" rather than hydraulics.

Planes that can fold their wings to different angles while in the air have the potential to fly faster than their peers, and NASA has recently made headway into their development. The space agency has conducted a series of test flights proving that it can control the wings it designed to move into any position and that they have aerodynamic benefits. While the technology has existed for a long time, it typically requires the use of heavy hydraulic systems. NASA's version doesn't need that kind of machinery: it relies on the properties of a temperature-activated material called shape memory alloy instead. Upon being heated, the alloy activates a twisting motion in the tubes serving as the wings' actuator, moving the wings' outer portion up to 70 degrees upwards or downwards.

The foldable wings will give typical planes like commercial airliners a way to adapt to different flight conditions. They can give pilots more control over their aircraft and could even lead to more fuel efficient flights. Planes designed to fly at supersonic speeds (faster than the speed of sound), however, will get more out of this technology.

As Matt Moholt, the principal director of the Spanwise Adaptive Wing project, said:

"There's a lot of benefit in folding the wing tips downward to sort of 'ride the wave' in supersonic flight, including reduced drag. This may result in more efficient supersonic flight. Through this effort, we may be able to enable this element to the next generation of supersonic flight, to not only reduce drag but also increase performance, as you transition from subsonic to supersonic speeds. This is made possible using shape memory alloy."

Video: NASA Examines Technology To Fold Aircraft Wings In Flight

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German Shock at Car Exhaust Tests on Humans and Monkeys

Posted: 30 Jan 2018 05:59 AM PST

An Anonymous Coward writes:

The German government has denounced experiments funded by German carmakers in which humans and monkeys reportedly inhaled diesel exhaust fumes.

On Thursday The New York Times reported that the EUGT research was designed to counter a 2012 decision by the World Health Organization to classify diesel exhaust as a carcinogen.

It said that in 2014, EUGT had exposed 10 monkeys to fumes - in an air-tight chamber - from several cars, including a diesel VW Beetle. The testing took place at a lab in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Then at the weekend Germany's Stuttgarter Zeitung and SWR radio reported that 19 men and six women had inhaled diesel fumes in another EUGT experiment.

During a month of tests at a lab in Aachen, west Germany, they were exposed to various concentrations of diesel fumes, which contain toxic nitrogen oxides (NOx). The BBC has not seen the study itself, but German media say it was published in 2016.

At the time the carmakers were arguing that modern technology had cut pollution from diesel engines to safe levels. But VW was later found to have fitted "cheat" devices that rigged the emissions data.


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U.S.-Based "Cult" Telling Parents to Make Children Drink Bleach to Cure Their Autism

Posted: 30 Jan 2018 04:26 AM PST

A "cult" has been implicated in cases of parents forcing their children to drink bleach as an autism cure (and surprisingly, it's not the cult known as 4chan):

Parents are making their children drink industrial bleach to cure them of autism—with the potentially deadly practice linked back to a U.S. cult. According to British tabloid the Sunday People, six British police forces have probed cases in which children as young as two have been forced to undergo the potentially lethal treatment.

The treatment being administered is CD (Chloride Dioxide) or MMS (Miracle Mineral Solution)—with a secret Facebook group touting its use to desperate parents in the U.K. The method has been promoted by a controversial U.S. church with a branch in Los Angeles - the secretive Genesis II Church, founded by Jim Humble, a former scientologist.

A 2016 investigation by Eyewitness News and ABC News found an underground network clustered in southern California promoting MMS on Facebook as a cure for ailments including cancer, Parkinsons, and autism in children.

The previous year the BBC exposed a secret conference in which leading figures from the church travelled to the U.K. to promote the use of MMS, which it claims is a non-dangerous religious sacrament. They believe that autism is caused by pathogens and parasites, which Chloride Dioxide kills. Doctors say that the claims of adherents are groundless, the solution is untested and can cause serious harm.

Bleach: the drink of choice for sophisticated memers.

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U.S. Government Reportedly Wants to Build a 5G Network to Thwart Chinese Spying

Posted: 30 Jan 2018 02:53 AM PST

Trump security team sees building U.S. 5G network as option

President Donald Trump's national security team is looking at options to counter the threat of China spying on U.S. phone calls that include the government building a super-fast 5G wireless network, a senior administration official said on Sunday. The official, confirming the gist of a report from Axios.com, said the option was being debated at a low level in the administration and was six to eight months away from being considered by the president himself.

The 5G network concept is aimed at addressing what officials see as China's threat to U.S. cyber security and economic security. [...] "We want to build a network so the Chinese can't listen to your calls," the senior official told Reuters. "We have to have a secure network that doesn't allow bad actors to get in. We also have to ensure the Chinese don't take over the market and put every non-5G network out of business."

[...] Major wireless carriers have spent billions of dollars buying spectrum to launch 5G networks, and it is unclear if the U.S. government would have enough spectrum to build its own 5G network. [...] Another option includes having a 5G network built by a consortium of wireless carriers, the U.S. official said. "We want to build a secure 5G network and we have to work with industry to figure out the best way to do it," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. Axios published documents it said were from a presentation from a National Security Council official. If the government built the network, it would rent access to carriers, Axios said.

Will it include "responsible encryption"?

Also at Newsweek and Axios.

Related: U.S. Lawmakers Urge AT&T to Cut Ties With Huawei

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Elon Musk's Boring Company Sells Flamethrowers

Posted: 30 Jan 2018 01:20 AM PST

Elon Musk wants to sell you a flamethrower for $500 — and it seems to be legal in California

Elon Musk, the mastermind behind PayPal, Tesla and SpaceX, has another innovative product up in his sleeve: a $500 flamethrower. Musk announced the flamethrower on Saturday, after weeks of teasing a possible flamethrowing product for his newest venture, The Boring Company. The Boring Company's mission is to excavate a low-cost but fast-digging tunnel through Los Angeles to help alleviate its notorious car traffic.

Musk's announcements on Instagram and Twitter about the flamethrower has all been in tongue-in-cheek tone, but his legions of followers have lapped up the chance to buy a flamethrower from The Boring Company. Over 2,000 people have pre-ordered the device so far, according to Musk on Twitter.

Pre-orders are expected to ship in the spring, according to The Boring Company's website. "When the zombie apocalypse happens, you'll be glad you bought a flamethrower," tweeted Musk. "Works against hordes of the undead or your money back!"

The California Health and Safety Codes 12750 to 12761 outline that owning or selling flamethrowers is illegal without a permit granted from the state fire marshal, joining Maryland as the only two states in the country to have flamethrower regulations. The state has defined flamethrowers as "any nonstationary and transportable device designed or intended to emit or propel a burning stream of combustible or flammable liquid a distance of at least 10 feet." But since The Boring Company's flamethrower emits fire less than the defined 10 feet, they did not have to get a permit to sell, according to the company's spokesman.

At time of this story being posted, the pre-order count had climbed to 10k.

Update: One California lawmaker wants to ban the flamethrower. But it's puny compared to other flamethrowers.

Also at CNN, MarketWatch, and CNET.

Related: Elon Musk Claims to Have "Verbal Approval" to Build New York to Washington, D.C. Hyperloop
NY-Philly-Baltimore-DC Hyperloop: Not Vaporware?
Elon Musk's Boring Tunnel Near Los Angeles
Elon Musk to Compete for High-Speed Rail Loop in Chicago

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Company Pays Seven Figures for VR Film That Premiered at the Sundance Film Festival

Posted: 29 Jan 2018 11:47 PM PST

A VR Movie Set in Space Just Landed a 7-Figure Deal at Sundance. Yes, You Read That Right

Every year the biggest news out of the Sundance Film Festival is always the hefty sums handed over to independent filmmakers for their passion projects. From Fox Searchlight dropping $1 million for future Oscar nominee Beasts of the Southern Wild in 2012 to Amazon Studios' massive $12 million buy of The Big Sick at last year's fest, everyone in Park City is hustling to make a deal. But that hustle has always been reserved for traditional films, not the virtual reality ones. Until now.

In an unprecedented move, VR financing and distribution venture CityLights announced today that it is acquiring Spheres—a three-part series that lets viewers explore the depths of space in VR—in a massive seven-figure deal. Neither side is revealing the exact figure, but for a medium that's never sold at Sundance, it's still a very big deal, and one that demonstrates VR filmmaking has the clout and buzz of its traditional film predecessors. It might even show that 360-degree immersive films will one day be as big a part of festivals as movies themselves.

"This is a historic moment for the VR industry; it signifies that a viable storytelling medium has emerged," says Jess Engel, who produced Spheres along with Arnaud Colinart, and Dylan Golden. "Deals like this establish VR as its own marketplace for independent creators, producers, and investors."

The Sundance Film Festival is held in January in Park City, Utah.

Also at Variety, LA Times, and Engadget.

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Astronauts Can Look Forward to Eating Their Own Waste Converted Into a "Smear of 'Microbial Goo'"

Posted: 29 Jan 2018 10:14 PM PST

Microbes may help astronauts transform human waste into food

Human waste may one day be a valuable resource for astronauts on deep-space missions. Now, a Penn State research team has shown that it is possible to rapidly break down solid and liquid waste to grow food with a series of microbial reactors, while simultaneously minimizing pathogen growth.

"We envisioned and tested the concept of simultaneously treating astronauts' waste with microbes while producing a biomass that is edible either directly or indirectly depending on safety concerns," said Christopher House, professor of geosciences, Penn State. "It's a little strange, but the concept would be a little bit like Marmite or Vegemite where you're eating a smear of 'microbial goo.'"

[...] "Each component is quite robust and fast and breaks down waste quickly," said House. "That's why this might have potential for future space flight. It's faster than growing tomatoes or potatoes."

Today, astronauts aboard the International Space Station recycle a portion of water from urine, but the process is energy intensive, said House. Solid waste management has been a bigger hurdle. This currently is ejected into the Earth's atmosphere where it burns up.

"Imagine if someone were to fine-tune our system so that you could get 85 percent of the carbon and nitrogen back from waste into protein without having to use hydroponics or artificial light," said House. "That would be a fantastic development for deep-space travel."

Coupling of anaerobic waste treatment to produce protein- and lipid-rich bacterial biomass (DOI: 10.1016/j.lssr.2017.07.006) (DX)

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Authentication Today: Moving Beyond Passwords

Posted: 29 Jan 2018 08:41 PM PST

Submitted via IRC for TheMightyBuzzard

A global study from IBM Security examining consumer perspectives around digital identity and authentication today, found that people now prioritize security over convenience when logging into applications and devices.

Generational differences also emerged showing that younger adults are putting less care into traditional password hygiene, yet are more likely to use biometrics, multifactor authentication and password managers to improve their personal security.

With millennials quickly becoming the largest generation in today's workforce, these trends may impact how employers and technology companies provide access to devices and applications in the near future. Overall, respondents recognized the benefits of biometric technologies like fingerprint readers, facial scans and voice recognition, as threats to their digital identity continue to mount.

Source: https://www.helpnetsecurity.com/2018/01/29/authentication-today/

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Advances in Lasers Get to the Long and Short of it

Posted: 29 Jan 2018 07:08 PM PST

A new way of modifying the dipole moment of cholesteric liquid crystals allows for researchers to select between the different band-edge modes experimentally for the first time.

Since lasers were first developed, the demand for more adaptable lasers has only increased. Chiral nematic liquid crystals (CLCs) are an emerging class of lasing devices that are poised to shape how lasers are used in the future because of their low thresholds, ease of fabrication, and ability to be tuned across wider swaths of the electromagnetic spectrum. New work on how to select band-edge modes in these devices, which determine the lasing energy, may shine light on how lasers of the future will be tuned.

The laser cavities are formed of a chiral nematic liquid crystal doped with a fluorescent dye. The liquid crystal creates a photonic bandgap in the laser cavity. An international team of researchers demonstrated a technique that allows the laser to electrically switch emission between the long- and short-wavelength edges of the photonic bandgap simply by applying a voltage of 20 V. They report their work this week in Applied Physics Letters, from AIP Publishing.

"Our contribution is to find a way to change the orientation of the transition dipole moment of the gain medium [the fluorescent dye] in the CLC structure and achieve mode selection between long- and short-wavelength edges without tuning the position of the photonic bandgap," said Chun-Ta Wang, an author of the paper. "We also demonstrated a polymer-stabilized CLC system, which improved the laser's stability, lasing performance and threshold voltage."

CLC lasers work through a collection of liquid crystals that self-assemble into helix-shaped patterns, which then act as the laser's cavity. These helices are chiral, meaning they corkscrew in the same direction, which allows them to be tuned across a wide range of wavelengths. While many lasers, like the laser diodes used in DVD players, are fixed at one color, many CLC lasers can be tuned to multiple colors in the visible light spectrum and beyond.

Chun-Ta Wang, Chun-Wei Chen, Tzu-Hsuan Yang, Inge Nys, Cheng-Chang Li, Tsung-Hsien Lin, Kristiaan Neyts and Jeroen Beeckman. Electrically assisted bandedge mode selection of photonic crystal lasing in chiral nematic liquid crystals. Applied Physics Letters Jan. 22, 2018 (DOI: 10.1063/1.5010880.

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Surprising Discovery Links Sour Taste to the Inner Ear's Ability to Sense Balance

Posted: 29 Jan 2018 05:35 PM PST

Scientists at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences have discovered an entirely new class of ion channels. These channels let protons (H+ ions) into cells, are important in the inner ear for balance, and are present in the taste cells that respond to sour flavors.

The findings were published Thursday, Jan. 25 in Science.

Protons control whether a solution is acidic or basic. They set pH. Not surprisingly, protons do not cross cell membranes; they must be transported across the membrane through special proteins like ion channels.

Although a gene encoding an ion channel that lets protons leave cells has been identified, whether one gene or several genes were necessary to form an ion channel that lets protons into cells was unknown. Now, research into sour taste has identified the otopetrin family of genes as encoding proton-conducting ion channels.

[...] "We never in a million years expected that the molecule that we were looking for in taste cells would also be found in the vestibular system," Liman said. "This highlights the power of basic or fundamental research."

Source: ScienceDaily

Yu-Hsiang Tu, Alexander J. Cooper, Bochuan Teng, B. Rui Chang, Daniel J. Artiga, Heather N. Turner, Eric M. Mulhall, Wenlei Ye, Andrew D. Smith, Emily R. Liman. An evolutionarily conserved gene family encodes proton-selective ion channels. Science, 2018; eaao3264 DOI: 10.1126/science.aao3264

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Intel Informed Chinese Companies of Meltdown Bug Before the U.S. Government

Posted: 29 Jan 2018 04:03 PM PST

Intel informed Chinese companies, including Lenovo and Alibaba, of the Meltdown and Spectre flaws in its processors before the U.S. government found out from reading press reports:

Intel Corporation initially warned a handful of customers, including several Chinese technology firms, about security flaws within its processor chips, while at the same time not telling the U.S. government, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.

Security experts told the newspaper that the decision could have allowed Chinese tech companies to flag the vulnerabilities to Beijing, giving the Chinese government opportunity to exploit them.

Jake Williams, head of the security company Rendition Infosec and former National Security Agency (NSA) employee, told the Journal that it is a "near certainty" the Chinese government knew about the flaws from the Intel correspondence with Chinese tech companies, as Beijing keeps tabs on such communications.

The Journal reported that Alibaba Group, a top selling Chinese cloud-computing services company, was among the firms notified of the flaw early on.

The NSA is more likely to spy on you than China.

Intel CEO sold shares on same day OEMs informed of bugs: report

Also at TechCrunch and Engadget.

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ATM Makers Warn of 'Jackpotting' Hacks on U.S. Machines

Posted: 29 Jan 2018 02:31 PM PST

Diebold Nixdorf Inc and NCR Corp, two of the world's largest ATM makers, have warned that cyber criminals are targeting U.S. cash machines with tools that force them to spit out cash in hacking schemes known as "jackpotting."

The two ATM makers did not identify any victims or say how much money had been lost. Jackpotting has been rising worldwide in recent years, though it is unclear how much cash has been stolen because victims and police often do not disclose details.

The attacks were reported earlier on Saturday by the security news website Krebs on Security, which said they had begun last year in Mexico.

The companies confirmed to Reuters on Saturday they had sent out the alerts to clients.

Source: Reuters

Article at Krebs on Security.

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Montana to FCC: You Can't Stop Us From Protecting Net Neutrality

Posted: 29 Jan 2018 12:58 PM PST

The Montana governor's office has a message for the Federal Communications Commission and Internet service providers: the state can't be stopped from protecting net neutrality, and ISPs that don't like it don't have to do business with state agencies.

Governor Steve Bullock signed an executive order to protect net neutrality on Monday, as we reported at the time. But with questions raised about whether Bullock is exceeding his authority, the governor's legal office prepared a fact sheet that it's distributing to anyone curious about potential legal challenges to the executive order.

ISPs are free to violate net neutrality if they only serve non-government customers—they just can't do so and expect to receive state contracts. "Companies that don't like it don't have to do business with the State—nothing stops ISPs from selling dumpy Internet plans in Montana if they insist," the fact sheet says.

The FCC's repeal of net neutrality rules attempts to preempt states and localities from issuing their own similar rules. But Bullock's executive order doesn't directly require ISPs to follow net neutrality rules. Instead, ISPs that accept contracts to provide Internet service to any state agency must agree to abide by net neutrality principles throughout the state.

Source: Ars Technica

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SpaceX's Falcon Heavy Demo Flight Set for Tuesday 2018-02-06 @ 1830-2130 UTC (1:30-4:30 p.m. EST)

Posted: 29 Jan 2018 11:25 AM PST

Engadget is reporting that the Flacon Heavy demo flight has been scheduled:

It looks as though it's finally happening. SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket may have a launch date, according to Chris G. of NASASpaceflight.com. The rocket will launch no earlier than February 6th, with a window of 1:30 PM ET to 4:30 PM ET. There's a backup window on February 7th, just in case. We've reached out to SpaceX for confirmation.

Update 1/27: Elon Musk has confirmed that SpaceX is "aiming for" a February 6th launch.

Aiming for first flight of Falcon Heavy on Feb 6 from Apollo launchpad 39A at Cape Kennedy. Easy viewing from the public causeway.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 27, 2018

Spaceflight Now has these launch details:

Launch window: 1830-2130 GMT (1:30-4:30 p.m. EST)
Launch site: LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center, Florida
A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket will launch on its first demonstration flight. The heavy-lift rocket is formed of three Falcon 9 rocket cores strapped together with 27 Merlin 1D engines firing at liftoff. The first Falcon Heavy rocket will attempt to place a Tesla Roadster on an Earth escape trajectory into a heliocentric orbit.

SpaceX Conducts Successful Static Fire Test of Falcon Heavy
SpaceX Falcon Heavy Testing Delayed by Government Shutdown
Falcon Heavy Readied for Static Fire Test
SpaceX's Falcon Heavy Rocket Sets Up at Cape Canaveral Ahead of Launch

SpaceX Successfully Tests Falcon Heavy First Stage Cores

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