Archive for July 8th, 2011
Some hackers use software and hardware to express themselves creatively—either solving entirely novel technical challenges or finding new ways to skin the same old cats. Others are motivated by money, power, politics, or pure mischief. They steal identities, deface Web sites, and break into supposedly secure and certainly sensitive databases.
We at IEEE Spectrum have written dozens of stories about both—the Steampunkers and Arduino do-it-yourselfers, on the one hand, the Anonymous and Lulzsec ne’er-do-wells on the other. Inspired by New York Magazine’s Approval Matrix, we took 25 of the biggest and best stories and assessed them along two dimensions: innovation and impact. Whether you agree with our assessments or not, we’d like to hear what you think. (Last updated 6 July, 2011)
6 July 2011—For 30 years, the space shuttle fleet—Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour—strutted its stuff in low-Earth orbit. The spacecraft’s missions included simple payload deployments, science module sorties, and the delicate assembly and servicing of the International Space Station. They were also used for in-flight repairs to themselves and to other satellites, hyperprecision orbits for radar mapping, tethered experiments, and gentle close-in maneuvering with smaller spacecraft. Those capabilities were originally unimagined by their designers, and they firmly refute the old maxim that “form follows function.” Indeed, the shuttles performed functions beyond the dreams of their builders.
The current stable of heavy-launch vehicles can carry deployable satellites and rocket stages as big as or bigger than any that the shuttles have ever launched. With replacement vehicles already being designed for specific manned missions, such as Earth-to-orbit taxi services or for beyond-low-Earth-orbit sorties, the biggest engineering questions must be these: What operational capabilities are we giving up by retiring the shuttles? And are we sure we can dispense with them? Because if the answers are “Too many” and “No!” we need to start planning how to regain them with new vehicles.
Here’s what we’re losing.
Lost capability No. 1: Gentle delivery of large modules for attachment to existing complexes. Compared with other means, the shuttle provides an environment in its payload bay with relatively minimal acceleration, vibration, and noise, and that means very large components can be built a lot less expensively. The savings comes from several sources. The shuttle’s own hardware delivers cargo close to its destination, after which robot manipulators can install it carefully. Without this capability, the items would have to be built with structural enhancements to survive the attendant stresses, making them significantly heavier. What’s worse, without the shuttle, the module might need its own maneuvering capability—resulting in significant mechanical stress as the add-on connects to the existing structure. Such stress leads to design headaches: For example, the size of any connecting pressurized tunnels must be restricted. Furthermore, in the event of a mishap, the shuttle design is supposed to allow for intact retrieval of the payload for relaunch, mitigating the need to build expensive backup hardware.
Two-thirds of all adults and about a third of all children and teenagers in the United States are overweight or obese according to a report release Thursday by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).
According to “F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens America’s Future 2011,” adult obesity increased in 16 states during the past year and rates soared to 30% or more in these 12 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia. Four years ago, only one state – Mississippi – had an adult obesity rate of more than 30%. No state showed a decrease in it obesity rate in Thursday’s report.
Nine of the 10 states with the highest adult obesity numbers are in the South. Mississippi, for the seventh year in a row, had the highest adult obesity rate at 34.4%. Colorado, at 19.8%, had the lowest, and in fact is the only state in the country with an adult obesity rate under 20%. Twenty years ago no rate was above 15%. The report found rates grew fastest in Alabama, Tennessee and Oklahoma and slowest in Colorado, Connecticut and the District of Columbia.
“There was a clear tipping point in our national weight gain over the last twenty years,” said Jeff Levi, Executive director of TFAH. “And we can’t afford to ignore the impact obesity has on our health and corresponding health care spending.”
NASA fueling Atlantis for last shuttle launch | Science and Technology news | Chron.com – Houston Chronicle
NASA fueled space shuttle Atlantis for liftoff Friday on the final flight of the 30-year program, even though stormy weather threatened to delay the launch.
Forecasters stuck to their original 70 percent chance of thunderstorms or rain, as fuel began flowing into Atlantis’ tank in the pre-dawn hours.
Mission managers acknowledged it might seem silly to proceed with fueling, given the dismal forecast, NASA spokesman Allard Beutel said. They said they would reassess the weather at sunrise and decide whether it makes sense to keep counting down.
The four shuttle astronauts were still asleep when the tanking operation began.
“Have you done your rain dance for the day?” joked Aly Mendoza, the tank and booster rocket vehicle manager.
Atlantis holds a year’s worth of supplies — more than 8,000 pounds — for the International Space Station.
An estimated 750,000 people are expected to jam Cape Canaveral and surrounding towns for this final shuttle launch, reminiscent of the crowds that gathered for the Apollo moon shots.
By late Thursday, dozens of RVs and other vehicles already had claimed prime viewing spots along the Banana River.
NASA must launch Atlantis by Sunday or Monday, otherwise it will have to wait until at least July 16 because of an unmanned rocket launch scheduled for next week.
The 12-day mission will close out the space shuttle program, which began with the launch of Columbia in 1981. Atlantis will join Discovery and Endeavour in retirement, so NASA can focus on sending astronauts to asteroids and Mars. Private companies will take over the business of getting space station cargo and crews to orbit.
Once Atlantis soars, it will be another three years — possibly five or more — before astronauts blast off again from U.S. soil.
While in Brooklyn, Marc sat down with Todd Hanson, one of the original writers for The Onion, who is responsible for some of the smartest, funniest satire of the past two decades. But something went unspoken during that conversation, which prompted a second discussion several months later about a major event in Todd’s life. This episode is sponsored by IFC Films, presenting The Trip and Salvation Boulevard.
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin said in a newly disclosed email she sent just days after taking office in 2006 that she felt her circle of trusted advisors was “shrinking daily.”
The message was released late on Wednesday as part of 54 pages of additional email correspondence from Palin’s early days as governor that state officials said were inadvertently omitted from a load of over 24,000 pages furnished last month to news organizations.
Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, prematurely resigned as governor two years ago and has said she is thinking about running for president in 2012.
The latest release of documents contained only half a dozen emails from Palin, with the rest of the collection consisting of notes sent by her aides. The most frequent topics discussed in the messages were appointments to Palin’s then new administration.
One message in particular illustrated Palin’s apparent sense she only had a few aides she felt she could trust.
In the email sent to an official with the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Palin complained about her legislative director, John Bitney, whom she eventually fired.
Unlike most shows about children, the one thing South Park rarely addresses is the one thing that childhood is all about: growing up. It’s been touched on before (“4th Grade” comes to mind), but mostly South Park’s kids, like the show itself, exist in the sort of stasis required of cartoons, ostensibly learning but never really evolving. As Sharon says at the surprisingly poignant end of tonight’s episode, every week we see some slight variation on the same sort of story, and every week it gets a little more ridiculous, only to have the whole thing reset when the next week rolls around. That’s even truer of South Park than most other cartoons, considering this is the show that spent its early years killing the same character in every episode yet always brought him back, fresh as a daisy, ready to be slaughtered all over again.
And as the revelations of last season’s “Mysterion” trilogy showed us, it seems as though South Park is getting a bit reflective about that sort of thing in its old age, turning inward and examining its formula in a way that my colleague Todd VanDerWerff would probably identify as “meta.” Much as that explanation of Kenny’s many rebirths dissected one of the show’s oldest conventions, tonight tackled a relatively newer, but no less formulaic pattern, with Sharon finally calling out Randy on his insatiable need to fill his life with short-lived fads that lead to him making the same stupid mistakes again and again with only minor variations. It’s a criticism you could level at a lot of shows, of course—entire runs of sitcoms have been built on that—but that dearth of new ways to spin the same old thing obviously hits pretty close to home for Trey Parker and Matt Stone, given that they started off the season openly dreading having to come up with all-new stories to tell.