Tag Archives: USA

Russia tells US astronauts to use trampoline if they want to go into space

Photo: Peter Werkman
Photo: Peter Werkman

In a case of ‘did he really say that???’ the Russia – Ukraine conflict has gone into space…or has started to involve exactly who gets into space and how.

The Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin recently lashed out against the US over its stance on Ukraine and the sanctions imposed on Russia because of the on-going conflict.

“The U.S. introduced sanctions against our space industry. God knows, we warned them: we respond to declarations w/ declarations, to actions w/ actions,” Rogozin tweeted, before adding:

“After analyzing the sanctions against our space industry, I suggest the U.S. delivers its astronauts to the ISS [international space station] with a trampoline.”

While more serious media have discussed whether or not this is an actual threat or not (Russian space shuttles are the only way of reaching the ISS at the moment, but any sort of swordplay would likely send the US into the arms of SpaceX and Orbital Sciences, meaning no more money for the already cash strapped Russian aerospace industry) I have only one thing on my mind right now:

I would truly love to see a trampoline capable of sending a man into outer space (of course, the impact and speeds reached would push an astro-jumper’s leg bones up past his ears before he or she reached the stratosphere…but I still want to see the trampoline!).

US Killer Robot Policy – No. 5 gets to press the fire button

5robots

When the US Defence Secretary signed the deliciously named directive 3000.09, he was, in effect, launching the world’s first national policy on killer robots.

The purpose of the directive is split in two and reads like this:

“This Directive:

a.Establishes DoD policy and assigns responsibilities for the development and use of autonomous and semi – autonomous functions in weapon systems, including manned and unmanned platforms.

b. Establishes guidelines designed to minimize the probability and consequences of failures in autonomous and semi – autonomous
weapon systems that could lead to unintended engagements.”

So basically, it’s about who get to develop killer robots, and who we get to point the blame at, should the killer robots go all Robocop 2 on everyone.

It was released last year, but according to a thourhgly researched and very interesting article in the rather niche publication Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the policy actually:

“[…] fully supports developing, testing, and using the technology, without delay. Far from applying the brakes, the policy in effect overrides longstanding resistance within the military, establishes a framework for managing legal, ethical, and technical concerns, and signals to developers and vendors that the Pentagon is serious about autonomous weapons.”

What this means is that not only are we likely to see various arms manufacturers enter a race to build real versions of the No. 5 Robot from Short Circuit (minus the actual short circuiting and evolving feelings from jumping on a frog), but that one piece of legislation has achieved the nigh on impossible feat of horrifying human rights organisations and military drone operators at the same time. .

New documents show al-Qaeda’s fight against drones

According to a report in the Washington Post al-Qaeda leaders have groups of technical staff, including engineers, working on plans and ideas that will give them a better chance to fight US drone aircraft.

These ways could include shooting the drones down, jamming the radio signals that control them or even hijacking the drones, effectively making them do the bidding of al-Qaeda.

According to the report in the Washington Post, there have been few signs of any successes since the al-Qaeda programme was launched in 2010.

The information comes from a classified government report, called “Threats to Unmanned Aerial Vehicles”, which was provided to the Washington Post by Edward Snowden.

Although this is perhaps not news to some, the fact that al-Qaeda are actively engaged in this sort of programme is worrisome when one considers the U.S. Airforce Scientific Advisory Board’s two-year old report that warned of how:

““increasingly capable adversaries” in countries such as Afghanistan could threaten drone operations by inventing inexpensive countermeasures.”

That’s basically people who know a hell of a lot about unmanned flying vehicles telling you that people like the one’s mentioned in the other report are getting closer and closer to working out how to stop them / bring them down / take control of them….

Scientists pick apart US committee chair’s arguments on climate change

Michael Oppenheimer and Kevin Trenberth have spent more than 70 years between them studying Earth’s climate. And they were both left shaking their heads, when Republican Lamar Smith from Texas recently published an op-ed defending not raising prices on carbon emissions.

“Contrary to the claims of those who want to strictly regulate carbon dioxide emissions and increase the cost of energy for all Americans, there is a great amount of uncertainty associated with climate science,” Mr. Smith wrote.

A claim that didn’t sit well with Oppenheimer and Trenberth. Especially as Mr. Smith is the Chair of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

In a link-o-rama of a rebutal, they asserted that climate change is real, and not surrounded by the uncertainty Mr. Smith alluded to.

“[…] most of the world’s major scientific organizations indicate that by the end of this century, people will be experiencing higher temperatures than any known during human civilization — temperatures that our societies, crops and ecosystems are not adapted to,” they said.

Who to agree with…hmm, I think I’ll go with the 70 years of experience on this one….

Of course, the rebuttal might be more than futile. As one reader commented:

“How quaint, using facts, science and logic to rebut a GOP congressional numbskull. It’s a complete waste of time and effort, of course. You might as well talk to the wall.”

It’s all hack, hack, hack this week, isn’t it?

Hackers seem to be here, there and everywhere in the news this week. Stealing building plans here, weapon plans there and just generally making sure that the international diplomatic core has something to do.

The Washington Post reported that Chinese ‘cyber spies’ had somehow gotten access to what it described as ‘many of the nation’s most sensitive advanced weapons systems’.

Not to be outdone, agents from Iran were attacking US energy firms, according to this, rather unfortunately titled piece in The Register.

However, the Chinese ended up running away with the prize as the ‘most hackingest nation in this week’s news’ by heading south and stealing the blueprints for the new ASIO building in Canberra, Australia.

ASIO is short for Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, so there’ll be some red faces down under – and not just from spending too long in the sun.

Electronic-loving ants invade USA

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Photo by: sanchom

An invasive species of ants referred to as ‘Tawny Crazy Ants’ are invading the south-eastern part of the United States, displacing the indigenous fire ants – and showing a strange love for all things electronic that is causing problems throughout the region.

“They nest in electronics and create short circuits, as they create a contact bridge between two points when they get electrocuted they release an alarm pheromone,” says research assistant Edward LeBrun from The University of Texas said.

“The other ants are attracted to the chemicals that other ants give off.”

Together with his colleagues, Edward LeBrun has been mapping the rise of the Tawny Crazy Ants.

“The “ecologically dominant” crazy ants are reducing diversity and abundance across a range of ant and arthropod species,” their report concludes.

This is not only bad news for species such as the fire ants, but also for humans living in the area.

“When you talk to folks who live in the invaded areas, they tell you they want their fire ants back,” said LeBrun. “Fire ants are in many ways very polite. They live in your yard. They form mounds and stay there, and they only interact with you if you step on their mound.”

LeBrun said that crazy ants, by contrast, “go everywhere.” They invade people’s homes, nest in crawl spaces and walls, become incredibly abundant and damage electrical equipment.

Nokia are reported (not really) to be following the development closely, ready to step in and lend a hand by donating mobile phones to lure the Crazy Ants away from people’s’ electronic equipment.

“It’s not like we were ever going to sell them anyway,” a fictional spokesperson for the company said.

It’s still a good idea, though…

Pentagon points cyber espionage finger at China

The Pentagon have released a new report on cyber espionage that points an accusing finger at China.

“China is using its computer network exploitation (CNE) capability to support intelligence collection against the US diplomatic, economic, and defense industrial base sectors that support US national defense programs,” the report says.

“In 2012, numerous computer systems around the world, including those owned by the US government, continued to be targeted for intrusions, some of which appear to be attributable directly to the Chinese government and military,” the report continued.

Although it’s hard to know with any certainty, part of the reason for China’s more and more brazen hacking activities might be that there aren’t any international rules that determine how the US, or other countries for that matter, can react to a cyber attack.

US removes 17 members of the Dr Strangelove squad

In an unprecedented move, the US Air Force has decided to strip 17 officers of the right to guard the really big red button. The one labelled ‘Fire nuclear missiles.’

The news comes hot on the heels of a recent inspection of the Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota where a test of a team’s mastery of the Minuteman III missile launch operations system resulted in a D.

What that basically means is that the squad wasn’t really too sure how the whole firing thing of a 170 kiloton nuclear missile was supposed to go.

“We are, in fact, in a crisis right now,” the group’s deputy commander, Lt. Col. Jay Folds, wrote in an internal email obtained by The Associated Press and confirmed by the Air Force.

After the inspection at Minot Air Force Base, 17 officers were quietly removed from the 24-hour watch over the Minutemen III intercontinental missiles and told that they would be ‘[…] be a bench warmer for at least 60 days.’

Am I the only one thinking about Dr Strangelove?

Short range laser takes out missile in midflight – just ’cause it’s cool

Lockheed Martin recently demonstrated the destructive capabilities of its ADAM laser system by using it to target and destroy a total of eight missiles in midflight.

ADAM is a big, square boy, who fits neatly on a truck wagon, meaning you can take him for a spin around the countryside. And this is a very good thing, because ADAM is a bit short-sighted.

He’s basically a 10-kilowatt laser system that can target and disable a moving target up to two kilometres away. This might sound very well and dandy, like the US is close to creating a missile shield akin to the pipe dreams of former president Ronald Reagan, but personally I’m not convinced.

The system has shown that it can track and disarm one sort of missile, one at a time, and at an unknown cost. Then there’s the range. I you have a particularly gargantuan map of the US, you can try drawing a circle with a two kilometre radius on it. That should give you an idea of how many systems you’d need to make an ADAM missilie defence system able of pretecting the US.

On the other hand, lasers are cool. And can be developed to become even cooler. For now, here’s a video of a cool laser shooting down missiles in midflight. Just ’cause, alright?

New favourite delegate found – wants to make sci-fi mandatory in school

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Photo by: adactio

I can hardly express just how happy I would have been, if Ray Cantebury had around when I was growing up.

But then gain I’m glad he wasn’t, because then I might have ended up voting for a Republican – or more likely he would have been campaigning a little far afield.

Anyway, what’s great about the West Virginia Republican Ray Cantebury is that he wants everybody to read science fiction. Well, everybody young, that is.

The way Mr. Cantebury wants to achieve this is by making science fiction literature mandatory in the state’s schools.

His proposed bill put it like this:

“To stimulate interest in maths and science among students in the public schools of this state, the State Board of Education shall prescribe minimum standards by which samples of grade-appropriate science fiction literature are integrated into the curriculum of existing reading, literature or other required courses for middle school and high school students.”

Ray Cantebury describes himself as a fan of ‘thinking man’s science fiction’ – a genre that includes works by Isaac Asimov and Jules Verne.

I’m primarily interested in things where advanced technology is a key component of the storyline, both in terms of the problems that it presents and the solutions that it offers,” he said.

Science Fiction on the curriculum? Where were politicians like him when I was growing up?

Of course some of his fellow Republicans might argue that certain parts of the US have already made science fiction mandatory in schools. And that it’s all thanks to them.

Creationism, anyone?…