Friday, October 19, 2018

News of Interest

New experiment: I'm going to collect news I find interesting each week here.

I went looking for a good weekly news summary last Saturday and didn't find one. Everyone wants to be daily in my inbox. I just want weekly. I've wanted weekly for a lot of things. Enough explanation, on to the headlines.

Another NASA space telescope just went into safe mode
The Chandra X-ray Observatory joins Hubble in going into protective mode to deal with a system complication.
Related: We're still years away from the Webb Telescope launch in March 2021.

Purging long-forgotten online accounts: Worth the trouble?
Perhaps a better approach is to focus on the most sensitive accounts. It might not matter than a news site still has your log in, if you never gave it a credit card or other personal details (of course, if you reused your bank password you might be at risk). Rich Mogull, CEO of data security firm Securosis, said people should think about what information they had provided to services they no longer use and whether that information could be damaging should private posts and messages inadvertently become public. Dating sites, in particular, can be a trove of potentially damaging information. Once you’re in a relationship, delete those accounts.

Fairfax Co. leads multimedia integration to emergency call centers
Fairfax County, Virginia, is leading the region in developing the newest 911 system that will integrate pictures, videos, text messages and voice into its emergency call centers, making for speedier responses. The initiative, known as Next Generation 911, updates call centers so the public can communicate through a variety of media, not just text messages or voice. Officials also plan on creating a system that can automatically relay information to 911 from smartwatches and other devices such as burglar and fire alarms and sensors in cars.
Headline-in-waiting: 911: Don't call us; we'll call you

US weapons systems can be 'easily hacked'
Some of the most cutting-edge weapons in the US's military arsenal can be "easily hacked" using "basic tools", a government report has concluded. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found "mission-critical" cyber-vulnerabilities in nearly all weapons systems tested between 2012 and 2017. That includes the newest F-35 jet as well as missile systems.

Why you have (probably) already bought your last car
A growing number of tech analysts are predicting that in less than 20 years we'll all have stopped owning cars, and, what's more, the internal combustion engine will have been consigned to the dustbin of history. The central idea is pretty simple: Self-driving electric vehicles organised into an Uber-style network will be able to offer such cheap transport that you'll very quickly - we're talking perhaps a decade - decide you don't need a car any more.

To read the economy, look at how much Americans are eating out
By that standard, the economy is doing great. Spending at restaurants and bars has soared since the early spring, rising to the highest yearly pace in 25 years. Sales of food and drinks purchased outside the home leaped 10.1% in the 12 months from August 2017 to August 2018.
Alternate interpretation: What if this is a sign of impoverishment—that no one knows how to cook anymore?

Fake software update turns computers into cryptocurrency miners
A fake update to widely used software has been taking over computers to surreptitiously mine cryptocurrency, according to a report from the cybersecurity firm Palo Alto Networks. The malicious software claims to be for Adobe Flash — which the software does update — but includes code for cryptojacking, the term used for efforts to quietly gain access to computers and then harness their power to mine cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.
Put another way: Why automatic updates can be hazardous to your technology's health

Singapore Airlines Re-Launches World’s Longest Flight
Singapore Airlines has officially re-launched the world’s longest flight from Singapore’s Changi Airport to Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. The extreme ultra long-haul flights to and from the island nation are scheduled for 17 hours 50 minutes on the outbound and 18-hours and 30-minutes on the return to Singapore with the route replacing Doha to Auckland, currently operated by Qatar Airways, as the world’s longest.

Boston Dynamics reveals its robot dog helping construction workers

Japan Makes History By Landing Robots On An Asteroid

Japan forced to delay touchdown of asteroid probe because it’s too darn rough

How Your Bedtime Affects Your Brain
According to a new study, your nighttime routine can influence your critical thinking and reasoning, and, if you're not getting the shut-eye your body needs, your bedtime might even cause your brain to function as if it's older than it really is.
Note: I still don't like how limited iOS Bedtime is. Why can't I just tell it when I'm going to bed? I've decided the easiest way to handle its limits is to change the Wake Up Sound to None if I want my sleep still tracked, but no alarm in the morning.

'I don't have anything left': Hurricane Michael survivors scramble for food, water as death toll rises
The troops, out of Sanford, Florida set up about a dozen pallets of bottled water early Saturday. But more than delivering supplies, the group of about 97 soldiers was trying to deliver hope.
Notes: I grew up across the street from that National Guard outpost. I spoke with my sister in nearby Alabama Saturday, and she also mentioned the lack of supplies in that gulf coast region. Supplies can be hard to come by on a good day around there. Add in a Category 4 hurricane, and it could get dicey.

Growing up with Alexa: A child's relationship with Amazon's voice assistant
The first four words my toddler understood were "mom," "dad," "cat" and "Alexa." This is the first generation to grow up with ubiquitous AI -- a world in which almost any question answered, item purchased or whim fulfilled is possible with a command of "Alexa" or "OK, Google" or "Hey Siri." It raises profound questions about how children interact with technology, with other people, and how it might shape their interactions and development. The issue has not yet been exhaustively studied, but some research indicates children understand a device like Echo or Google Home is a piece of technology, but they also see these gadgets in psychological terms — as having emotions, as being capable of thought and friendship, and deserving of moral treatment, Severson added. She believes this sentiment will grow more pronounced as artificial intelligence grows increasingly complex and "real."
Thoughts: In the old days, kids grew up wondering how people fit inside a TV box. What misconceptions will ubiquitous AI create for them?

Two orbiters begin their long journey to Mercury Friday night
The Sun's enormous gravity makes putting a spacecraft into orbit around Mercury quite difficult. The g-force at the surface of the Earth is 9.8 meters per second. By comparison, the Sun's gravity is nearly 30 times greater, at 274 m/s. To overcome this gravity, a mission intended to reach a stable orbit around the tiny planet of Mercury (with a gravity of just 3.7 m/s) therefore requires an enormous amount of energy—more than is required to send a probe to Pluto. Over the course of such a mission, a spacecraft must build up energy to resist the Sun's gravitational pull and slide into orbit around Mercury. Only in March 2026 will science activities begin in earnest around the planet Mercury.

Sunshine Helps Kill Germs Indoors
Rooms exposed to daylight have fewer germs. In fact, the study showed that the lit rooms had about half the viable bacteria (those that are able to grow), compared with dark rooms. Rooms that were exposed only to UV light had just slightly less viable bacteria than ones exposed to daylight.


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