Via: New Scientist:
CAN you hear me now? The US Air Force has plans to improve radio communication over long distances by detonating plasma bombs in the upper atmosphere using a fleet of micro satellites.
Since the early days of radio, we have known that signals that cannot be picked up by day may be heard clearly at night from hundreds of kilometres away.
This is down to changes in the ionosphere, a layer of charged particles in the atmosphere that starts around 60 kilometres up (for more on this mysterious layer see “No-fly zone: Exploring the uncharted layers of our atmosphere“). The curvature of Earth stops most ground-based radio signals travelling more than 70 kilometres without a boost. But by bouncing between the ionosphere and the ground they can zigzag for much greater distances. At night the ionosphere is denser and more reflective.
It’s not the first time we’ve tried to improve radio communication by tinkering with the ionosphere. HAARP, the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program in Alaska, stimulates the ionosphere with radiation from ground-based antennas to produce radio-reflecting plasma.
Now the USAF wants to do this more efficiently, with tiny satellites – such as CubeSats – carrying large volumes of ionised gas directly into the ionosphere.
For the first time since the end of the Cold War, the German government plans to tell citizens to stockpile food and water in case of an attack or catastrophe, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung newspaper reported on Sunday.
Germany is currently on high alert after two Islamist attacks and a shooting rampage by a mentally unstable teenager last month. Berlin announced measures earlier this month to spend considerably more on its police and security forces and to create a special unit to counter cyber crime and terrorism.
“The population will be obliged to hold an individual supply of food for ten days,” the newspaper quoted the government’s “Concept for Civil Defence” – which has been prepared by the Interior Ministry – as saying.
Via: 99% Invisible:
Late for work in Manhattan, you push the crosswalk button and curse silently at the slowness of the signal change. You finally get a green light, cross the street, arrive at the office, get in the elevator and hit the close door (>|<) button to speed things along. Getting out on your target floor, you find that hurrying has you a bit hot under the collar, so you reach for the thermostat to turn up the air conditioning. Each of these seemingly disconnected everyday buttons you pressed may have something in common: it is quite possible that none of them did a thing to influence the world around you. Any perceived impact may simply have been imaginary, a placebo effect giving you the illusion of control.
Via: Los Angeles Times:
Robert Gardner rarely heard anything about Israel growing up in South Los Angeles. But at UCLA, he started learning about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — and seeing parallels with conflicts close to home.
The African American senior likened Israeli crackdowns on Palestinian protesters to police violence against black Americans. So he joined Students for Justice in Palestine and an international movement known as BDS, which advocates boycotts, divestment and sanctions against companies deemed players in Israeli human rights violations.
Earlier this year, though, he was shocked to see — on a poster outside a Westwood market — his name listed as one of 16 UCLA “Jew haters” and terrorist allies.
Since then, he says, “I’ve received death threats online, and people have followed me.”
The poster was part of a multimillion-dollar effort to combat the BDS movement, led by Las Vegas casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson and his wife, Miriam. While this kind of attack campaign is one tactic, a key aim is to win back hearts and minds for Israel via social media pushes, cultural fairs and subsidized trips to the Jewish state.
The United States Army’s finances are so jumbled it had to make trillions of dollars of improper accounting adjustments to create an illusion that its books are balanced.
The Defense Department’s Inspector General, in a June report, said the Army made $2.8 trillion in wrongful adjustments to accounting entries in one quarter alone in 2015, and $6.5 trillion for the year. Yet the Army lacked receipts and invoices to support those numbers or simply made them up.
As a result, the Army’s financial statements for 2015 were “materially misstated,” the report concluded. The “forced” adjustments rendered the statements useless because “DoD and Army managers could not rely on the data in their accounting systems when making management and resource decisions.”
Disclosure of the Army’s manipulation of numbers is the latest example of the severe accounting problems plaguing the Defense Department for decades.
The report affirms a 2013 Reuters series revealing how the Defense Department falsified accounting on a large scale as it scrambled to close its books. As a result, there has been no way to know how the Defense Department – far and away the biggest chunk of Congress’ annual budget – spends the public’s money.
Batteries for the drone market ship in late 2016. Consumer electronics, early 2017. Electric cars, 2018.
Via: MIT News:
Putting these new batteries in electric vehicles as well could represent “a huge societal impact,” Hu says: “Industry standard is that electric vehicles need to go at least 200 miles on a single charge. We can make the battery half the size and half the weight, and it will travel the same distance, or we can make it the same size and same weight, and now it will go 400 miles on a single charge.”
[Quantum effects] might be at work behind some very familiar processes, from the photosynthesis that powers plants – and ultimately feeds us all – to the familiar sight of birds on their seasonal migrations. Quantum physics might even play a role in our sense of smell.
On 30 June 1908, an explosion ripped through the air above a remote forest in Siberia, near the Podkamennaya Tunguska river.
The fireball is believed to have been 50-100m wide. It depleted 2,000 sq km of the taiga forest in the area, flattening about 80 million trees.
The earth trembled. Windows smashed in the nearest town over 35 miles (60km) away. Residents there even felt heat from the blast, and some were blown off their feet.
This “Tunguska event” remains the most powerful of its kind recorded in history – it produced about 185 times more energy than the Hiroshima atomic bomb (with some estimates coming in even higher). Seismic rumbles were even observed as far away as the UK.
And yet, over a hundred years later researchers are still asking questions about what exactly took place on that fateful day. Many are convinced that it was an asteroid or a comet that was responsible for the blast. But very few traces of this large extraterrestrial object have ever been found, opening the way for more outlandish explanations for the explosion.
Wikipedia: Tunguska Event
Didn’t see that coming…
Via: The Globe and Mail:
The U.S. Justice Department plans to phase out its use of privately-operated prisons, which it called less safe and less effective than government-run facilities, according to a memo released publicly by the department on Thursday.
In a move that hammered corrections company share prices, the Justice Department memo called for gradually phasing out the use of private prisons by letting contracts expire or by scaling them back.
Starting later this month, Uber will allow customers in downtown Pittsburgh to summon self-driving cars from their phones, crossing an important milestone that no automotive or technology company has yet achieved. Google, widely regarded as the leader in the field, has been testing its fleet for several years, and Tesla Motors offers Autopilot, essentially a souped-up cruise control that drives the car on the highway. Earlier this week, Ford announced plans for an autonomous ride-sharing service. But none of these companies has yet brought a self-driving car-sharing service to market.
Uber’s Pittsburgh fleet, which will be supervised by humans in the driver’s seat for the time being, consists of specially modified Volvo XC90 sport-utility vehicles outfitted with dozens of sensors that use cameras, lasers, radar, and GPS receivers. Volvo Cars has so far delivered a handful of vehicles out of a total of 100 due by the end of the year. The two companies signed a pact earlier this year to spend $300?million to develop a fully autonomous car that will be ready for the road by 2021.