Tag Archives: US & World

The Gross Side of Space: What Happens to Dead Skin in Microgravity

Warning: If you are looking for a story about the romance of space travel — the adventure, the wonder, the transcendence of what we know in the name of exploring a great unknown — this is not that. Turn away now.

Still with me? Great. Then here’s something from the other side of space. The less romantic, and in fact vaguely disgusting, side. The side that involves drinking recycled urine and using bathrooms that involve vacuums and trimming moustaches with clippers that resemble medieval torture devices. This one involves skin. Skin which, as it naturally does, sheds.

On Earth, we barely notice that process: Our skin cells molt and and gravity pulls them away from our bodies, conveniently and invisibly. In space, however, there is no gravity to pull the dead cells (technically: the detritus) away. Which means that the detritus, left to its own devices, simply floats. Which, given the fact that multiple astronauts live on the Space Station at the same time, and the fact that even highly trained space travelers might get skeeved out by floating clouds of dead skin, is less than ideal.

In the video above, former ISS denizen Don Pettit describes what happens when, in particular, you take your socks off on the Station. “This cloud, this explosion of skin particles — detritus — floats out,” he says. “And you’re in this weightless environment, and the particles have nowhere to go but out.”

That’s even true of foot calluses — which, after a few months of weightlessness, tend to soften. I’ll leave the details to Pettit, but the bottom line is this: If you ever find yourself living on a space station, make sure the station’s ventilation system works really, really well. Because, as astronaut Mike Massimino warns in the video: “This sounds actually pretty disgusting.”

“Well, it is,” Pettit replies. “But it’s part of being a human.”

Image: NASA

This article originally published at The Atlantic
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/08/01/dead-skin-microgravity/

Bacteria in Space Grows in Strange Ways

Bacteria in Space Grows in Strange Ways

Pseudomonas-aeruginosa

When bacteria grows in a dish of fake urine in space, it behaves in ways never-before-seen in Earth microorganisms, scientists say.

A team of scientists sent samples of the bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa into orbit aboard NASA’s space shuttle Atlantis to see how they grew in comparison to their Earth-dwelling counterparts.

The 3D communities of microorganisms (called biofilms) grown aboard the space shuttle had more live cells, were thicker and had more biomass than the bacterial colonies grown in normal gravity on Earth as controls. The space bacteria also grew in a “column-and-canopy” structure that has never been observed in bacterial colonies on Earth, according to NASA scientists.

“Biofilms were rampant on the Mir space station and continue to be a challenge on the [International Space Station], but we still don’t really know what role gravity plays in their growth and development,” NASA’s study leader Cynthia Collins, an assistant professor in the department of chemical and biological engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., said in a statement. “Our study offers the first evidence that spaceflight affects community-level behaviors of bacteria, and highlights the importance of understanding how both harmful and beneficial human-microbe interactions may be altered during spaceflight.”

Most biofilms found in the human body and in nature are harmless, but some are associated with disease, NASA officials said.

The space bacteria were cultured in artificial urine on NASA’s Atlantis shuttle in 2010 and again in 2011 before the retirement of NASA’s space shuttle program. Collins and her team of researchers used fabricated urine because it can be used to study the formation of biofilm outside and inside the body. Understanding how to safely remove and recycle waste is particularly relevant because of its importance in long-term spaceflight, NASA officials said.

“The unique appearance and structure of the P. aeruginosa biofilms formed in microgravity suggests that nature is capable of adapting to nonterrestrial environments in ways that deserve further studies, including studies exploring long-term growth and adaptation to a low-gravity environment,” Collins said in a statement. “Before we start sending astronauts to Mars or embarking on other long-term spaceflight missions, we need to be as certain as possible that we have eliminated or significantly reduced the risk that biofilms pose to the human crew and their equipment.”

Scientists sent 12 devices with eight vials of P. aeruginosa — a bacterium that can be associated with disease on Earth — into orbit on Atlantis. Once in space, astronauts on the shuttle introduced the bacterium to the fake urine while scientists on the ground began the control experiment.

After the samples arrived safely on Earth, Collins and her team took a detailed 3D image of the biofilms to investigate their internal structure, and used other research methods to investigate the colony’s thickness and cell growth.

The study, published in the April 20 issue of the journal PLOS ONE, also could have implications for bacterial research on Earth. It’s possible that this kind of research could help scientists and doctors more effectively limit the spread of infection in hospitals, Collins said.

Image courtesy of NASA

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/07/10/bacteria-growth-space/

Does the Moon Have Levitating Lunar Dust?

Does the Moon Have Levitating Lunar Dust?

Does-the-moon-have-levitating-lunar-dust--ba51520a7f

Did you hear about the new restaurant on the moon? Great food, but no atmosphere.

While that wisecrack has been floating about in space circles for decades, a NASA lunar orbiter will gather detailed information about the moon’s atmosphere next year, including conditions near its surface and environmental influences on lunar dust.

NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) is to depart the Earth for the moon in August 2013. LADEE is loaded with science gear, including instruments that can address a lingering question that’s rooted in space history: Are electrostatically lofted lunar dust particles present within the moon’s tenuous atmosphere?

Twilight Rays on the Moon

In the 1960s, several NASA Surveyor moon landers relayed images showing a twilight glow low over the lunar horizon persisting after the sun had set. Also, a number of Apollo astronauts orbiting the moon saw twilight rays before lunar sunrise or lunar sunset.

In addition, some have floated the theory that the glowing transient lunar phenomenon seen from Earth might stem from sunlight reflecting off of suspended lunar dust.

LADEE will investigate this moon magic trick of levitating lunar dust. The spacecraft has the tools it needs to address mysteries and questions that have been around since Apollo, said Rick Elphic, LADEE project scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif.

Ames is responsible for managing the mission, building the spacecraft and performing mission operations.

Elphic told SPACE.com that among its duties, the LADEE mission can further investigate tantalizing hints about the dust and the moon’s exotic atmosphere.

“If we fly LADEE through the regions where the Apollo command module observations were made, we will know right away if there are small grains there or not,” Elphic said. LADEE’s Lunar Dust Experiment (LDEX) is a very sensitive dust-detecting instrument, he said, and scientists may be able to place new upper limits on the dust in the first week of the spacecraft’s orbiting operations.

Nagging Moon Question

“If LADEE never sees levitated dust, that settles the question for the high-altitude observations, at least for its mission time frame,” Elphic said.

Still, there’s the nagging question about what Surveyor saw, the near-surface horizon glow. “That might be something else entirely, and can only be addressed with a surface mission,” Elphic said.

“If LADEE does see dust, we will then have a basis for expecting the same phenomena at all other ‘nearly-airless’ bodies around the solar system,” Elphic added.

This dust may not pose much of a hazard, Elphic added, but the physics will need to be explained. Right now, no one has a good end-to-end model for getting dust to loft and secondly, stay suspended for long periods, he said.

“If LADEE observes levitated dust, then scientists will have to explain it. Right now, no one can,” Elphic said.

One-Way Trip Off the Moon

One scientist ready for the new data to be gleaned by LADEE is Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, Apollo 17 moonwalker and geologist. He and astronaut Eugene Cernan walked the lunar surface in December 1972 — the last mission of the Apollo moon landings.

“I do not know if LADEE will see lunar dust in the lunar atmosphere, but I will not be surprised if there is none,” Schmitt told SPACE.com. “We know about several transient gases in that atmosphere, and these may be what causes the horizon glow at sunrise and sunset.”

Moon dust, Schmitt added, was always been on his mind.

“My concern about levitated dust has always been that levitation, if it occurs at all, probably has to be a one-way trip off the moon … because many flat rock surfaces are essentially free of very fine dust, as I personally witnessed on Apollo 17.”

Schmitt said that if dust has been levitated and then dropped again, he would expect the rock surfaces to be covered with such dust.

“Nonetheless, LADEE data on this question, as well as various gases, should give us a lot to think about,” Schmitt said.

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/11/20/nasa-ladee-levitating-lunar-dust/

Sandy Prompts FCC Hearings on Communications Outages

Sandy Prompts FCC Hearings on Communications Outages

Sandy-prompts-fcc-hearings-on-communications-outages-69523f55c6

The Federal Communications Commission announced on Wednesday it will hold field hearings examining ways to keep communications systems up and running during natural disasters like Superstorm Sandy.

Lawmakers called for probes into communications outages after Sandy left as much as 25% of cell sites in its path inoperable when it hit the East Coast in October.

“This unprecedented storm has revealed new challenges that will require a national dialogue around ideas and actions to ensure the resilience of communications networks,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement.

The hearings will start in 2013, with the first round in New York and continuing in other disaster-prone areas of the country.

In the wake of Sandy, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called for the FCC to determine where system weaknesses exist and develop plans to make communications networks more resilient.

“Field hearings will increase our understanding of the problems encountered during Superstorm Sandy and harvest the best ideas to ensure that mobile phone service doesn’t fail after future storms,” he said in a statement after the FCC announced the hearings. “Mobile communication has become an essential part of our lives, and increasing its reliability must be a top priority.”

Several House Democrats have also called for a congressional hearing on the issue.

Harold Feld, senior vice president at the consumer group Public Knowledge, said he hopes the outages will lead to federal standards for communications networks.

“Hopefully, the experience with Sandy underscores how dependent we as a nation have become on these networks, and that the federal government does indeed have a role in setting minimum standards for preparedness and response,” he said.

Image courtesy of Flickr, edenpictures

This article originally published at National Journal
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/11/21/sandy-fcc-outages/

See 'Summer Triangle' in Night Sky This Weekend

See ‘Summer Triangle’ in Night Sky This Weekend

Summer-triangle

This weekend, during the late evening hours, search for the famous “Summer Triangle” high in the eastern sky.

The triangle consists of three of the brightest stars in the sky, each the brightest in its own constellation. Bluish-white star Vega in Lyra (the lyre) is the brightest in the triangle, with yellow-white Altair in Aquila (the eagle) and white Deneb in Cygnus (the swan), following it as second- and third-brightest in the configuration.

From our viewpoint, Vega appears twice as bright as Altair and more than three times brighter than Deneb. But sometimes things are not always what they seem. We know that Vega clearly is more luminous compared to Altair, because it’s situated at a greater distance from us.  Altair is 17 light years away, while Vega is just a little farther out at 25 light years away.

The light you’re seeing from Altair tonight started on its journey to Earth in 1996, and the light from Vega started on its way toward Earth back in 1988. But brilliant Vega actually pales in comparison with Deneb, one of the greatest supergiant stars known.

Deneb’s distance measures 1,467 light-years from Earth with a luminosity computed to be more than 60,000 times that of the sun. Because its light takes nearly 15 centuries to reach us, Deneb merely appears as a fairly conspicuous but by no means particularly notable star.

See the Milky Way

With the moon arriving at new phase on Monday, July 8, and then waxing to just a thin crescent phase by week’s end, there is no better time than now to observe the beautiful summer Milky Way.

Under a dark sky with a good pair of binoculars or a telescope you can now observe millions of sparkling little stars that make up this glowing, irregular belt of luminosity.

It appears to arch from the north-northeast to the south-southeast, with its brightest and most spectacular region running across the summer triangle and beyond toward the south-southeast horizon.

There appears to be a great black rift dividing it into two streams (called the “dark bifurcation”), beginning with Cygnus and extending down toward the south. Also in Cygnus is the black void known as the “northern coal stack.” The coal stack and the rift are not holes in the Milky Way, but rather are vast clouds of dust “floating” out in interstellar space which present a solid and impenetrable curtain between us and the more distant stars.

Star-Crossed Lovers

There have been many stories, myths and legends told about the Milky Way across different cultures.

In a Japanese legend involving the galaxy, the star Vega represented Orihime, the weaving princess, who produced brilliantly colored fabrics. Across the “heavenly river” (the Milky Way), Altair represented the cow herder Hikoboshi, who was also known as Kengyu.

After meeting each other, they received divine permission to marry, whereupon both abandoned their occupations. This angered the gods who consequently separate them and send them back to their original jobs on opposite sides of the heavenly river.

The couple, however, received permission from the gods to get together for one night each year. That special night is July 7 — but only if the sky is clear.

As a result, the evening of July 7 has evolved into a young people’s holiday in Japan called Tanabata, meaning “evening of the seventh.” Prayers are offered for clear skies so that Orihime and Hikoboshi, the star-crossed lovers can be reunited.

Popular customs relating to the festival vary by region, but generally, girls wish for better sewing and craftsmanship, and boys wish for better handwriting by writing wishes on strips of paper. The date of Tanabata also varies by region, but the first festivities begin on July 7 of the Gregorian calendar.

The original Tanabata date was based on the Japanese lunisolar calendar, which is about a month behind the Gregorian calendar. As a result, some festivals are held on July 7, some last for a few days around August 7 and others take place on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month of the traditional Japanese lunisolar calendar, which is usually in August in the Gregorian calendar.

This year, the Gregorian date of “the seventh day of the seventh lunar month of the Japanese lunisolar calendar” will fall on Aug. 13.

Editor’s note: If you snap an amazing picture of the night sky that you’d like to share for a possible story or image gallery send photos, comments and your name and location to Managing Editor Tariq Malik at spacephotos@space.com.

Image courtesy of Flickr, Socalastro

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/07/05/summer-triangle/

Exoplanets Explain Why the 'Dark Side' of the Moon Has No Face

Exoplanets Explain Why the ‘Dark Side’ of the Moon Has No Face

Moon-composite-nasa

A composite image of the Moon.
Image: NASA

Heat radiating from the young Earth could help solve the more than 50-year-old mystery of why the far side of the moon, which faces away from Earth, lacks the dark, vast expanses of volcanic rock that define the face of the Man in the Moon as seen from Earth, researchers say.

The Man in the Moon was born when cosmic impacts struck the near side of the moon, the side that faces Earth. These collisions punched holes in the moon’s crust, which later filled with vast lakes of lava that formed the dark areas known as maria or “seas.”

In 1959, when the Soviet spacecraft Luna 3 transmitted the first images of the “dark” or far side of the moon, the side facing away from Earth, scientists immediately noticed fewer maria there. This mystery — why no Man in the Moon exists on the moon’s far side — is called the Lunar Farside Highlands Problem.

“I remember the first time I saw a globe of the moon as a boy, being struck by how different the far side looks,” study co-author Jason Wright, an astronomer at Pennsylvania State University, said in a statement. “It was all mountains and craters. Where were the maria?”

Far Side of the Moon

The farside of the moon, taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera.

Image: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

Now scientists may have solved the 55-year-old mystery; heat from the young Earth as the newborn moon was cooling caused the difference. The researchers came up with the solution during their work on exoplanets, which are worlds outside the solar system.

“There are many exoplanets that are really close to their host stars,”lead study author Arpita Roy, also of Penn State, told Space.com. “That really affects the geology of those planets.”

Similarly, the moon and Earth are generally thought to have orbited very close together after they formed. The leading idea explaining the moon’s formation suggests that it arose shortly after the nascent Earth collided with a Mars-size planet about 4.5 billion years ago, with the resulting debris coalescing into the moon. Scientists say the newborn moon and Earth were 10 to 20 times closer to each other than they are now.

“The moon and Earth loomed large in each other’s skies when they formed, ” Roy said in a statement.

Since the moon was so close to Earth, the mutual pull of gravity was strong. The gravitational tidal forces the moon and Earth exerted on each other braked their rotations, resulting in the moon always showing the same face to Earth, a situation known as tidal lock.

The moon and Earth were very hot shortly after the giant impact that formed the moon. The moon, being much smaller than Earth, cooled more quickly. Since the moon and Earth were tidally locked early on, the still-hot Earth — more than 4,530 degrees Fahrenheit (2,500 degrees Celsius) — would have cooked the near side of the moon, keeping it molten. On the other hand, the far side of the moon would have cooled, albeit slowly.

The difference in temperature between the moon’s halves influenced the formation of its crust. The lunar crust possesses high concentrations of aluminum and calcium, elements that are very hard to vaporize.

“When rock vapor starts to cool, the very first elements that snow out are aluminum and calcium,” study co-author Steinn Sigurdsson of Penn State said in a statement.

Aluminum and calcium would have more easily condensed in the atmosphere on the colder far side of the moon. Eventually, these elements combined with silicates in the mantle of the moon to form minerals known as plagioclase feldspars, making the crust of the far side about twice as thick as that of the near side.

“Earthshine, the heat of Earth soon after the giant impact, was a really important factor shaping the moon,” Roy said.

When collisions from asteroids or comets blasted the moon’s surface, they could punch through the near side’s crust to generate maria. In contrast, impacts on the far side’s thicker crust failed to penetrate deeply enough to cause lava to well up, instead leaving the far side of the moon with a surface of valleys, craters and highlands, but almost no maria.

“It’s really cool that our understanding of exoplanets is affecting our understanding of the solar system,” Roy said.

Future research could generate detailed 3D models testing this idea, Roy suggested. The authors detailed their findings June 9 in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2014/06/16/farside-of-the-moon/

Hillary Clinton Opens the Social Good Summit

Hillary Clinton Opens the Social Good Summit

Hillary-clinton-opens-the-social-good-summit-video--7431a17dfe

The third annual Social Good Summit kicked off Saturday in New York with a surprise address from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“Leaders around the world are coming together around at the United Nations seeking solutions for some of the toughest challenges we might face,” Clinton said. “At the same time a revolution in social media is helping people everywhere take part in a global conversation about how we can work together to advance the common good.”

Clinton encouraged the connected generation to get involved helping to build a better future.

“We need your help,” she said. “Please use this unprecedented opportunity to become involved. Share your ideas. Mobilize your friends. Take action online and off.”

Even if you couldn’t make it to New York, you can catch all of the excitement on the Social Good Summit livestream.

About Ericsson

Read more of Mashable’s coverage of the 2012 Social Good Summit:

Day One:

Day Two:

Day Three:

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/09/22/hillary-clinton-social-good/

China to Launch First Space-Based Quantum Communications Experiment

China to Launch First Space-Based Quantum Communications Experiment

Satellite

The “Chinese Quantum Science Satellite” will launch in 2016 and aim to make China the first space-faring nation with quantum communication capability.

The ability to send perfectly secure messages from one location on the planet to another has obvious and immediate appeal to governments, the military and various commercial organizations such as banks. This capability is already possible over short distances thanks to the magic of quantum cryptography, which guarantees the security of messages — at least in theory.

For the moment, however, quantum cryptography works only over distances of 100 km or so. That’s how far it is possible to send the single photons that carry quantum messages through an optical fiber or through the atmosphere.

Last year, we watched as European and Chinese physicists battled to claim the distance record for this technology with the Europeans finally triumphing by setting up a quantum channel over 143 kilometers through the atmosphere.

That distance is a good fraction of the way into space. And the reason that’s important is that it’s a stepping stone to sending quantum messages to orbiting satellites which can then route the messages to almost anywhere else on the planet.

Today, the Chinese claim another small victory in this quantum space race. Jian-Wei Pan at the University of Science and Technology of China in Shanghai and his fellow researchers say they’ve bounced single photons off an orbiting satellite and detected them back on Earth. That’s significant because it simulates a satellite sending single photons from orbit to the surface, crossing off another proof-of-principle milestone in their quantum checklist.

The experiment is simple in principle. These guys have two telescopes in a binocular formation which they pointed at a satellite orbiting at an altitude of 400 kilometers. This satellite is covered with reflectors capable of bouncing a laser beam from Earth back to its original location.


Image courtesy of “Experimental Single-Photon Transmission from Satellite to Earth”

They used one of the telescopes to send pulses of light towards the satellite and the other, with a diameter of 60 cm, to look for the reflection.

Of course, the Earth’s atmosphere absorbs a very high percentage of the photons transmitted from the ground. So Pan and his team produced each pulse with just enough photons so that, on average, just one would reach the satellite and be reflected back to Earth. The idea was to simulate the satellite itself sending single photons to the surface.

Each pulse began its journey from Earth with about 1 billion photons and, on average, just one started the return journey. Obviously, many of the returning photons would also be absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere. So the pulse was repeated many millions of times per second.

Pan and his team say that they were able to detect the returning photons at a rate of about 600 per second. “These results are suf?cient to set up an unconditionally secure QKD link between satellite and earth, technically,” they add in the paper that accompanies their research.

That’s a significant stepping stone. “Our results represent a crucial step towards the ?nal implementation of high-speed QKD between the satellite and the ground stations, which will also serve as a test bed for secure intercontinental quantum communication,” the team says.

However, this experiment raises something of a puzzle. The researchers say they used a German satellite called CHAMP for their experiment. The satellite launched in 2000, and its mission was to make a precise gravity map of the Earth by bouncing lasers off it.

What’s curious about the Chinese announcement is that CHAMP deorbited in 2010. So a question worth asking is when the team did this work. Clearly, the team has been sitting on this result for some time.

Why publish it now? The answer may be a small but significant detail revealed in the final paragraph of the paper. Here Pan and his colleagues announce that they plan to launch the first quantum science experiment into space. The spacecraft is called the Chinese Quantum Science Satellite and it is scheduled for launch in 2016.

A quick Google search shows that the official Chinese news agency, Xinhau, revealed in March that its scientists were planning a quantum information and technology space experiment. But the announcement did not give the name of the satellite and appears to have had little if any coverage in the west.

‘We hope to establish a quantum communication network from Beijing to Vienna,” according to Pan, a plan that will presumably require significant co-operation from their arch-competitors in Europe.

Last year, European scientists themselves proposed sending a quantum communications experiment to the International Space Station, an idea that could be beat the Chinese at their own game and would be relatively cheap and quick. But whether this plan has gained traction isn’t clear.

What is abundantly clear is that the quantum space race is rapidly hotting up. But the embarrassing truth for American science is that the U.S. isn’t yet a player in the quantum space race (at least not publicly). Perhaps that’s something that should change.

Image courtesy of NASA

This article originally published at MIT Technology Review
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/06/11/china-quantum-communications/

Why You Can’t Vote Online Tuesday

Why You Can’t Vote Online Tuesday

Why-you-can-t-vote-online-tuesday-45644281c0

A decade and a half into the web revolution, we do much of our banking and shopping online. So why can’t we vote over the Internet? The answer is that voting presents specific kinds of very hard problems.

Even though some countries do it and there have been trial runs in some precincts in the United States, computer security experts at a Princeton symposium last week made clear that online voting cannot be verifiably secure, and invites disaster in a close, contentious race.

“Vendors may come and they may say they’ve solved the Internet voting problem for you, but I think that, by and large, they are misleading you, and misleading themselves as well,” Ron Rivest, the MIT computer scientist and cryptography pioneer, said at the symposium. “If they’ve really solved the Internet security and cybersecurity problem, what are they doing implementing voting systems? They should be working with the Department of Defense or financial industry. These are not solved problems there.”

The unsolved problems include the ability of malicious actors to intercept Internet communications, log in as someone else, and hack into servers to rewrite or corrupt code. While these are also big problems in e-ecommerce, if a hacker steals money, the theft can soon be discovered. A bank or store can decide whether any losses are an acceptable cost of doing business.

Voting is a different and harder problem. Lost votes aren’t acceptable. And a voting system is supposed to protect the anonymity of a person’s vote — quite unlike a banking or e-commerce transaction — while at the same time validating that it was cast accurately, in a manner that maintains records that a losing candidate will accept as valid and verified.

Given the well-understood vulnerabilities of networked computer systems, the problem is far from solved, says David Dill, a Stanford computer scientist. “Basically, it relies on the user’s computer being trustworthy. If a virus can intercept a vote at keyboard or screen, there is basically no defense,” Dill says. “There are really fundamental problems. Perhaps a system could be tightened so some particular hack won’t work. But overall, systems tend to be vulnerable.”

This year, the U.S. Department of Defense canceled plans to allow Internet voting by military personnel overseas after a security team audited a $22 million system developed by Accenture and found it vulnerable to cyberattacks.

While some nations, including Estonia, allow Internet voting — and other European nations and cities are pursuing projects (Italy is conducting a large test this year), Dill says these adoptions do not prove that they are secure. “I contend that nobody knows whether there is fraud in those nations, because there is no way to detect it,” Dill said.

Some of the theoretical hacking problems could already plague electronic voting systems that are widely used in the United States and other countries, especially if the machines do not produce paper records. But these machines, because they are disconnected from the Internet, are vulnerable to a much narrower range of attacks.

The problems of Internet voting were made clear in a trial two years ago, when the District of Columbia set up a system that let voters go online, enter an ID code they’d received in the mail, cast a vote, and get a record of the result. Election officials invited computer scientists to try to hack the system in a mock election.

Alex Halderman, a computer scientist at the University of Michigan, and two grad students accepted that offer — and soon found an error in the source code that “allowed us to completely steal the election,” Halderman said at the Princeton symposium. They were even able to change the choice of candidates that appeared on people’s screens.

Rivest put the matter in plain terms. “I think when we talk about voting over the Internet, my gut reaction says: Why vote over the Internet? Why? Why are you doing this? Why? Really, why? Why? I think you need to ask that question a lot, just like a two-year-old,” he said. “There are other approaches to getting information back and forth that are better, and have better security properties.

Voting over the Internet is rarely going to be the best choice. It’s very complicated, and you are asking for trouble. Would you connect your toaster to a high-tension power line? Putting a voting system online is very much like that. Would you invest your pension in credit default swaps? You want to stay away [from] complexity. You want something simple. You are entering a world of attacks and risk that you don’t want to be in.”

Photo courtesy Flickr, Theresa Thompson.

This article originally published at MIT Technology Review
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/11/05/why-you-cant-vote-online/

See Space Station and Cargo Ship in Night Sky This Week

See Space Station and Cargo Ship in Night Sky This Week

Stargazing

The International Space Station and a European cargo-carrying spacecraft are locked in a cosmic dance, and you can see it all unfold right from your own backyard.

The European Space Agency’s bus-size Automated Transfer Vehicle-4 (ATV-4) — a space cargo ship loaded with food, rocket fuel and experiments — launched toward the space station last Wednesday. This week, weather permitting, you’ll be able to see both the station and the ship (named “Albert Einstein”) pass overhead.

This is a sight that should easily be visible to almost anyone, even those in brightly lit cities across southern Canada, all of Europe and much of the United States.

The appearance of either the International Space Station or an ATV cargo ship moving across the sky is not unusual. On any clear evening, within a couple of hours of local sunset and with no optical aid, you can usually spot several Earth-orbiting satellites creeping across the sky like moving stars.

Satellites become visible only when they are in sunlight and the observer is in deep twilight or darkness; this usually means shortly after dusk or before dawn.

What makes this week’s prospective passages so interesting is that you’ll be able to see the ATV-4 gradually “chase down” the space station around the Earth, ultimately catching up and docking with the orbiting outpost. Docking is scheduled for Saturday, June 15 at 9:46 a.m. EDT.

Both vehicles will appear to travel across the sky along the same path, and the gap between the two will diminish as the week unfolds.

Today they have about 42 minutes of travel time between them. By Wednesday, they’ll be 36 minutes apart and, by Thursday, 20 minutes apart. But on Friday evening — mere hours before docking — they will be flying in close tandem with each other.

Resembling a pair of bright “stars,” the International Space Station will shimmer brightly and seem to lead the dimmer Albert Einstein across the sky. The space station is, by far, the largest and brightest object currently orbiting the Earth. It shines as brightly as Jupiter and can occasionally even rival Venus in brilliance.

Traveling in their respective orbits at 18,000 mph (29,000 km/h), both should be visible for about one to four minutes as they glide with a steady speed across the sky.

Although the “chase” will be visible in many parts of the Northern Hemisphere, it will be difficult to spot in parts of the southern United States (particularly in Florida and the Gulf Coast region), as the few (if any) passes will occur before sunset in the daytime sky.

So what is the viewing schedule for your hometown? You can easily find out by visiting Chris Peat’s Heavens Above or NASA’s SkyWatch.

Both websites will ask for your ZIP code or city and, using that information, will formulate a list of suggested spotting times. Predictions computed a few days ahead of time are usually accurate to within a few minutes. They can change, however, due to the slow decay of the space station’s orbit and the periodic reboosts to higher altitudes. Check frequently for updates.

Another site, N2YO.com, tracks more than 8,000 satellites in real time. Check out the website’s sidebar for additional data, including the satellite’s speed, elevation and altitude. The sidebar also provides a forecast (with a corresponding map) of any given satellite’s movements in the next five days.

Image courtesy of Flickr, jacsonquerubin

This article originally published at Space.com
here

Read more: http://mashable.com/2013/06/12/see-iss-in-the-sky/