The Courts

Engineer At Boeing Admits Trying To Sell Space Secrets To Russians (arstechnica.com) 69

An anonymous reader shares an ArsTechnica report: Gregory Allen Justice, a 49-year-old engineer living in Culver City, Calif., has pleaded guilty to charges of attempted economic espionage and attempted violation of the Export Control Act. Justice, who according to his father worked for Boeing Satellite Systems in El Segundo, Calif., was arrested last July after selling technical documents about satellite systems to someone he believed to be a Russian intelligence agent. Instead, he sold the docs to an undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation employee. The sting was part of a joint operation by the FBI and the US Air Force Office of Special Investigations. The documents provided by Justice to the undercover agent included information on technology on the US Munitions List, meaning they were regulated by government International Trade in Arms regulations (ITAR). "In exchange for providing these materials during a series of meeting between February and July of 2016, Justice sought and received thousands of dollars in cash payments," a Justice Department spokesperson said in a statement. "During one meeting, Justice and the undercover agent discussed developing a relationship like one depicted on the television show 'The Americans.'"
Space

Could Giant Alien Structures Be Dimming a Far Away Star? (sciencemag.org) 385

sciencehabit quotes a report from Science Magazine: Astronomers and alien life enthusiasts alike are buzzing over the sudden dimming of an otherwise unremarkable star 1300 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus. KIC 8462852 or "Tabby's star" has dimmed like this several times before, prompting some researchers to suggest that the megastructures of an advanced alien civilization might be blocking its light. And now -- based on new data from numerous telescopes -- it's doing it again. "This is the first clear dip we have seen since [2013], and the first we have ever caught in real time," says Jason Wright, an astronomer at Pennsylvania State University in State College. If they can rope in more telescopes, astronomers hope to gather enough data to finally figure out what's going on. "This could be the first of several dips about to come," says astronomer David Kipping of Columbia University. "Many observers will be closely watching." KIC 8462852 was first noticed to be dipping in brightness at seemingly random intervals between 2011 and 2013 by NASA's Kepler telescope. Kepler, launched to observe the stellar dimmings caused when an exoplanet passes in front of its star, revealed that the dimming of Tabby's star was much more erratic than a typical planetary transit. It was also more extreme, with its brightness sometimes dropping by as much as 20%. This was not the passage of a small circular planet, but of something much larger and more irregular.
Space

Sperm Stored In Space Produces Healthy Baby Mice On Earth (theguardian.com) 53

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Reproduction may be possible in space, Japanese researchers have said, after freeze-dried sperm stored on the International Space Station for nine months produced healthy offspring. The scientists said their findings could have significant ramifications for human settlements in space, which they consider "likely." The average daily radiation dose on the ISS is about 100 times stronger than that on Earth, posing a threat of serious reproductive problems for any space-dwelling organism. But mouse sperm stored on the ISS for 288 days from August 2013 to May 2014, then returned to Earth, fertilized in vitro and transferred into female mice, produced healthy offspring. The space-preserved samples showed evidence of slightly increased DNA damage compared with control samples preserved on Earth, but this was found to be largely repaired in embryos following fertilization. The birth rate and sex ratio of pups derived from the sperm stored in space was comparable to those of pups derived from the control samples. Subsequent whole genome analysis revealed only minor differences, and the pups developed into adults with normal fertility. The study was published in the proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences on Monday.
AI

How AI Can Infer Human Emotions (oreilly.com) 25

An anonymous reader quotes OReilly.com's interview with the CEO of Affectiva, an emotion-measurement technology company that grew out of MIT's Media Lab. We can mine Twitter, for example, on text sentiment, but that only gets us so far. About 35-40% is conveyed in tone of voice -- how you say something -- and the remaining 50-60% is read through facial expressions and gestures you make. Technology that reads your emotional state, for example by combining facial and voice expressions, represents the emotion AI space. They are the subconscious, natural way we communicate emotion, which is nonverbal and which complements our language... Facial expressions and speech actually deal more with the subconscious, and are more unbiased and unfiltered expressions of emotion...

Rather than encoding specific rules that depict when a person is making a specific expression, we instead focus our attention on building intelligent algorithms that can be trained to recognize expressions. Through our partnerships across the globe, we have amassed an enormous emotional database from people driving cars, watching media content, etc. A portion of the data is then passed on to our labeling team, who are certified in the Facial Action Coding System...we have gathered 5,313,751 face videos, for a total of 38,944 hours of data, representing nearly two billion facial frames analyzed.

They got their start testing advertisements, and now are already working with a third of all Fortune 500 companies. ("We've seen that pet care and baby ads in the U.S. elicit more enjoyment than cereal ads -- which see the most enjoyment in Canada.") One company even combined their technology with Google Glass to help autistic children learn to recognize emotional cues.
Space

Scientists Claim 'Cold Spot' In Space Could Offer Evidence of a Parallel Universe (inhabitat.com) 124

New submitter LCooke writes: A international research team led by the University of Durham thinks a mysterious cold spot in the universe could offer evidence of a parallel universe. The cold spot could have resulted after our universe collided with another. Physicist Tom Shanks said, [...] "the cold spot might be taken as the first evidence for the multiverse -- and billions of other universes may exist like our own." From the report via Inhabitat: "NASA first discovered the baffling cold spot in 2004. The cold spot is 1.8 billion light years across and, as you may have guessed, colder than what surrounds it in the universe. Scientists thought perhaps it was colder because it had 10,000 less galaxies than other regions of similar size. They even thought perhaps the cold spot was just a trick of the light. But now an international team of researchers think perhaps the cold spot could actually offer evidence for the concept of a multiverse. The Guardian explains an infinite number of universes make up a multiverse; each having its own reality different from ours. These scientists say they've ruled out the last-ditch optical illusion idea. Instead, they think our universe may have collided with another in what News.com.au described as something like a car crash; the impact could have pushed energy away from an area of space to result in the cold spot." The study has been published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
Earth

Humans Accidentally Made a Space Cocoon For Ourselves Out of Radio Waves (vice.com) 136

An anonymous reader shares a Motherboard article: Humans have accidentally created a protective bubble around Earth by using very low frequency (VLF) radio transmissions to contact submarines in the ocean. It sounds nuts, but according to recent research published in Space Science Reviews, underwater communication through VLF channels has an outer space dimension. This video explainer, released by NASA on Wednesday, visualizes how radio waves wafting into space interact with the particles surrounding Earth, and influence their motion. Satellites in certain high-altitude orbits, such as NASA's particle-watching Van Allen Probes, have observed these VLF ripples creating an 'impenetrable boundary,' a phrase coined by study co-author Dan Baker, director of the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. This doesn't mean impenetrable to spacecraft or asteroids, per se, but rather to potentially harmful particle showers created by turbulent space weather.
Sci-Fi

Star Trek Discovery's First Trailer Brings a New Ship, New Characters, and Old Conflicts (cbs.com) 507

nyquil superstar writes: Hey all, the Star Trek: Discovery trailer is out. Looks entertaining! From a report via Vox: "The trailer features Sonequa Martin-Green, fresh from The Walking Dead, as Michael Burnham, a first officer promoted unexpectedly to the position of captain by her mentor, Captain Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh). Set 10 years before the original Star Trek series (and 90 years after the franchise's only other prequel, Star Trek: Enterprise), the new series follows the starship Discovery as Burnham learns to become a captain. But she soon finds her abilities tested by a host of challenges that will be familiar to all lovers of the classic sci-fi universe: new worlds to explore and alliances to forge, hostile Klingons, and the difficulty of adhering to the Federation's peacekeeping mission."
Power

How the Lights Have Gone Out For the People of Syria (bbc.co.uk) 126

dryriver shares an excerpt from a report via the BBC that shows what the impact of the Syrian war looks like from space: Six years of war in Syria have had a devastating effect on millions of its people. One of the most catastrophic impacts has been on the country's electricity network. Images from NASA, obtained by BBC Arabic, show clearly how the lights have gone out during the course of the conflict, leaving people to survive with little to no power. Each timelapse frame shows an average of the light emitted at night every month from 2012, one year after the war began. They show that the areas where Syrians can turn lights on at night, power their daily lives and get access to life-saving medical equipment, have shrunk dramatically. The city of Aleppo was Syria's powerhouse and home to over two million people. But the country's industrial hub became a battleground and remained so for more than four years. Russian airstrikes against Syrian rebels began in October 2015 and the timelapse shows the city in almost complete darkness at night throughout 2016, when the battle for Aleppo was at its peak. As mains power supplies dropped off, ordinary people had to be creative in finding alternative sources for light and power.
AMD

AMD Unveils 'EPYC' Server CPUs, Ryzen Mobile, Threadripper CPU and Radeon Vega Frontier Edition GPU (hothardware.com) 76

MojoKid writes: Today, at its financial analyst day, AMD lifted the veil on a number of new products based on the company's Zen CPU architecture and next generation Vega GPU architecture. AMD CEO Lisa Su lifted a very large server chip in the air that the company now has branded EPYC. AMD is going for the jugular when it comes to comparisons with Intel's Xeon family, providing up to 128 PCI Express 3.0 lanes, which Su says "allows you to connect more GPUs directly to the CPU than any other solution in the industry." EPYC currently scales to 32 cores/64 threads per socket and supports up to 8-channel DDR4 memory (16 DIMMs per CPU, up to 4TB total memory support). AMD also confirmed the previously rumored Threadripper CPU, a 16-core/32-thread beast of a chip for the enthusiast desktop PC space. AMD's Raja Koduri, Senior Vice President and Chief Architect for Radeon Technologies Group, also unveiled Radeon Vega Frontier Edition, a workstation and pro graphics card targeted at VR content creation, visualization and machine learning. Radeon Vega Frontier Edition offers 13 TFLOPS of FP32 throughput, 25 TFLOPS of FP16 performance and is powered by 64 computer units and 16GB of HMB2 memory for about 480GB/sec of memory bandwidth. The cards are expected to ship in June but there was no word just yet on when consumer versions of Vega will hit. Finally, AMD also shared info on Ryzen Mobile, which will incorporate both the Zen CPU architecture and an integrated Vega GPU core. Compared to AMD's 7th generation APUs, AMD claims Ryzen Mobile will up CPU performance by 50 percent while offering 40 percent better graphics performance. AMD also claimed those gains will not come at the expense of battery life, with a 50 percent reduction in power consumption, which reportedly will pave the way for faster, longer lasting premium notebooks and 2-in-1 devices.
Earth

SpaceX Launches Super-Heavy Satellite Atop Falcon 9 Rocket (usatoday.com) 85

SpaceX has successfully launched a heavy commercial communications satellite atop one of its Falcon 9 rockets today. "Weighing in at nearly 13,500 pounds atop the rocket, the fourth Inmarsat-5 satellite was the heaviest load lofted by a Falcon 9 yet," reports USA Today. From the report: The 230-foot rocket delivered the spacecraft larger than a double-decker bus to an orbit more than 22,000 miles over the equator. As a result, SpaceX did not attempt to land the rocket's first stage either at Cape Canaveral or at sea, and the Falcon 9 booster was not equipped with landing legs. The Inmarsat-5 Flight 4 satellite, built by Boeing, completes Inmarsat's four-satellite Global Xpress constellation focused on delivering high-speed broadband data to mobile customers, including commercial aircraft and ships and the U.S. military.
Moon

NASA Won't Fly Astronauts On First Orion-SLS Test Flight Around the Moon (space.com) 92

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Space.com: The first flight of NASA's next-generation heavy-lift rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), is now scheduled for 2019 and will not include a human crew, agency officials said today (May 12). As of 2016, NASA had planned for the SLS' first flight to take place in 2018, without a crew on board. But the transition team that the Trump administration sent to the agency earlier this year asked for an internal evaluation of the possibility of launching a crew atop the SLS inside the agency's Orion space capsule. Robert Lightfoot, NASA's acting administrator, said during a news conference today that, based on the results of this internal evaluation, a crewed flight would be "technically feasible," but the agency will proceed with its initial plan to make the rocket's first flight uncrewed. The internal evaluation "really reaffirmed that the baseline plan we had in place was the best way for us to go," Lightfoot said. "We have a good handle on how that uncrewed mission will actually help [the first crewed mission of SLS] be a safer mission when we put crew on there." SLS' first flight will be called Exploration Mission 1, or EM-1, and will send an uncrewed Orion capsule (which has already made one uncrewed test flight, aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket) on a roughly three-week trip around the moon. The first crewed flight, EM-2, was originally scheduled to follow in 2021.
AI

Star Trek Bridge Crew Gets IBM Watson-Powered Voice Commands (theverge.com) 61

PolygamousRanchKid writes: Star Trek Bridge Crew -- the VR game that puts you in the slip-on space shoes of a Starfleet officer -- already emphasizes vocal communication when you're playing with real humans, but it will soon allow you to use your voice to issue orders to computer-controlled characters, too. The feature has been made possible using IBM's VR Speech Sandbox. The software combines IBM Watson's Speech to Text and Conversation services with the company's Unity SDK, using the natural language processing capabilities of IBM's Watson software to parse your barked commands, and allow AI-controlled characters to act on them. Players will be able to launch photon torpedoes, jump to warp speed, or lock S-foils in attack formation (maybe not that last one) by requesting that your crew members push the relevant blinking buttons on their own command consoles. The feature will go live in beta form this summer, soon after the game's release on May 30th, and will allow players to complete missions across VR platforms and with a mixture of human and AI teammates.

Slashdot reader PolygamousRanchKid adds: "Let's just skip all that stuff, and cut right to the part where Kirk gets the girl... How well it actually works in practice, we'll see this summer, aboard our own starships. "Scotty, beam up the IBM stock price!" -- Posterior Admiral Ginni Rometty

Operating Systems

New Windows Look and Feel, Neon, Is Officially the 'Microsoft Fluent Design System' (arstechnica.com) 95

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Earlier this year, pictures of a new Windows look and feel leaked. Codenamed Project Neon, the new look builds on Microsoft Design Language 2 (MDL2), the styling currently used in Windows 10, to add elements of translucency and animation. Neon has now been officially announced, and it has an official new name: the Microsoft Fluent Design System. The switch from "design language" to "design system" is deliberate; Fluent is intended to define more than just the appearance, but also the interactivity. Though visually there are common elements, the system is designed to work across virtual/augmented reality, phones, tablets, desktop PCs, games consoles, using mice, keyboards, motion controllers, voice, gestures, touch, and pen, with the interactivity and input optimized to each particular form factor. Fluent is described as having five "fundamentals": light, depth, motion, material, and scale. "Light" means that the interface should avoid distracting and strive to ensure that attention is drawn to where it needs to be. With "depth," Fluent apps will make greater use of layering and the relationships between objects and interface elements. Fluent will use "motion" to indicate relationships and connections between elements, establishing context. Microsoft is using "Material" to mean making best use of the screen space and giving room to content. "Scale" means building interfaces that can go beyond two dimensions, and go beyond the size of a screen, to embrace new form factors and input methods as they arrive.
Microsoft

Microsoft Announces Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, the Next Major Update To Desktop OS (betanews.com) 121

At its developer conference on Thursday, Microsoft announced that the next major update to its desktop operating system will be called Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. It will be made available in September later this year. The update will come with several new features: Timeline, Pick Up Where You Left Off, Clipboard, OneDrive Files On-Demand, and Story Remix app among others. Timeline is a new feature that improves the Task View area to provide a list of apps and workspaces that you were using previously or on other devices. Think of it like a time machine for resuming old sessions. Timeline also combines with a new Pick Up Where You Left Off feature to let you resume sessions and apps on multiple devices. A report adds: "With Files On-Demand, you can access all your files in the cloud without having to download them and use storage space on your device. You don't have to change the way you work, because all your files -- even online files -- can be seen in File Explorer and work just like every other file on your device," says Jeff Teper, corporate vice president, Office, OneDrive and SharePoint teams. [...] Windows 10 Fall Creators Update will continue the use of Project Neon, which now has an official name of "Microsoft Fluent Design System." It is important to note that this design focus is not a Windows 10 FCU feature, but something Microsoft intends to implement in apps across platforms and device types. End users should start to experience it more with FCU, however. [...] Windows 10 Fall Creators Update will come with a new app called "Windows Story Remix." This app is designed to help users transform their existing photos and videos. This tool can be used to create stories from content in a fun way.
Businesses

Amazon To Build Homeless Shelter In Its New Seattle Headquarters (cnn.com) 238

Amazon is trying to do its part to help the homelessness problem in its hometown of Seattle. The company announced on Wednesday that it would donate more than 47,000 square feet of space within its newest Seattle headquarters building as a permanent location to house homeless people. CNNMoney reports: "Mary's Place does incredible, life-saving work every day for women, children, and families experiencing homelessness in the Seattle community," Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement. "We are lucky to count them as neighbors and thrilled to offer them a permanent home within our downtown Seattle headquarters." Amazon is partnering with local nonprofit Mary's Place to create 65 rooms, which will house more than 200 homeless people every night. The new Mary's Place shelter will open in early 2020. It will also have a resource center like those the nonprofit offers in North Seattle and White Center, where 40-plus local nonprofits and volunteers work with staff to help families obtain employment and permanent housing.
ISS

Buzz Aldrin To NASA: Retire the International Space Station ASAP To Reach Mars (space.com) 349

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Space.com: If NASA and its partner agencies are serious about putting boots on Mars in the near future, they should pull the plug on the International Space Station (ISS) at the earliest opportunity, Buzz Aldrin said. "We must retire the ISS as soon as possible," the former Apollo 11 moonwalker said Tuesday (May 9) during a presentation at the 2017 Humans to Mars conference in Washington, D.C. "We simply cannot afford $3.5 billion a year of that cost." Instead, Aldrin said, NASA should continue to hand over activities in low Earth orbit (LEO) to private industry partners. Indeed, the space agency has been encouraging that move by awarding contracts to companies such as SpaceX, Orbital ATK and Boeing to ferry cargo and crew to and from the ISS. Bigelow Aerospace, Axiom Space or other companies should build and operate LEO space stations that are independent of the ISS, he added. Ideally, the first of these commercial outposts would share key orbital parameters with the station that China plans to have up and running by the early 2020s, to encourage cooperation with the Chinese, Aldrin said. Establishing private outposts in LEO is just the first step in Aldrin's plan for Mars colonization, which depends heavily on "cyclers" -- spacecraft that move continuously between two cosmic destinations, efficiently delivering people and cargo back and forth.
Space

The Vatican Invites World's Leading Scientists To Discuss Cosmology (independent.co.uk) 305

In 2014, Pope Francis declared that God is not "a magician with a magic wand" and that evolution and the Big Bang theory are real. Now, the Vatican has sent an invitation to the world's leading scientists and cosmologists to try and understand the Big Bang. The Independent reports: Astrophysicists and other experts will attend the Vatican Observatory to discuss black holes, gravitational waves and space-time singularities as it honors the late Jesuit cosmologist considered one of the fathers of the idea that the universe began with a gigantic explosion. The conference honoring Monsignor George Lemaitre is being held at the Vatican Observatory, founded by Pope Leo XIII in 1891 to help correct the notion that the Roman Catholic Church was hostile to science. In 1927, Lemaitre was the first to explain that the receding of distant galaxies was the result of the expansion of the universe, a result he obtained by solving equations of Einstein's theory of general relativity. Lemaitre's theory was known as the "primeval atom," but it is more commonly known today as the big-bang theory. The head of the Vatican Observatory, Jesuit Brother Guy Consolmagno, says Lemaitre's research proves that you can believe in God and the big-bang theory.
Businesses

'Silicon Valley Is Missing Unicorns Because It Doesn't Understand Poor People' (cnbc.com) 202

An anonymous reader writes: Silicon Valley might be hunting unicorns in the wrong places. According to one top federal health official, entrepreneurs and investors are overlooking one massive population: Low-income Americans who qualify for Medicaid. That's a big mistake, given that new funds are available for those that are bringing IT innovation to the space, said Medicaid chief medical officer Andrey Ostrovsky. "My gut is that it's a big opportunity with $500 billion in federal spend every year in a system that hasn't evolved technologically much since 1965," Ostrovsky said. "There are unicorns sitting in there," he added.
Operating Systems

Opinion: Even if You Hate the Idea, Windows Users Should Want Windows 10 S To Succeed (arstechnica.com) 259

Last week, Microsoft unveiled Windows 10 S, a new variant of its desktop operating system aimed largely at the education space. While time will tell how this new edition of Windows fares, if early reactions from enthusiasts are anything to go by, Windows 10 S is in for a tough ride ahead. For one, Windows 10 S only permits installation of applications from the Windows Store. If that wasn't a deal-breaker, several popular applications including Google's Chrome are missing from the Store. Amid all of this, reporter and columnist Peter Bright has an op-ed up on ArsTechnica in which he argues that despite the walled-garden offering, people should want Windows 10 S to succeed as it could make Windows better for everyone else. From his article: This [forbidding execution of any program that wasn't downloaded from the Windows Store] positions Microsoft as a gatekeeper -- although its criteria for entry within the store is for the most part not stringent, it does reserve the right to remove software that it deems undesirable -- and means that the vast majority of extant Windows software can't be used. This means that PC mainstays, from Adobe Photoshop to Valve's Steam, can't be used on Windows 10 S. [...] Some of the arguments against this are bizarre. Notably, the complaint that Microsoft has now erected a paywall -- "you have to pay $50 to run Steam!" -- is very peculiar when one considers that, in general, Windows licenses have never been free. [...] The Windows Store makes bad parts of Windows better: I'd argue, however, that Windows users should want Windows 10 S to succeed. Windows 10 S isn't for everybody, and Windows 10 S may not be for you, but if Windows 10 S succeeds, it will make Windows 10 better for everyone. The Store in Windows RT required developers to write their apps from scratch. With negligible numbers of users, developers were uninterested in doing this work. The Store in Windows 10 has Centennial. In principle, Centennial should make it easy to package existing Win32 apps and sell them through the Store, and if developers of Windows apps adopt Centennial en masse then the Store restriction shouldn't be particularly restrictive. Widespread adoption will be good for Windows users of all stripes.
Space

After Almost Two Years, The Air Force's Mysterious X-37B Space Plane Lands (space.com) 116

An anonymous reader quotes Space.com: The record-shattering mission of the U.S. Air Force's robotic X-37B space plane is finally over. After circling Earth for an unprecedented 718 days, the X-37B touched down Sunday at the Shuttle Landing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida -- the first landing at the SLF since the final space shuttle mission came back to Earth in July 2011... The just-ended mission, known as OTV-4 (Orbital Test Vehicle-4), was the fourth for the X-37B program... The 29-foot-long (8.8 meters) X-37B looks like NASA's now-retired space shuttle orbiter, only much smaller; indeed, two X-37Bs could fit inside a space shuttle's cavernous payload bay...

Most of the X-37B's payloads and activities are classified, leading to some speculation that the space plane could be a weapon of some sort, perhaps a disabler of enemy satellites... But Air Force officials have always strongly refuted that notion, stressing that the vehicle is simply testing technologies on orbit. "Technologies being tested in the program include advanced guidance, navigation and control; thermal-protection systems; avionics; high-temperature structures and seals; conformal, reusable insulation, lightweight electromechanical flight systems; and autonomous orbital flight, re-entry and landing," Captain AnnMarie Annicelli, an Air Force spokeswoman, told Space.com via email in March.

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