Monthly Archives: January 2011

Technopolitical news

Fife Wikileaks Hactivists Arrested in UK

Police have arrested five people over their alleged roles in an online campaign to support WikiLeaks.

Five males – aged 15, 16, 19, 20 and 26 – were arrested under the Computer Misuse Act in raids across the country at 7am this morning, with the suspects held in local police stations for further questioning.

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Sony determines that having autism is “cheating”

Jennifer Zdenek, the mother of an 11-year-old boy who lives with autism, is outraged at Microsoft Xbox Live for labeling her son a “cheater” and taking away everything he’s earned online.

She says her son, Julias Jackson, is so good at playing X-Box games, Xbox LIVE thought he cheated.

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And for those who like bloatware, there’s a new version of KDE.

Happy Twenty Fifth Anniversary Challenger Explosion

Suddenly and for the first time I saw Amanda as a little child wide eyed with both awe and fear, among other children some sitting on the floor, some in chairs, some standing behind desks, eyes trained on a TV monitor and their teacher as the sudden realization dawned that the Space Shuttle Challenger had been consumed in a fiery, deadly explosion. The teacher on board was incinerated before their very eyes. As the explosion developed, shooting out huge arms of smoke and the voice-over began to acknowledge that something was wrong, NASA’s space program was suddenly transformed, in the eyes of the innocent little children of America almost all of whom were watching the event live, from a somewhat interesting science project to a place where teachers went to die. I had never really visualized Amanda as a little girl before, but a few years ago when this came up, on the Anniversary of the Challenger explosion, this image formed as a lump in my throat.

I’m a few years older than Amanda, so my experience was a little different. I had just returned form the Congo. I had borrowed a car … a Laser, which is a sort of sports car … and driven it to a friend’s apartment downtown over an Italian restaurant and tavern, and parked it on a snow bank out front. That’s normal for Upstate New York. By the time morning came, the car was more than a little stuck, so I called Triple-A to pull it out. I made the call from the tavern, and while doing so I noticed that the Challenger launch was being shown on the TV. So I stood at the bar and watched the launch. And the explosion. When the tow truck came, I mentioned to the driver that the Challenger had just exploded. He thought for a moment and said, shaking his head slowly, “You’re not gonna get me on that thing. No sir!” I thought … yeah, that might be a tough sell from this point forward.

It is said that when NASA started the Shuttle program, they made an estimate of risk of death to those who would be on board. Given the number of flights and the number of deadly events and the number of those killed, they’re apparently right in the expected range.

Happy Twenty Fifth Anniversary Challenger Explosion.

Human Factors Engineering

Researcher and blogger Ash Donaldson joins us for a pre-recorded discussion on the fascinating field of Human Factors Engineering. This multi-disciplinary science draws on anatomy, physiology, physics, psychology and communications research, as it tries to improve the ways that humans interact with technology, and use technology to interact with each other. And health science journalist Paul Ingraham returns with a primer on the causes and treatment of repetitive strain injuries.

This week’s Skeptically Speaking

Jamie Hyneman’s Toolkits

Every year, at least once (for his birthday or for Christmas, depending) I give my father-in-law the same exact presents: A tape measure, a utility knife, and a pencil. This way, when we are working on something like sheet-rocking the kitchen, patching the bullet hole in the roof of the cabin, or installing the invisible surround sound system there will be a tape measure, a utility knife, and a pencil. The tape measure tells you where to cut, the pencil marks where you will cut, and the utility knife cuts it. There are lots of other tools involved in carrying out these tasks, but these three are the tools most likely to be stolen by gremlins. The table saw and the electric drill seem to lack legs, but the tape measure, knife and pencil are temporary visitors on this earth. Or so it seems.

But as it turns out, no matter how may of these items I give him, or that he picks up at the hardware store, they always disappear.
Continue reading Jamie Hyneman’s Toolkits

Comet Hunting Space Robot Spots Quarry

Stardust, the NASA probe, has downloaded a snapshot of Tempel 1, a comet that the comet seeking craft will sidle up to on February 14th. Here is the picture:

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On the night of encounter, the navigation camera will be used to acquire 72 high-resolution images of the comet’s surface features. Stardust-NExT mission scientists will use these images to see how surface features on comet Tempel 1 have changed over the past five-and-a-half years. (Tempel 1 had previously been visited and imaged in July of 2005 by NASA’s Deep Impact mission).

I don’t know why they call it night. Perhaps because NASA is playing up the whole romance theme. Anyway, details here.