Saturday, June 16, 2018

Organics on Ceres may be more abundant than originally thought

A new study concluded that organic material on Ceres could be greater in concentration than previously thought. This is important information for scientists to consider as they evaluate data from two sample return missions over the next few years.

The Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa2 is scheduled for orbital insertion around asteroid Ryugu in July, survey for a year and a half, land at least once, and return to Earth in December 2020.

NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft is scheduled for orbital insertion around the asteroid Bennu in August with two years of planned survey, landing at least once and returning to Earth in September 2023.

Source: Brown University

“What this paper shows is that you can get really different results depending upon the type of organic material you use to compare with and interpret the Ceres data,” said Hannah Kaplan, a postdoctoral researcher at the Southwest Research Institute who led the research while completing her Ph.D. at Brown. “That’s important not only for Ceres, but also for missions that will soon explore asteroids that may also contain organic material.”

"Organic molecules are the chemical building blocks for life. Their detection on Ceres doesn’t mean life exists there or ever existed there; non-biological processes can give rise to organic molecules as well. But because life as we know it can’t exist without organic material, scientists are interested in how it’s distributed through the solar system."

“What we find is that if we model the Ceres data using extraterrestrial organics, which may be a more appropriate analog than those found on Earth, then we need a lot more organic matter on Ceres to explain the strength of the spectral absorption that we see there,” Kaplan said. “We estimate that as much as 40 to 50 percent of the spectral signal we see on Ceres is explained by organics. That’s a huge difference compared to the six to 10 percent previously reported based on terrestrial organic compounds.”

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Evacuated Airship for Mars Missions

Source: NASA

"We propose ... a vacuum airship. This concept is similar to a standard balloon, whereas a balloon uses helium or hydrogen to displace air and provide lift, a vacuum airship uses a rigid structure to maintain a vacuum to displace air and provide lift. ...
... Mars appears to have an atmosphere in which the operation of a vacuum airship would not only be possible, but beneficial over a conventional balloon or dirigible.
... The Martian atmosphere has a pressure to density ratio that is very beneficial to the operation of a vacuum airship ... need not worry about the vacuum airship getting stuck in a trench or being unable to traverse terrain. The vacuum airship could be used as a communication relay for other vehicular probes ...
...Since the vacuum airship does not use a lifting gas, it can perform a near infinite number of compensation maneuvers to adjust or stabilize its altitude in a temperature variant environment. ...
...Even though the vacuum airship would be aerially base, the vehicle would still be able to touch down and perform tasks on the ground ...
...the large surface area of the vacuum airship would provide plenty of area for solar cells which would allow the vehicle to gather a large amount of solar energy ..."

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Computers, Phones and IoT Devices Have the BlueBorne Vulnerability

Source: Wired

"Once an attacker identifies vulnerable targets, the hack is quick (it can happen in about 10 seconds) and flexible. The impacted devices don't need to connect to anything, and the attack can even work when the Bluetooth on the victim device is already paired to something else."
"As with virtually all Bluetooth remote exploits, attackers would still need to be in range of the device (roughly 33 feet) to pull off a BlueBorne attack. But even with the extensive and productive BlueBorne patching that has already happened, there are still likely plenty of vulnerable devices in any populated area or building."

Source: Armis

"hackers can leverage Bluetooth connections to penetrate and take complete control over targeted devices. BlueBorne affects ordinary computers, mobile phones, and the expanding realm of IoT devices. The attack does not require the targeted device to be paired to the attacker’s device, or even to be set on discoverable mode."

Recommended actions:
1) Install Blueborne Detector on your Android devices.
2) Click "Tap to Check" and heed the warning if your Android device is vulnerable.
3) Set each of your Bluetooth devices to discoverable
4) Click "Check Devices Around Me"

Repeat steps 3 and 4 for every Bluetooth capable device.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

We’re a Cheap Battery Away From Phasing Out Fossil Fuels

Source: VICE Motherboard

Fossil fuels are the most widely used source of energy because of base load power, which means they provide energy at all times, night and day. In contrast, renewables have faced the 'intermittency' challenge—the sun doesn't always shine, and the wind doesn't always blow.
By 2050, these irresistible technological and market forces could make oil, gas and coal seem too costly and cumbersome, leading renewables to account for "100 percent of global energy demand."
... There will be an immediate impact within just three years.
"Solar storage is pitched to become so cheap it will make relying on natural gas peaker plants pointless…It will lead to rapid adoption of solar by businesses, local governments, and households—not because people are environmentally conscious, but simply because it will make more economic sense." --Vicente Lopez-Ibor Mayor, chairman of Lightsource—the biggest solar energy company in Europe

Wednesday, April 5, 2017


Source: Universe Today

Fast Radio Bursts (FRBs)

Molonglo Observatory Synthesis Telescope (MOST)

The BURST project will perform deep FRB searches with MOSTS’s wide field-of-view and nearly constant single pulse searches of the radio sky.

MOST provides a huge collecting area of about 18,000 square meters for a very large field of view, about 8 square degrees of the sky.

1,000 terabytes of data produced by MOST each day

They determined the three new FRBs really were from space because the events were well beyond the 10,000 km near-field limit of the telescope, which ruled out local (terrestrial) sources of interference as a possible origin.

Friday, January 6, 2017

​Have a verified Twitter account? WikiLeaks might track you

Source: CNET

"We are thinking of making an online database with all 'verified' twitter accounts & their family/job/financial/housing relationships," the WikiLeaks Task Force said on Twitter

Source: Twitter

"The blue verified badge  on Twitter lets people know that an account of public interest is authentic.

We approve account types maintained by users in music, acting, fashion, government, politics, religion, journalism, media, sports, business, and other key interest areas."

Friday, December 30, 2016

Still No Proof Or Compelling Evidence Of Russian Involvement In DNC Leaks

On Dec 29, 2016 the FBI and DHS released a Joint Analysis Report (JAR-16-20296) in which federal investigators claim that "technical indicators" link the Russian government to hacks of "a U.S. political party". For unexplained reasons the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta are not mentioned by name but it's clear that this report is intended as a reaction to Wikileaks' publishing emails that appear to be theirs.

The technical details in the report are limited and include a short list of tools and infrastructure that were allegedly used to “compromise and exploit networks and endpoints associated with the U.S. election, as well as a range of U.S. Government, political, and private sector entities.”

The technical indicators are provided in Structured Threat Information Expression (STIX) and Coma Separated (CSV) format and could be used to search for attack patterns, malware, exploits and to defend networks or systems against cyber threats.  Unfortunately this report has been released too late to be of much use to security experts who potentially review thousands of port scans every minute.

The "technical indicators" include tools and techniques such as Powershell Backdoor and HAVEX which are commonly known to an average white hat hacker. The list of IP addresses and fully-qualified domain names are not very useful to identify the perpetrators of these cyber attacks because the compromised systems have probably been repaired or taken offline by now.

UPDATE on Jan 4, 2017 Micah Lee from The Intercept determined that since 367 of the 876 IP addresses in the Grizzly Steppe report "are actually just Tor exit nodes, this means that anyone in the world — not just Russian hackers — can use the internet from those IP addresses."

A "Fact Sheet" published by the White House says that the Joint Analysis Report "includes information on computers around the world that Russian intelligence services have co-opted without the knowledge of their owners in order to conduct their malicious activity in a way that makes it difficult to trace back to Russia." So even the Obama administration plainly admits that this is not proof of Russia's involvement.

During a presidential debate, Hillary Clinton claimed, "We have 17 intelligence agencies, civilian and military, who have all concluded that these espionage attacks, these cyberattacks, come from the highest levels of the Kremlin, and they are designed to influence our election." However, there is still no proof or compelling evidence provided to justify why these intelligence agencies believe that Russia was involved in the hacking of Democratic Party emails.

Furthermore,  the U.S. has a long history of influencing elections in other countries and their tactics frequently include cyber espionage and dissemination of propaganda. So the hypocrisy and double standard applied to Russia's alleged action is quite perplexing.

This Joint Analysis Report is too little too late and those responsible for its content should be ashamed of its tardiness and limited usefulness. Congress must investigate the gross negligence in handling this public disclosure. We the people of these Unites States deserve better explanation of the reasons behind our government's sanctions against Russia and the labeling of their diplomats as "persona non grata."

The Obama administration's actions are tantamount to a declaration of war on Russia. We deserve proof or at least compelling evidence of Russia's involvement in the DNC leaks. We also deserve a select committee investigation into the alleged authors of the leaked emails to determine if indeed the DNC rigged the Democratic Party primaries against Bernie Sanders and laundered money from the Democratic Party into the Clinton campaign instead of the down-ballot candidates who should have received funds.

UPDATE: On Jan 6, 2017 the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a new report that states, "We did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election. The US Intelligence Community is charged with monitoring and assessing the intentions, capabilities, and actions of foreign actors; it does not analyze US political processes or US public opinion."