Saturday, December 15, 2018

You Bunch Of Idiots, Bill Requiring Encryption Backdoors Will Damage Australia's IT Industry.

Many in the Australian IT industry have signed an open letter to the Australian Labor Party condemning their recent passage of a bill that requires encryption backdoors.


Words cannot describe how angry we feel after your gutless and spineless decision to blindly support the Government's so-called "Assistance and Access Bill" (#aabill). ...

You let us down. You let the entire industry down.

You have shown us what you really are - a bunch of spineless weasels.

Every tech expert agrees that the so-called "Assistance and Access Bill" will do significant damage to Australia's IT industry.

It weakens security for everyone. We do not want to deliberately build backdoors or make our products insecure. This means everyone else's data will be vulnerable. ...

You have made it harder for international companies to hire Australian talent, or have offices in Australia filled with Australian talent. Companies such as Amazon, Apple, Atlassian, Microsoft, Slack, Zendesk and others now have to view their Australian staff and teams as "potentially compromised"This is because law enforcement can force a person to build a backdoor and they cannot tell their bosses. They might sack them and leave Australia because of the law you just passed.

You have also just made it almost impossible to export Australian tech services because no-one wants a potentially vulnerable system that might contain a backdoor. Who in their right mind will buy a product like that? ...

We are against the bill because it is a destructive and shortsighted law. In addition, most of (if not all) the services that law enforcement want to target with this law are based outside of Australia. This law is effectively useless in forcing them to build backdoors or break encryption. ...

Saturday, December 8, 2018

We Urgently Need a Legal Framework for Space Colonisation

Season 2 of National Geographic Channel's MARS TV series prominently features space colonization governance challenges and how those might complicate the exploration and exploitation of other worlds.

So, this article by Marko Kovic comes at a convenient time for those of us who are watching MARS. Kovic discusses four significant challenges that humankind will face in various stages of our settlement and occupation beyond low Earth orbit. Below are a few excerpts. 

Source: Aeon

There is no meaningful space-colonisation governance framework to speak of. As of now, in 2018, space colonisation is a veritable free-for-all.

From a conceptual, birds-eye view, however, possible space-colonisation governance problems fall into one of four general categories.

First, we need to answer a deceptively simple question: who is allowed to engage in colonisation activities? 

when one or several colonies become truly sustainable, a third question emerges: what do we do with colonies that want to secede and become independent? 

Finally, we will need an answer to the fourth question: how exactly should different independent human habitats such as Earth, Mars, Venus or others interact with one another?

In theory, the first question, regarding who is allowed to engage in space colonisation, is addressed in the Outer Space Treaty from 1967

it is more of a symbolic agreement than a detailed governance structure. It does not really solve the problem of who is allowed to engage in space colonisation.

The second challenge, the problem of governance within early colonies, is also touched upon by the Outer Space Treaty. The jurisdiction of any spacecraft and any personnel on that spacecraft, the treaty stipulates, is the jurisdiction of the spacecraft’s and/or the personnel’s country of origin.

Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of SpaceX, has proposed direct democracy as the governance system for a future Mars colony in which all colonists directly exert law-making power instead of appointing representatives in legislative bodies.

should early colonies move in the other direction by adopting some kind of authoritarian framework in order to simply get things done? 

Governance within early colonies should, ideally, find a middle ground between sound democratic decision making and technocratic expertise and analysis

The third challenge of colonisation governance, the problem of secession and independence, could prove to be a crucial juncture in the future of humankind. 

The fourth and quite possibly biggest governance challenge of space colonisation arises: the problem of pan- human governance. 

A good approach might be to continue using the system that we currently have, and try to expand it in order to incorporate the new layer of extraterrestrial expansion. 

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 ..."