Mars

SpaceX Pulls the Plug On Its Red Dragon Plans (arstechnica.com) 51

SpaceX has largely confirmed the rumors that the company is no longer planning to send an uncrewed version of its Dragon spacecraft to Mars in 2020, or later. Ars Technica reports: The company had planned to use the propulsive landing capabilities on the Dragon 2 spacecraft -- originally developed for the commercial crew variant to land on Earth -- for Mars landings in 2018 or 2020. Previously, it had signed an agreement with NASA to use some of its expertise for such a mission and access its deep-space communications network. On Tuesday, however, during a House science subcommittee hearing concerning future NASA planetary science missions, Florida Representative Bill Posey asked what the agency was doing to support privately developed planetary science programs. Jim Green, who directs NASA's planetary science division, mentioned several plans about the Moon and asteroids, but he conspicuously did not mention Red Dragon. After this hearing, SpaceX spokesman John Taylor didn't return a response to questions from Ars about the future of Red Dragon. Then, during a speech Wednesday at the International Space Station Research and Development Conference, Musk confirmed that the company is no longer working to land Dragon propulsively for commercial crew.

"Yeah, that was a tough decision," Musk acknowledged Wednesday with a sigh. "The reason we decided not to pursue that heavily is that it would have taken a tremendous amount of effort to qualify that for safety for crew transport," Musk explained Wednesday. "There was a time when I thought the Dragon approach to landing on Mars, where you've got a base heat shield and side mounted thrusters, would be the right way to land on Mars. But now I'm pretty confident that is not the right way." Musk added that his company has come up with a "far better" approach to landing on Mars that will be incorporated into the next iteration of the company's proposed Mars transportation hardware.

Bitcoin

Ethereum Co-Founder Says Cryptocurrencies Are 'a Ticking Time Bomb' (bloomberg.com) 44

randomErr writes from a report via Business Insider (alternate source): Ethereum, the rival to bitcoin, has been on a tear. Its founders said the latest trend in the cryptocurrency space may not be as good for the cryptocurrency as some might think. Ethereum is up 1,700% over the last year, and that spike has occurred in tandem with the growth of the hottest new trend in fundraising: initial coin offerings. Approximately $1.2 billion has been raised by the new cryptocurrency-based capital raising method this year, according to Autonomous Next, a financial technology analytics service. It is a trend that has sparked excitement across Wall Street. But the cofounder of the company behind the cryptocurrency, Charles Hoskinson, told Bloomberg that initial coin offerings may not benefit Ethereum. "People say ICOs are great for ethereum because, look at the price, but it's a ticking time-bomb," said Hoskinson. "There's an over-tokenization of things as companies are issuing tokens when the same tasks can be achieved with existing blockchains. People are blinded by fast and easy money."
Android

End of the Line For Remix OS as Jide Shifts Its Energy Towards the Enterprise (neowin.net) 29

An anonymous reader shares a report: It was only in July last year that Remix OS, an Android-based operating system for PCs, was bumped up to Version 3.0, which featured Android 6.0 Marshmallow under the hood. In fact, news of the upgrade came hot on the heels of an announcement from Chuwi with regards to the release of its $239 Vi10 Plus tablet that dual-booted Remix OS and Windows 10. A little over a month later, Jide Technology then followed up with a "developer preview" of the OS leveraging Android 7.0 Nougat. However, after a somewhat brief period of existence of just a few years, the company has announced that it is shifting its focus away from the consumer segment to the enterprise. In a statement on its website, Jide stated that: "Over the past year, we received an increasing number of inquiries from enterprises in various industries, and began helping them build great tools for their organizations by leveraging Jide software and hardware. We see huge potential in the role that Jide can play to revolutionize how these businesses operate. And given our existing resources, we decided to focus our company efforts solely on the enterprise space moving forward."
Security

US To Create the Independent US Cyber Command, Split Off From NSA (pbs.org) 99

An anonymous reader quotes a report from PBS: After months of delay, the Trump administration is finalizing plans to revamp the nation's military command for defensive and offensive cyber operations in hopes of intensifying America's ability to wage cyberwar against the Islamic State group and other foes, according to U.S. officials. Under the plans, U.S. Cyber Command would eventually be split off from the intelligence-focused National Security Agency. The goal, they said, is to give U.S. Cyber Command more autonomy, freeing it from any constraints that stem from working alongside the NSA, which is responsible for monitoring and collecting telephone, internet and other intelligence data from around the world -- a responsibility that can sometimes clash with military operations against enemy forces. Making cyber an independent military command will put the fight in digital space on the same footing as more traditional realms of battle on land, in the air, at sea and in space. The move reflects the escalating threat of cyberattacks and intrusions from other nation states, terrorist groups and hackers, and comes as the U.S. faces ever-widening fears about Russian hacking following Moscow's efforts to meddle in the 2016 American election.
Sci-Fi

George A. Romero, Martin Landau Both Died This Weekend (variety.com) 52

This weekend the world lost two familiar faces from the world of fantasy, horror and science fiction films -- director George A. Romero and actor Martin Landau. An anonymous reader writes: Bronx-born director Romero started his career with a segment for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood about tonsilectomies, but is best remembered for his influential zombie movies Night of the Living Dead (1968), Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985), and Land of the Dead (2005), as well as the 1982 horror film Creepshow (written by Stephen King). In 1998 Romero also directed a zombie-themed ad for Resident Evil 2, and later even wrote a rejected script for the first Resident Evil movie. In 2004 Romero began work on a zombie video game City of the Dead, which was ultimately never finished. Romero appears as himself in the zombie section of Call of Duty: Black Ops, and in 2014 Marvel comics launched Empire of the Dead, a 15-issue title written by Romero.

Martin Landau began his career playing a gunfighter in the third episode of The Twilight Zone, and a time-travelling astronaut in the sixth episode of The Outer Limits. Soon he was starring as master of disguise Rollin Hand on Mission: Impossible -- which ran from 1966 to 1973 -- and on Space: 1999, which ran from 1975 to 1977. At the age of 66 Landau finally won an Oscar for his portrayal of Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton's 1994 film Ed Wood. In 2012 Landau also provided the voice of the science teacher in Burton's Frankenweenie, and had an uncredited role in the director's 1999 movie Sleepy Hollow as one of the early victims of the headless horseman. Landau was also in the 1998 X-Files movie (playing the doctor who tips off Mulder that there's something suspicious in the morgue).

Slashdot reader schwit1 remembers that Landau began his career playing a sadistic henchman in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest (who appears in the climactic final scene on Mt. Rushmore) -- and that Landau famously turned down the role of Mr. Spock on Star Trek.
Earth

The Aurora Borealis May Be Visible Tonight In The Northern US (cnn.com) 42

An anonymous reader quotes CNN:A geomagnetic storm could bring a spectacular show to skies across the northern United States on Sunday night. The Aurora Borealis phenomenon -- also known as the Northern Lights -- may be visible "as low as New York to Wisconsin to Washington State," according to NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center... NOAA said the best viewing times to catch the light show, clouds permitting, will be between 11 p.m. ET Sunday and 2 a.m. Monday, and again between 2 a.m. ET to 5 a.m.
Programming

Open Source Contributions More Important Than Tabs Vs Spaces For Salary (opensource.com) 160

Jason Baker, a Red Hat data analyst, doesn't believe developers who use spaces make more money than those who use tabs. An anonymous reader quotes Baker's blog post: After reading the study one data scientist, Evelina Gabasova, performed some additional analysis and came to a slightly different conclusion, which feels a little more precise: "Environments where people use Git and contribute to open source are more associated both with higher salaries and spaces, rather than with tabs." In other words, if you're at a company where you're using version control and committing open source code upstream, you're statistically a little more likely to be a space-user and a higher wage-earner.
Even across all experience levels, contributing to open source still correlates to higher salaries, Gabasova concludes. "My theory is that when diverse people are working on open source projects together without enforced coding style, the possible formatting mess is nudging people towards using spaces simply because the code is consistent for everyone.

"This is just one of the possible theories, I didn't look to see if possibly language communities that use predominantly spaces (like Python or Ruby) are more active in open source."
Businesses

WSJ Op-Ed: The Post Office Is Delivering Amazon's Packages Below Cost (zerohedge.com) 185

schwit1 shares a pay-walled op-ed from the Wall Street Journal (also excerpted at the URL below): The U.S. Postal Service delivers the company's boxes well below its own costs. Like an accelerant added to a fire, this subsidy is speeding up the collapse of traditional retailers in the U.S. and providing an unfair advantage for Amazon... First-class mail effectively subsidizes the national network, and the packages get a free ride. An April analysis from Citigroup estimates that if costs were fairly allocated, on average parcels would cost $1.46 more to deliver...

My analysis of available data suggests that around two-thirds of Amazon's domestic deliveries are made by the Postal Service. It's as if Amazon gets a subsidized space on every mail truck... Congress should demand the enforcement of the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act, and the Postal Service needs to stop picking winners and losers in the retail world. The federal government has had its thumb on the competitive scale for far too long.

NASA

Scrap Dealer Finds Apollo-Era NASA Computers In Dead Engineer's Basement (arstechnica.com) 104

Long-time Slashdot reader Joe_NoOne quotes Ars Technica: A pair of Apollo-era NASA computers and hundreds of mysterious tape reels have been discovered in a deceased engineer's basement in Pittsburgh... Most of the tapes are unmarked, but the majority of the rest appear to be instrumentation reels for Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11, NASA's fly-by missions to Jupiter and Saturn... At some point in the early 1970s, an IBM engineer working for NASA at the height of the Space Race took home the computers -- and the mysterious tape reels. A scrap dealer, invited to clean out the deceased's electronics-filled basement, discovered the computers. The devices were clearly labelled "NASA PROPERTY," so the dealer called NASA to report the find. "Please tell NASA these items were not stolen," the engineer's heir told the scrap dealer, according to the report. "They belonged to IBM Allegheny Center Pittsburgh, PA 15212. During the 1968-1972 timeframe, IBM was getting rid of the items so [redacted engineer] asked if he could have them and was told he could have them."
"NASA told the family of the deceased that it was not in the junk removal business," Ars Technica reports, adding "The two computers are so heavy that a crane was likely used to move the machines." A NASA archivist concluded there's no evidence the tapes contained anything of historic significance.
Businesses

Work From Home People Earn More, Quit Less, and Are Happier Than Their Office-bound Counterparts (qz.com) 217

An anonymous reader shares a report: Working from home gets a bad rap. Google the phrase and examine the results -- you'll see scams or low-level jobs, followed by links calling out "legitimate" virtual jobs. But Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Nicholas Bloom says requiring employees to be in the office is an outdated work tradition, set up during the Industrial Revolution. Such inflexibility ignores today's sophisticated communications methods and long commutes, and actually hurts firms and employees. "Working from home is a future-looking technology," Bloom told an audience during a conference, which took place in April. "I think it has enormous potential." To test his claim, Bloom studied China's largest travel agency, Ctrip. Headquartered in Shanghai, the company has 20,000 employees and a market capitalization of about $20 billion. The company's leaders -- conscious of how expensive real estate is in Shanghai -- were interested in the impact of working from home. Could they continue to grow while avoiding exorbitant office space costs? They solicited worker volunteers for a study in which half worked from home for nine months, coming into the office one day a week, and half worked only from the office. Bloom tracked these two groups for about two years. The results? "We found massive, massive improvement in performance -- a 13% improvement in performance from people working at home," Bloom says.
Canada

Former Astronaut Julie Payette To Be Canada's Next Governor General (www.cbc.ca) 109

MightyMartian shares a report from CBC.ca: Former astronaut Julie Payette will be the Queen's new representative in Canada, CBC News has confirmed. The 53-year-old Montrealer, who speaks six languages, will be named the 29th governor general, a position that comes with a $290,660 annual salary and an official residence at Rideau Hall. Payette, who is also an accomplished athlete, pianist and choral singer, will succeed outgoing Gov. Gen. David Johnston. A computer engineer with a commercial pilot license, Payette was picked from among 5,330 applicants in 1992 to be one of four new astronauts with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). She participated in two space flights to the International Space Station and served as the CSA's chief astronaut between 2000 and 2007.

MightyMartian adds: "I defy anyone else to find a head of state who is an astronaut!"

NASA

NASA Releases Juno's First Stunning Close-Ups of Jupiter's Giant Storm (theverge.com) 55

NASA's Juno spacecraft has sent back the first photos from its close flyby over Jupiter's famous Great Red Spot. These images offer the closest ever view of the massive storm. The Verge reports: Juno has been orbiting Jupiter for a little over a year on a mission to study the planet's interior, atmosphere, and magnetosphere. Its elliptical orbit around the planet takes the probe close to the surface for a few hours every 53 days. These are called perijove passes -- and on July 10th, Juno completed its seventh. A little after its closest approach, Juno's camera, JunoCam, snapped a few shots of the storm from about 5,000 miles above. Typically, a team of NASA scientists chooses which images a spacecraft collects on its path around a planet. But with Juno, NASA's opened up the process to the public: space fans can weigh in on the photos JunoCam shoots by ranking their favorite points of interest. After the photos are taken, NASA releases the raw images for the public to process. People can crop them, assemble them into collages, and change or enhance the colors. The results are mesmerizing. You can view even more photos here.
Moon

Private Company Plans To Bring Moon Rocks Back To Earth In Three Years (arstechnica.com) 66

mi writes: Moon Express, founded in 2010 to win the Google Lunar XPRIZE, says it is self-funded to begin bringing kilograms of lunar rocks back to Earth within about three years. "We absolutely intend to make these samples available globally for scientific research, and make them available to collectors as well," said Bob Richards, one of the company's founders, in an interview with Ars. From the report: "The privately held company released plans for a single, modular spacecraft that can be combined to form successively larger and more capable vehicles. Ultimately the company plans to establish a lunar outpost in 2020 and set up commercial operations on the Moon."
NASA

NASA Is Studying the Fungus Among Us Before Humans Take It To a New Planet (fastcompany.com) 60

From a new report: As humanity starts packing for a trip to Mars, NASA scientists are studying what not to bring along for the journey. In short, leave the fungus at home. NASA researchers created a closed habitat -- similar to where humans would have to live to survive long space travel or on a new planet -- and looked at fungi and how they grew, publishing their findings in the journal Microbiome. Fungi are "extremophiles" that can survive in the harshest conditions, but in the closed environment of a space station, they can wreak havoc. To see exactly what kind of fungi might colonize astronauts while they colonize Mars, researchers set up an Inflatable Lunar/Mars Analog Habitat, which simulates the closed environment of the International Space Station. They found that certain kinds of fungi increased in number while humans were living inside the habitat, and the weakened immune systems that come with living in a bubble make people more vulnerable to fungi.
Facebook

Facebook Messenger Globally Tests Injecting Display Ads Into Inbox (techcrunch.com) 71

From a TechCrunch report: Messaging is the center of mobile, and Facebook wants ads in front of all those eyes. After seeing "promising results from Australia and Thailand," Facebook Messenger is expanding its display ad beta test that lets businesses buy space between your chat threads. Later this month, a small percentage of users will start seeing ads in the Messenger app's home tab. Facebook tells TechCrunch that where these ads appear in the inbox "depends on how many threads a user has, the size of their phone's physical screen and the pixel density of the display." Over the next month, Facebook will gradually roll out Messenger ads to all advertisers globally. They'll have the ability to buy through the Ads Manager or Power Editor, with Messenger becoming one of the automatic placements for Facebook ads alongside the main Facebook app, Instagram and the Audience Network of other apps and sites. Ads aren't targeted by what people write in messages, and instead use the same Facebook targeting, measurement tools and minimum 50 percent pixels in view standard for viewability.
Science

First Object Teleported From Earth To Orbit (technologyreview.com) 212

Researchers in China have teleported a photon from the ground to a satellite orbiting more than 500 kilometers above. From a report: Last year, a Long March 2D rocket took off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the Gobi Desert carrying a satellite called Micius, named after an ancient Chinese philosopher who died in 391 B.C. The rocket placed Micius in a Sun-synchronous orbit so that it passes over the same point on Earth at the same time each day. Micius is a highly sensitive photon receiver that can detect the quantum states of single photons fired from the ground. That's important because it should allow scientists to test the technological building blocks for various quantum feats such as entanglement, cryptography, and teleportation. Today, the Micius team announced the results of its first experiments. The team created the first satellite-to-ground quantum network, in the process smashing the record for the longest distance over which entanglement has been measured. And they've used this quantum network to teleport the first object from the ground to orbit. Teleportation has become a standard operation in quantum optics labs around the world. The technique relies on the strange phenomenon of entanglement. This occurs when two quantum objects, such as photons, form at the same instant and point in space and so share the same existence. In technical terms, they are described by the same wave function.
Microsoft

Microsoft To Offer Local Version of Azure Cloud Service (reuters.com) 75

Microsoft on Monday unveiled a new service that allows customers to use its cloud technology on their own servers, part of the company's efforts to refocus its product line to compete more effectively with rivals Amazon and Google. From a report: "One of the key differentiations we have with Azure versus our two biggest competitors in the cloud platform space is our ability to support true hybrid solutions," Judson Althoff, Microsoft's executive vice president of worldwide commercial business, told Reuters. Microsoft is hoping to carve a niche among customers who cannot or do not want to have to move all their computing operations to the massive shared data centers that are collectively known as the cloud. Azure Stack could serve companies in highly regulated industries or in parts of the world where using the cloud is not yet feasible, Althoff said.
Space

Congressmen Propose a New Military Branch: The 'US Space Corps' (gizmodo.com) 228

An anonymous reader quotes Gizmodo: This week, the House Armed Services Committee voted 60 to 1 in favor of the creation of a new military branch to be called the United States Space Corps... The United States Space Corps would be the first new branch of the military since 1947, when the Air Force was formed. The current proposal would classify the USSC under the Air Force in a way that mirrors the Marines classification under the Navy. The Space Corps' chief of staff would be ranked as equal to the Air Force chief of staff and would report to the Secretary of the Air Force...

According to CNN, the Air Force's secretary and chief of staff are opposed to the plan. One reason is that we already have the Air Force Space Command and the military believes that the creation of the Space Corps would just cause more complications. Secretary Heather Wilson told reporters that "this will make it more complex, add more boxes to the organizational chart, and cost more money."

The bill charges the division of the military with providing "combat-ready space forces," though CNN adds "There are still plenty more congressional hoops for the Space Corps to jump through before it would become official. But, hey, at least the name sounds cool." And Gizmodo's reporter thoughtfully weighs the pro's and cons before concluding, "Yeah, this is probably stupid."
United States

Silicon Valley's Latest Desperate Housing Idea: On A Landfill (siliconvalley.com) 186

An anonymous reader writes: Silicon Valley real estate developers want to construct a $6.7 billion housing complex over a former landfill with 5.5 million tons of municipal waste from the last 25 years. "The regulators were pretty skeptical at the start, I have to say," one of the firm's partners told a local newspaper. Besides the 1,680 units of housing, there'd also be 700 hotel rooms, plus 5.7 million square feet of office space, and 1.1 million square feet for retail stores. The project "includes elaborate safety systems to block the escape of combustible methane gas and other dangerous vapors, and to prevent groundwater contamination," according to the Bay Area Newsgroup -- including one foot of solid concrete over 30 acres of landfill, with the housing built above the first-floor shops and parking structures "as a way of creating additional distance between residents and any escaped gases in the event of an emergency." In addition, there's alarms and sensors, "as well as another system to monitor, collect and dispose of gases underground."

Though the project has gained key approvals from the city of Santa Clara, it could still take two decades to complete. "Last year, the City of San Jose sued the City of Santa Clara, charging that the imbalance between the project's jobs and housing -- 23,000 jobs and 1,680 housing units -- will increase housing demand in San Jose and tax its overstretched services and infrastructure... but both sides said they hope for an out-of-court resolution."

Facebook

Facebook Envisions New Campus With Affordable Housing Units (sfgate.com) 123

An anonymous reader writes: "In a few years, families could be living at Facebook," quips CNET. The Bay Area Newsgroup reports that Facebook is proposing a new campus with facilities open to the public "to address long-neglected community needs and to accommodate its burgeoning workforce." But the San Francisco Chronicle sees more than just new buildings. "Implicit in the tech company's announcement is Facebook's belief that it can solve some of the area's most pressing issues, including traffic congestion, demand for affordable housing and a lack of transit options. By opening the campus and some of its facilities to the public, Facebook is also heading off a common criticism lobbed at wealthy tech firms: that they move into cities, drive up the cost of living, displace area residents and then do little to give back."

Facebook will offer 15% of the housing -- about 225 units -- at "below market rates." They're also promising to invest tens of millions of dollars in improvements to nearby Highway 101 and to "catalyze regional transit investment," according to Facebook's vice president of global facilities and real estate. The Chronicle notes that the campus's open-to-the-public pharmacy and grocery store "would also solve the issue of a lack of food retailers in that part of the city, where the nearest large store is a Safeway 4 miles away -- a trip that can take up to 40 minutes during rush hour, according to Google Maps."

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