US Navy wants robot ships to talk


Turn Left and Follow Me!

Concerned that the advent of unmanned surface ships can result in collisions with manned vessels, the Navy wants technology that will enable robot ships that talk like humans…The goal is to enable human bridge crews to converse with robot ships using normal speech over VHF radio.

“The nautical rules of the road (COLREGS) provide clear guidance for encounters between two vessels, but they do not directly specify what should happen when three or more vessels come in close proximity to each other at nearly the same time,”…“Mariners commonly deal with such situations by communicating via VHF Bridge-to-Bridge radio. Current Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs) have COLREGS reasoning engines, but they cannot incorporate information from Bridge-to-Bridge conversations, nor can they reply to simple maneuver proposals.”

“The Navy seeks an integrated solution that will enable a USV to act much like a human mariner,”…“In particular, the USV should be able to understand secure Bridge-to-Bridge radio transmissions, incorporate their meaning into its world model, develop appropriate maneuvering plans, and respond via voice on the Bridge-to-Bridge radio.”

Well, duh! Of course.

FCC Chair killed rules which would have helped Hurricane victims


Ajit Pai listening to Trump

❝ The Federal Communications Commission chairman slammed wireless carriers…for failing to quickly restore phone service in Florida after Hurricane Michael, calling the delay “completely unacceptable.”

But FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s statement ignored his agency’s deregulatory blitz that left consumers without protections designed to ensure restoration of service after disasters, according to longtime telecom attorney and consumer advocate Harold Feld.

The Obama-era FCC wrote new regulations to protect consumers after Verizon tried to avoid rebuilding wireline phone infrastructure in Fire Island, New York, after Hurricane Sandy hit the area in October 2012. But Pai repealed those rules, claiming that they prevented carriers from upgrading old copper networks to fiber. Pai’s repeal order makes zero mentions of Fire Island and makes reference to Verizon’s response to Hurricane Sandy only once, in a footnote.

Part of the function of good journalism is exposing corrupt practices – whether justified by ignorance or just plain stupid ideology. The Republican Party specializes in both and more – which is how we got to this footdragging on aid for hurricane victims’ communications.

ATT & Verizon rip-off DSL customers


Aurich Lawson/Thinkstock

❝ Tens of millions of people in the AT&T and Verizon service territories can only buy slow DSL Internet from the companies, yet they often have to pay the same price as fiber customers who get some of the fastest broadband speeds in the US.

That’s the conclusion of a new white paper written by the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA), a broadband advocacy group.

❝ “[I]n recent years, the nation’s two largest telco ISPs, AT&T and Verizon, have eliminated their cheaper rate tiers for low and mid-speed Internet access, except at the very slowest levels,” the NDIA wrote. “Each company now charges essentially identical monthly prices—$63-$65 a month after first-year discounts have ended—for home wireline broadband connections at almost any speed up to 100/100 Mbps fiber service.”

RTFA. Consider hollering at your elected representatives in Congress to support you and your peers fight for better treatment, affordable access to the Web. It’s overdue and criminally corrupt.

Military communications may have accidentally formed a protective bubble around Earth


Click to enlarge

❝ When the Navy wants to send a message to an underwater submarine, it sometimes uses very low frequency (VLF) radio waves. These long wavelengths, beamed from large towers on the ground, are unique in their ability to travel through salty water. But some end up in space instead. There, according to a new report, they may be forming a protective bubble around Earth’s atmosphere.

The discovery comes from the Van Allen Probes — two spacecraft, launched in 2012, that patrol the radiation belts surrounding Earth. The Van Allen radiation belts are zones where charged particles streaming from the sun get stuck in Earth’s magnetic field. These high energy protons and electrons can destroy a satellite’s electronics, which is a constant concern because the belts don’t always stay in one place…

During an intense geomagnetic storm in 2015, a large solar storm knocked back the plasmasphere, but surprisingly the outer Van Allen belt didn’t come any closer to Earth. “The plasma retracted but the belt didn’t follow,” says Erickson. But he and his colleagues noticed something else: “The edge of where these very powerful radio signals stop is the same place where the electrons stop coming in.”

❝ In addition, data from the 1960s suggests that the belt’s inner boundary was much closer to Earth back when VLF transmissions were less common. The team thinks that, nowadays, when electrons shooting out from a solar storm approach Earth, VLF waves deflect them, knocking them off their trajectory and pushing them into the atmosphere, where they get lost.

“The edge of where these very powerful radio signals stop is the same place where the electrons stop coming in.”

“At least in the first hours to a couple of days into a solar storm, the waves seem to halt the electrons from coming in further,” says Erickson. “If you wait longer, the story gets more complicated because they gradually diffuse in…”

❝ Sometime this year, the U.S. Air Force plans to launch the DSX satellite, which will test the feasibility of using VLF waves to deflect space radiation. If it works, humanity may be able to harness these waves to help protect against solar eruptions that dump giant clouds of charged particles into the solar system.

Not a perfect cure for a rare happening. Still, science happening upon a collateral solution is always welcome. Except to beancounter$, of course.

NASA Receives First Audio From New Planets

BREAKING NEWS, WORLD NEWS

❝ RADIO signals emerging from the newly-discovered ‘TRAPPIST-1’ planetary system have been decoded by linguistic experts at NASA, confirming the existence of extraterrestrial lifeforms who want ‘no part of Earth’s bullshit’.

❝ There was great excitement from astronomy enthusiasts earlier this week following the discovery of seven planets in the ‘habitable’ zone of a nearby solar system; planets which seemingly had all the criteria for supporting life.

However, this was eroded somewhat today when NASA announced that lifeforms on the third of these planets seemed to be ‘standing very still as if not to be noticed’, much like how someone would hide behind the sofa in their house if a TV licence inspector or debt collector came to the door.

❝ …A signal from the planet was received and later translated, and appears to show that the alien lifeforms were well aware of the existence of Earth.

“The transmission begins ‘Oh fucking bollocky bollocks’” said a spokesperson for NASA…

❝ “‘They’ve found us, well that’s just tickety-fucking-boo’. The conversation then breaks down into a series of back-and-forth arguments where the aliens appear to blame each other for being found, with one very vocal creature appearing to be furious that Earthlings may now attempt to travel to the new planet. ‘Why did you have to have the telly on so fucking loud?’, they say”.

Click through to the article. Sounds like they really don’t care to have anything to do with Earth cultures. Hmmm.

Thanks, UrsaRodinia

The Machine is Calling…listen carefully


Click to enlarge

Soft City, by the Norwegian graphic artist Hariton Pushwagner, is something of a miracle. Not only for existing in the first place, but for surviving at all. It languished in obscurity for decades and was very nearly lost before finally being issued in book form, following a messy legal dispute involving the artist and his former dealer. Most pointedly, however, it is a miracle of its native medium — the comic strip — for its startling and disquieting vision in a form that had never seen anything like it.

Cue the theme from Twilight Zone. Read on.

Fired for being a lousy cop? Don’t worry, you can always get another job — as a cop.

❝ As a police officer in a small Oregon town in 2004, Sean Sullivan was caught kissing a 10-year-old girl on the mouth…Mr. Sullivan’s sentence barred him from taking another job as a police officer.

But three months later, in August 2005, Mr. Sullivan was hired, after a cursory check, not just as a police officer on another force but as the police chief. As the head of the department in Cedar Vale, Kansas, according to court records and law enforcement officials, he was again investigated for a suspected sexual relationship with a girl and eventually convicted on charges that included burglary and criminal conspiracy…

❝ Mr. Sullivan, 44, is now in prison in Washington State on other charges, including identity theft and possession of methamphetamine. It is unclear how far-reaching such problems may be, but some experts say thousands of law enforcement officers may have drifted from police department to police department even after having been fired, forced to resign or convicted of a crime.

Yet there is no comprehensive, national system for weeding out problem officers. If there were, such hires would not happen…

❝ While serving as a St. Louis officer, Eddie Boyd III pistol-whipped a 12-year-old girl in the face in 2006, and in 2007 struck a child in the face with his gun or handcuffs before falsifying a police report, according to Missouri Department of Public Safety records.

Though Officer Boyd subsequently resigned, he was soon hired by the police department in nearby St. Ann, Mo., before he found a job with the troubled force in Ferguson, Missouri.

Officer Boyd is being sued by a woman in Ferguson who said he arrested her after she asked for his name at the scene of a traffic accident…

❝ Last year, in a report by President Obama’s task force on 21st-century policing, law enforcement officials and others recommended that the Justice Department establish a database in partnership with the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training, which manages a database of officers who have been stripped of their police powers. There are some 21,000 names on the list, but Mike Becar, the group’s executive director, said his organization lacked the resources to do a thorough job.

“It’s all we can do to keep the database up,” he said.

The Justice Department, which gave the association about $200,000 to start the database in 2009, no longer funds it. The department declined to explain why it had dropped its support…

Meanwhile, the oldest Brother Blue favor in the unofficial rulebook on How to be a Cop remains letting someone who faces severe discipline or termination resign their job. Their record stays comparatively clean. There is no outstanding pointer to behavioral dangers. In fact, a department will often recommend the tactic to keep their own noses clean. They avoid lying to explain troubled events if the events aren’t recorded as causing a sanction or termination.

Not the way to manage an honest trade, a legitimate civil service.

China’s quantum satellite is designed to teleport data and create an unbreakable code


China’s quantum satellite launched from Jiuquan, August 16thReuters/China Daily

A few days ago, China launched the world’s first quantum satellite. So what exactly does this mean?

“The satellite is designed to establish ultra-secure quantum communications by transmitting uncrackable keys from space to the ground,” Xinhua, China’s state news agency, wrote after the equipment was launched on a rocket from the Gobi desert. “It could also conduct experiments on the bizarre features of quantum theories, such as entanglement.”…

Most human technology is built around the classical physics that Isaac Newton and his inheritors came up with…When engineers hit on electricity…they perceived it in aggregate as a kind of a force; it’s either on, or it’s off. This understanding led to electric switches, which became transistors, and when you put all those transistors in a box and start turning them off and on with instructions encoded “11010001101”… it’s a computer.

But as scientists were developing electric computers in the 20th century, theorists beginning with Max Planck were ripping up the rule books. Their experiments with light suggested that something about classical physics didn’t quite add up. Soon they developed mathematical proofs to explain that the tiny particles that make up matter — protons, neutrons, and electrons — don’t necessarily behave like you would expect particles to behave. They can act as if they are in two plac es at once, for instance…This is quantum theory. The first and most famous application of these ideas came in nuclear weaponry and energy.

Physicists are still trying to agree on how classical and quantum physics come together coherently. But quantum theory already underlies a lot of modern technology; the transistors on a silicon chip, in fact, wouldn’t work without it. Now engineers are trying to apply it to more futuristic things…

Scientists have done experiments with quantum teleportation already. They have instantaneously exchanged information about the quantum states of photons, which are particles of light, transmitted 143 km between two of the Canary Islands.

But testing quantum teleportation at extremely long distances requires going to space. It’s the easiest way to set up laser communication between two distant points on the earth’s surface. That’s what the Chinese satellite, developed in cooperation with the Austrian Academy of Science, intends to do.

Besides demonstrating a super-long entanglement, the scientists working with the satellite want to test new communications technology…This is where the unbreakable code comes in…

It may be easy to see in this shades of the Cold War race for technological dominance, but Spiros Michalakis at CalTech is confident that research will be shared within the scientific community. His hope is that this experiment is the first step toward a global network of research facilities sharing access to entangled particles beamed down from space—a kind of global, cloud-based quantum computer.

At the moment, though, it’s China that looks like the pacesetter.

I expect China’s scientists will share the main body of their research. It’s only human to expect the leading edge bits and pieces may be held aside as processes and experiments are worked out. Completed experiments will be published for peer review. That’s where science is moved forward – along with specialized conferences and convocations. Conservative steps tread the stairways of real science.

OTOH, do I think White House and Pentagon eggheads and Congressional know-nothings will start to panic over a “Quantum Gap”? You betcha!