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Crazy Engineering: Mars Helicopter

Crazy Engineering: Mars Helicopter
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Published on Jan 22, 2015

JPL engineers are working on a small helicopter that could ‘scout’ a trail for future Mars rovers, but getting a chopper that could fly in the Martian atmosphere is tricky. Episode 2 of Crazy Engineering.

U.S., India to Deepen Cooperation in Space

Source: Parabolic Arc

President Barack Obama is on a state visit to India. The U.S. and Indian governments released a joint statement focusing on areas of cooperation, including enhanced cooperation in space. The following are excerpts from the statement.

The Prime Minister and the President acknowledged and expressed satisfaction at the qualitative reinvigoration of strategic ties and the intensity of substantive interactions since the Prime Minister’s visit to Washington in September 2014. They appreciated the focused action and accomplishments by both sides on the decisions taken during the Summit in September and in this regard, they welcomed:

•The 30 September 2014 signing of an implementing agreement between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to conduct the joint NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission.

President Obama and Prime Minister Modi agreed to further promote cooperative and commercial relations between India and the United States in the field of space. The leaders noted the on-going interactions between their space agencies, including towards realizing a dual frequency radar imaging satellite for Earth Sciences, and exploring possibilities for cooperation in studying Mars.

The Leaders took note of ongoing U.S.-India space cooperation, including the first face-to-face meeting of the ISRO-NASA Mars Working Group from 29-31 January 2015 in Bangalore, in which the two sides will consider opportunities for enhanced cooperation in Mars exploration, including potential coordinated observations and analysis between ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission and NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN mission (MAVEN). The Prime Minister and the President also welcomed continued progress toward enhanced space cooperation via the U.S.-India Civil Space Joint Working Group, which will meet later this year in India.

Read more: http://www.parabolicarc.com/2015/01/25/india-deepen-cooperation-space/

How a nuclear near-miss in ’95 would be a disaster today - by Ted Postol


How a nuclear near-miss in ’95 would be a disaster today

Twenty years ago, a string of coincidences nearly set off a US-Russia nuclear crisis, but calmer heads prevailed. The risk is much higher today

By Theodore Postol January 25, 2015

On Jan. 25, 1995 — 20 years ago today — the launch of a lone scientific rocket from a small island off the northwest coast of Norway set off Russia’s nuclear attack early warning system.

As the rocket took off, it initially passed above the horizon of the curved earth into the field of view of Russian radar. After the motor shut down, the rocket then coasted to higher altitudes — into the middle of the major attack corridor between the US intercontinental ballistic missile fields at Grand Forks, N.D., and Moscow. Unknown to the scientists who launched it, one of the rocket’s stages finished its powered flight at an altitude and speed comparable to that expected from a Trident submarine-launched ballistic missile. This combination of events exactly fit the template of an attack scenario under which nuclear weapons are intentionally exploded at high altitudes so as to blind early warning radars before a major bombardment of Russian nuclear forces.


Today the situation is far more dangerous.


One positive development that will make us all safer is that Russia will shortly no longer have holes in its network of early warning radars. Yet efforts to modernize the large and expensive network of ground-based radars has been accompanied by a decision to abandon the current space-based satellite early warning system. So even with this vital new radar early warning system, without the benefit of space-based assistance, Moscow could still have no more than six to seven minutes warning of a Trident submarine attack. That small window of time is inadequate for reflection, assessment, and decision-making. This dangerous shortfall could greatly increase the chances of unrecoverable accidents involving the central strategic nuclear forces of Russia and the United States.


And finally, Russia should have access to specialized satellite sensor technologies. Both the Americans and the Europeans have this technology and could supply it, helping to correct this dangerous shortfall by equaling the nuclear playing field.

Such measures could easily be taken without any risk of transferring sensitive technical information about how to fabricate such sensors and might well increase our chances of surviving future dangerous early warning mishaps.

Those we can expect to occur with certainty.


Theodore Postol has been an adviser to the US Navy’s chief of naval operations on strategic and tactical nuclear weapons systems and on missile defenses. He is professor emeritus of science, technology, and national security policy at MIT.

Scrap Trident nuclear programme, protesters demand

Source: The Hindu

Shouting “Wrap up Trident” and holding up placards reading “Books Not Bombs” and “Climate not Trident” thousands of campaigners took to the streets of central London on January 24 in a novel protest.

‘Peace scarf’

Organised by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and Action AWE, the marchers wrapped the Ministry of Defence in a two-mile-long pink “peace scarf” knitted by volunteers from all over the world in protest against government plans to spend £100 billion to upgrade the United Kingdom’s Trident nuclear sea-based weapons system based near Glasgow in Scotland.

On January 20th, a parliamentary vote saw an overwhelming endorsement for the upgrade, with only 37 Members of Parliament voting to not renew the Trident programme, and 364 voting for it. However, 250 MPS — including Labour leader Ed Miliband — abstained from voting.

The “Wrap up Trident” demonstration sought to raise awareness over an issue on which there has been little public debate in recent years — the last big anti-Trident protest was in 2007 — to ensure its inclusion in the election agendas of political parties in the May 2015 general elections.


Read more: http://www.thehindu.com/news/international/world/scrap-trident-nuclear-programme-protesters-demand/article6821268.ece

Obama and Modi agree to limit US liability in case of nuclear disaster

Source: Guardian

US industrial interests took centre-stage at the start of Barack Obama’s visit to India as he and the prime minister, Narendra Modi, outlined a deal to limit the legal liability of US suppliers in the event of a nuclear power plant catastrophe.

Thirty years after an infamous chemical leak killed thousands at Union Carbide’s factory in Bhopal, the threat of tough Indian compensation laws has frustrated US hopes of an export boom in the energy sector – despite an agreement by former US president George W Bush to share civil nuclear technology in 2005.

After pressure from US diplomats, the Indian government was thought to have agreed a state-backed insurance scheme that would cap the exposure of nuclear suppliers and open the door to billions of dollars of new contracts. India will also allow closer tracking of spent fuel to limit the risk of it falling into terrorist hands.

“Today we achieved a breakthrough understanding on two issues that were holding up our civil nuclear cooperation,” Obama said on Sunday.


Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jan/25/obama-modi-limit-us-liability-nuclear-disaster

Elon Musk: Guest-Starring on The Simpsons Was 'Kind of Trippy'

Source: Business Week

While attending the University of Pennsylvania, Elon Musk was a busy dude. He pursued degrees in business and physics during the week, and on weekends threw raging parties at a rented multi-bedroom house-turned-nightclub to earn extra money. By the time Sunday night came around, Musk wanted to relax, and did so with a ritual shared by millions of people. “I had this lousy TV that was always fuzzy and made it really challenging to watch anything,” he said. “The only thing we would tune in for was The Simpsons every week.”

This Sunday, Musk, the head honcho at Tesla Motors and SpaceX, will enjoy the rare experience of watching himself in a Simpsons episode called “The Musk Who Fell to Earth.” The episode was inspired by a meeting Musk had with James L. Brooks, the longtime executive producer of the show. The men were spitballing ideas, and by the end of their discussion Brooks knew he wanted Musk to play a fictionalized version of himself on the show.

The episode begins, naturally enough, with Musk traveling through space in a craft of his own design. He’s taking the genius engineer version of a Sunday drive because he’s struggling to come up with new ideas. Then, by happenstance, Musk lands in the Simpsons’ backyard and meets Homer. “Homer then becomes this incredible inspiration to him,” said Al Jean, the head writer and show runner for The Simpsons.

Musk forms an unlikely partnership with Montgomery Burns and seeks to electrify and modernize Springfield, while on a quest to build a model community. The cars are electric and drive themselves. There’s a Hyperloop taking people around the city at record speeds. “Burns thinks it will make him a fortune, but it turns out that he’s going to lose $50 million a quarter,” said Jean. “Musk, of course, thinks that’s fine. This leaves Burns so livid that he attempts to kill Musk.”


Read more: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2015-01-23/elon-musk-guest-stars-on-the-simpsons

Doomsday Clock: Three minutes to midnight

Source: UPI

The Doomsday Clock is now the closest it has been to midnight since 1984.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists said they reset the Doomsday Clock to three minutes to midnight, meaning "the probability of global catastrophe is very high."

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Science and Security Board, which was founded by scientists who helped create the atomic bomb and is charged with regularly deciding whether to alter the time on the countdown to the end of the world, said world events led them to move the Doomsday Clock forward two minutes.

"In 2015, unchecked climate change, global nuclear weapons modernizations, and outsized nuclear weapons arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity, and world leaders have failed to act with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from potential catastrophe. These failures of political leadership endanger every person on Earth," the board said.

The clock is the closest to midnight it has been since 1984, at the height of the Cold War. The Doomsday Clock was set the furthest from midnight in 1991, when it was 17 minutes away, and was the closest in 1953, when it was two minutes to midnight as a result of the United States and Soviet Union developing hydrogen bombs.


Read more: http://www.upi.com/Odd_News/2015/01/23/Doomsday-Clock-Three-minutes-to-midnight/2421422023104/

Iranian women stand united in protest and hope at Asian Cup

Source: Guardian

It was the unity of the Iranian fans, more than anything else, that shocked Talieh Akbari. Sitting in Stadium Australia in Sydney with her mother for Iran’s second group match against Qatar – their first time together at a football stadium – she was struck by the sheer outpouring of emotion. “In Iran, happiness is forbidden,” she says. “Iranian people inside Iran are not happy people, but watching the people’s happiness, that is unity.”


As a woman Talieh is banned from attending football matches in Iran, and although she prefers watching the game on television, she was never going to miss such a rare opportunity to watch the national team in her adopted hometown. She says the ban on women in stadiums has made football like “forbidden fruit”, while her mother Parvaneh believes the match in Sydney was “the first and perhaps the last time I will see Iran play.”


Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, the clergy has gradually placed harsh restrictions on females attending sporting matches involving men. The cruel and unusual ruling has been the subject of the famous film, Offside, and, as Kian* told me, a major point of contention for the diaspora community in Australia.

Kian and several other activists have been working quietly on protest banners for the past few months, which they smuggled in and unveiled at the quarter-final in Canberra. On the 65th minute mark, a banner carrying the face of Ghoncheh Ghavami was briefly unveiled in the Gregan-Larkham Stand. Ghavami is a young British-Iranian woman who was placed in prison for trying to attend a volleyball match in 2014. A second banner was also planned to be unfurled inside the stadium, but in the excitement Kian simply couldn’t find the time. In English, it read “Thanks for censoring us!” and in Farsi below “Don’t be tired!”


Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2015/jan/23/asian-cup-iran-fans-protest

Argentine Phone Calls Detail Efforts to Shield Iran

Source: New York Times

Intercepted conversations between representatives of the Iranian and Argentine governments point to a long pattern of secret negotiations to reach a deal in which Argentina would receive oil in exchange for shielding Iranian officials from charges that they orchestrated the bombing of a Jewish community center in 1994.

The transcripts were made public by an Argentine judge on Tuesday night, as part of a 289-page criminal complaint written by Alberto Nisman, the special prosecutor investigating the attack. Mr. Nisman was found dead in his luxury apartment on Sunday, the night before he was to present his findings to Congress.


“The publication of Nisman’s complaint is a first step that can contribute to the transparency of an investigation plagued by mystery and frozen for 20 years in a tomb of impunity,” Fernándo González, an editor at the newspaper El Cronista, wrote on Wednesday, arguing that it would pave the way for new investigators and for Mrs. Kirchner to defend herself.

Mr. Nisman asserted for years that Iran had helped plan and finance the bombing, and that its Lebanese ally, the militant group Hezbollah, had carried it out. His body was found at his apartment on Sunday with a gunshot wound to his head in a murky episode that government officials have called a suicide. An investigation by a prosecutor is underway.


Just last week, Mr. Nisman, 51, raised tensions further by accusing top Argentine officials, including Mrs. Kirchner, of conspiring with Iran to cover up responsibility for the bombing.


Read more: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/22/world/americas/argentine-calls-detail-efforts-to-shield-iran.html?_r=0

Obama's speech: landing on Mars, solar power, robotics, and Tesla: a thank-you letter to Elon Musk?


Aaron Levie ‏@levie

Obama's speech covers landing on Mars, solar power, robotics, and Tesla. Essentially, he's reading a thank-you letter to Elon Musk.

6:47 PM - 20 Jan 2015

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