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Image Credit: NASA
If only your name could collect frequent flyer miles. NASA is inviting the public to send their names on a microchip to destinations beyond low-Earth orbit, including Mars.
Your name will begin its journey on a dime-sized microchip when the agency’s Orion spacecraft launches Dec. 4 on its first flight, designated Exploration Flight Test-1. After a 4.5 hour, two-orbit mission around Earth to test Orion’s systems, the spacecraft will travel back through the atmosphere at speeds approaching 20,000 mph and temperatures near 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean.
But the journey for your name doesn’t end there. After returning to Earth, the names will fly on future NASA exploration flights and missions to Mars. With each flight, selected individuals will accrue more miles as members of a global space-faring society.
“NASA is pushing the boundaries of exploration and working hard to send people to Mars in the future,” said Mark Geyer, Orion Program manager. “When we set foot on the Red Planet, we’ll be exploring for all of humanity. Flying these names will enable people to be part of our journey.”
The deadline for receiving a personal “boarding pass” on Orion’s test flight closes Friday Oct. 31. The public will have an opportunity to keep submitting names beyond Oct. 31 to be included on future test flights and future NASA missions to Mars.
To submit your name to fly on Orion’s flight test, visit:
Join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #JourneyToMars.
For information about Orion and its first flight, visit:
The £2 billion subway cars will replace trains on the Piccadilly, Central, Waterloo, and City and Bakerville lines, and are aimed at accommodating London’s booming commuter population for the next several decades Priestmangoode
Margaret Rhodes reporting,
Descend underground into London’s subway system, and “Mind the Gap” is everywhere. It’s spelled out in tiles on the edge of the platform, it’s announced through the loudspeakers, and it’s probably splashed across a tourist’s t-shirt. But sometime around 2020, the actual gap — the dangerous space between the train and the platform that prompted the transit system in 1969 to start warning passengers — will begin to disappear.
Getting rid of the gap is one of several efficiencies that design firm PriestmanGoode will introduce in its redesign of the London Underground trains. Announced this week, the estimated $4 billion (£2 billion) trains (part of a bigger $25 billion (£16 billion) upgrade) will replace trains on the Piccadilly, Central, Bakerloo, and Waterloo & City lines, and are aimed at accommodating London’s booming commuter population for the next several decades. “London may well go up again twice in size, so you have to think about how these trains will evolve,” says Paul Priestman, director at PriestmanGoode. “We can’t change tunnels and platforms and stations, so how can we let people get on and off the trains more quickly?”
New Tube for London designed by PriestmanGoode.
To delete the gap, PriestmanGoode drafted up trains that have shorter carriages and more of them. This gives each train extra sets of joints, so it can pivot and nestle itself closer to the platform. That leads to swifter train exits for passengers. Each train will also sport larger doors (and more of them as well) to help relieve the bottleneck of commuters getting on and off at every station. The effect is similar to the shiny AirTran system used at airports.
This wouldn’t have been possible when the original cars were built: newer access to stronger, lightweight materials like aluminium and finishes used on aircrafts means that the bigger doors won’t cause subway cars to grow weak and buckle. In an attempt to cut down on delays, they’re also proposing to amp up the communications system with flashing lights that warn commuters when doors open and close. Hopefully, the idea goes, this will stop desperate passengers from shoving doors back open.
Inside, poles tilt outwards to create more breathing room around passengers’ faces and upper bodies Priestmangoode
Given all the exterior glitz, much remains the same inside the new tube cars. “Familiar is good, it’s moving forward and is still recognisable,” Priestman says. Besides the fact that the London Underground required the same number of seats, Priestman wanted to preserve a detail that’s unique to the Tube: “It’s interesting that it’s possible to have fabric, and they last,” he says of the upholstered seats, which would never fly in a city like New York. “It says a lot about the character of the design. It’s not like a jail, people have respect for it, the lighting is right. Even in Hong Kong you have steel seats on the metros.”
To keep to the thesis — make the trains as efficient as possible — PriestmanGoode adjusted the floor-to-ceiling handrails so they tilt slightly outward, away from people’s heads and upper bodies, freeing up valuable (and literal) breathing room. An even bigger change is how the cars connect: instead of disjointed carriages, these will be “through-cars” that allow for commuters to safely and easily disperse themselves, even after the train takes off.
All told, the London Underground estimates that PriestmanGoode’s trains will allow for anywhere between 25 and 60 percent more passengers, depending on the line. “We need every square inch for the passengers,” Priestman says. With these changes, “it’s almost like getting grit out of the system.”
In 1995, the US government tried – and failed – to categorise encryption as a weapon. Today, the same lines are being drawn and the same tactics repeated as the FBI wants to do the same. Here’s why they are wrong, and why they must fail again.
Dragnet surveillance and compromised encryption standards must be resisted. Photograph: Louie Psihoyos/Corbis
Cory Doctorow reporting,
Eric Holder, the outgoing US attorney general, has joined the FBI and other law enforcement agencies in calling for the security of all computer systems to be fatally weakened. This isn’t a new project – the idea has been around since the early 1990s, when the NSA classed all strong cryptography as a “munition” and regulated civilian use of it to ensure that they had the keys to unlock any technological countermeasures you put around your data.
In 1995, the Electronic Frontier Foundation won a landmark case establishing that code was a form of protected expression under the First Amendment to the US constitution, and since then, the whole world has enjoyed relatively unfettered access to strong crypto.
How strong is strong crypto? Really, really strong. When properly implemented and secured by relatively long keys, cryptographic algorithms can protect your data so thoroughly that all the computers now in existence, along with all the computers likely to ever be created, could labour until the sun went nova without uncovering the keys by “brute force” – ie trying every possible permutation of password.
The “crypto wars” of the early 1990s were fuelled by this realisation – that computers were changing the global realpolitik in an historically unprecedented way. Computational crypto made keeping secrets exponentially easier than breaking secrets, meaning that, for the first time in human history, the ability for people without social or political power to keep their private lives truly private from governments, police, and corporations was in our grasp.
The arguments then are the arguments now. Governments invoke the Four Horsemen of the Infocalypse (software pirates, organised crime, child pornographers, and terrorists) and say that unless they can decrypt bad guys’ hard drives and listen in on their conversations, law and order is a dead letter.
On the other side, virtually every security and cryptography expert tries patiently to explain that there’s no such thing as “a back door that only the good guys can walk through” (hat tip to Bruce Schneier). Designing a computer that bad guys can’t break into is impossible to reconcile with designing a computer that good guys can break into.
If you give the cops a secret key that opens the locks on your computerised storage and on your conversations, then one day, people who aren’t cops will get hold of that key, too. The same forces that led to bent cops selling out the public’s personal information to Glen Mulcaire and the tabloid press will cause those cops’ successors to sell out access to the world’s computer systems, too, only the numbers of people who are interested in these keys to the (United) Kingdom will be much larger, and they’ll have more money, and they’ll be able to do more damage.
That’s really the argument in a nutshell. Oh, we can talk about whether the danger is as grave as the law enforcement people say it is, point out that only a tiny number of criminal investigations run up against cryptography, and when they do, these investigations always find another way to proceed. We can talk about the fact that a ban in the US or UK wouldn’t stop the “bad guys” from getting perfect crypto from one of the nations that would be able to profit (while US and UK business suffered) by selling these useful tools to all comers. But that’s missing the point: even if every crook was using crypto with perfect operational security, the proposal to back-door everything would still be madness.
Because your phone isn’t just a tool for having the odd conversation with your friends – nor is it merely a tool for plotting crime – though it does duty in both cases. Your phone, and all the other computers in your life, they are your digital nervous system. They know everything about you. They have cameras, microphones, location sensors. You articulate your social graph to them, telling them about all the people you know and how you know them. They are privy to every conversation you have. They hold your logins and passwords for your bank and your solicitor’s website; they’re used to chat to your therapist and the STI clinic and your rabbi, priest or imam.
That device – tracker, confessor, memoir and ledger – should be designed so that it is as hard as possible to gain unauthorised access to. Because plumbing leaks at the seams, and houses leak at the doorframes, and lie-lows lose air through their valves. Making something airtight is much easier if it doesn’t have to also allow the air to all leak out under the right circumstances.
There is no such thing as a vulnerability in technology that can only be used by nice people doing the right thing in accord with the rule of law. The existing “back doors” in network switches, mandated under US laws such as CALEA, have become the go-to weak-spot for cyberwar and industrial espionage. It was Google’s lawful interception backdoor that let the Chinese government raid the Gmail account of dissidents. It was the lawful interception backdoor in Greece’s national telephone switches that let someone – identity still unknown – listen in on the Greek Parliament and prime minister during a sensitive part of the 2005 Olympic bid (someone did the same thing the next year in Italy).
The most shocking Snowden revelation wasn’t the mass spying (we already knew about that, thanks to whistleblowers like Mark Klein, who spilled the beans in 2005). It was the fact that the UK and US spy agencies were dumping $250,000,000/year into sabotaging operating systems, hardware, and standards, to ensure that they could always get inside them if they wanted to. The reason this was so shocking was that these spies were notionally doing this in the name of “national security”– but they were dooming everyone in the nation (and in every other nation) to using products that had been deliberately left vulnerable to attack by anyone who independently discovered the sabotage.
There is only one way to make the citizens of the digital age secure, and that is to give them systems designed to lock out everyone except their owners. The police have never had the power to listen in on every conversation, to spy upon every interaction. No system that can only sustain itself by arrogating these powers can possibly be called “just.”