A Russian company affiliated with Roscosmos the Russian space agency is said to be working on a ground based laser project which will have the capability of vaporizing space junk into tiny particles.
The company is named the Research-and-Production Corporation Precision Systems. A name that likely makes a lot more sense in Russian. They claim to be developing a 3 meter laser ‘canon’ that will use laser ablation to remove mass and effectively destroy space debris, which is becoming a real issue in low earth orbit with remnants of every human space launch speeding around the globe at orbital velocity. One can imagine the carnage that an astronauts lost wrench could cause when it flies through a launching satellite booster at 17,000mph.
It makes me feel good that someone is tackling the space junk problem but it shouldn’t take much thought on this topic to realize that if space debris cal be vaporized then so can communications satellites, space stations, spy satellites and military satellites. I see this possibly becoming a repeat of the 1980’s U2 incident when the Russians find a USA spy satellite that we agreed not to have to have in the first place and blow it to dust. They would be right in doing so but like all the stupid things governments do it’s their people that suffer.
This was first written of by an RT article that can be found here.
Here is yet another chapter in the drama of the Cambridge Analytica / Facebook user data abuse scandal. This week we are talking about a document dated June 8th (last Friday) from Facebook and containing answers to the Senators formal questions asked of the company during the April 10,11 hearings. The document in it’s entirety can be read here.
It is a good read and I encourage anyone with even a fleeting interest in the case to do so but to summarize many of the revelations are to be expected like the amount of time spent on the site and the users buying activities but further reading details the massive scope and scale of data recording.
For example Facebook records your mouse movements and whether or not your browser window is in the foreground or background of your screen. This is done as a safeguard against bots.
Facebook records literally every scrap of operating system and hardware data it can get it’s hands on. Battery level, signal strength, storage space, even down to recording file names.
They also record every bit of data they can get about your carrier, Their name, the IP provided to you, any cookie data they can scoop up. They also record everything they can from any wireless client devices that may be connected to your machine such as Wifi and Bluetooth. FB records the Wifi signals in your area, it also collects data about the Bluetooth devices in your area.
And of course it tracks your location, but also records camera information and hoovers up any photos you take unless you explicitly opt-out. Oh yea and all your call logs and SMS messages too, they help themselves to it.
So yea, literally everything they can get they do. Why would anyone expect them not to? Remember this is one of those new companies with inverted business models where you are no longer the customer but the product to be sold. And just like an old farm cow, you care going to be milked for every drop of data you can be. To be solved this problem is going to require people to view their own data as having value, Facebook certainly does. If Facebook wants data from us they can buy it from us for a fair market value.
Yes you read that title right. MIT has developed a Machine Learning algorithm named “Norman” in a nod to the Hitchcock thriller Psycho. The purpose of Norman is to interpret inkblot paintings as one would in a psychologists office. So essentially they taught a computer how to take the inkblot test and then set out to poison it’s mind.
One of the ways that machine learning AI’s are put together involves feeding large amounts of existing data into them and letting it find the patterns on its own. for example if you were trying to develop an autonomous vehicle you would probably show it millions of pictures of stop signs until it could identify them on its own. The difference in this case is that source data is not a pile of traffic sign photos but the contents of a particularly morbid and gruesome subreddit. The name of the subreddit has been redacted by MIT in an apparent effort to protect the guilty.
So after the AI was trained they set it to it’s purpose. Interpreting Rorschach inkblot tests. Which it does so in the most morbid way possible. I won’t ruin them for you but you can view the original project here.
Some people have gone a little overboard shooting this down as a terrible idea, herald of the end times, etc. Really i think this is pretty innocent as far as projects go. First thing everyone need to understand here is that there is nothing close to sentience occurring here with these machine learning algorithms. In fact I wish they wouldn’t use the term artificial intelligence in this light. But it does get clicks so people will continue to use it in this regard. AI carries a very specific meaning to most people, but to truly have something like human intelligence in a computer we are going to have to model and emulate the human brain within a computer. That is a method that I think possible but what is going on here is completely different.
Also the limited scope of this project is another important safeguard if you think they are needed here which I do not. The thing only can comment on inkblot tests. Not a problem, and no chance to go all Blade Runnerey.
The new NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine is talking with international companies this week about the prospect of selling all or part of the International Space Station off to private companies, Jim claims to have heard a lot of interest in managing the station from these companies. While it is wholly possible that this statement is intended more to create demand than state its existence. I for one hope it does exist.
NASA’s financial involvement in the International Space Station is due to end in 2025, it is by then that commercial management must be in place or the expensive station will simply burn to dust in our atmosphere.
Simply put space needs to be profitable.
We have come to the realization that it is possible from a science and engineering standpoint to have things like moon bases, space stations, missions to mars, etc. But in reality, if we expect NASA to do it all on their own, then it will only ever be one mission at a time. NASA needs to act as a nursery for commercial enterprises to spawn such as with SpaceX & Blue Origin. But the demand needs to be there, the money.
SpaceX has done very well financially in their efforts to standardize launches of satellites and ISS support missions into low earth orbit. If the plans for BFR come to fruition and we ever wind up with a true earth to earth suborbital passenger spaceflight industry, then the costs of space missions mean simply paying for the diverting a commercial flight. Parts would be standardized, Maintenance procedures standardized, The availability of trained personnel would increase. This is the facepalm slappingly obvious way of operating in space.
But where would this leave NASA? Would NASA fade away into obscurity? Would they do missions at all? I hope so. In my mind at least there is plenty of room for NASA to exist and even operate their own missions in this world. NASA’s mission has always been of breaking frontiers and pushing science boundaries. Today those boundaries are further off, which means NASA must follow. That would mean more planetary science and less interest in the Earth/Moon system. It would seem that today at least the NASA leadership gets it. What do you think? How what should NASA be focused on and much commercial involvement is a good thing, Tell me in the comments below.