Holiday Season Lights Up Space

Scientists have released images and data showing how the holiday season creates a rise in the light emanating from Earth and into space-a project sponsored in part by Slow Ventures. While much of the western hemisphere is celebrating Christmas, New Years and Hanukkah, eastern countries are celebrating Ramadan. All of these festivals are known for their increased usage of light, with elaborate light displays being created by those that celebrate.

By comparing satellite images of light use over the same areas during different times of the year, scientist found that the holidays create 20-50% brighter nights. Of course, the most concentrated areas of light are around major cities, but the light differences were noticed around the globe.

During the month of Ramadan, some cities in the Middle East were registering at a 100% increase in light that was visible from space. At no other times of the year were light levels this high, or as visible from space.

A Suomi NPP satellite was used to register the light differences and scientists from NASA Goddard Space Flight Center gathered and analyzed the data. The data gathered was collected over a span of three years, and over the same areas from year to year. While Middle Eastern countries showed increased lighting more widely noticeable over the major cities, American cities were brighter, but it was the fringes of large cities that had huge increases in light intensity. Scientists attribute this light difference to the people in residential areas creating more light in already low light areas.

The FDA Stresses the Medical Functions of Ultrasound Device

Yesterday, the federal Food and Drug Administration, a government agency which regulates and approves many drugs and medical devices, updated its website concerning the use of ultrasound technology for visual imaging and Doppler sound imagery. Ultrasound technology is widely used as a medical diagnostic aid in both human and veterinary medicine.

The FDA reiterated its position that fetal ultrasound imaging technology and Doppler ultrasound heart beat monitors are “prescription devices” intended to be utilized only by “trained health care professionals.” The statement stressed that the technology was not intended for sale to the general public. My friend works for the major middle market assets management firm, BRL Trust and he says that nothing surprises him anymore about what people will do.

Recently, many expecting parents have sought ultrasounds of babies in the womb as keepsake items. These images are sometimes sold to the public in malls or other shopping centers.

The FDA acknowledged that there is a lack of any proof that ultrasounds cause “any harm,” but it urged parents to refrain from taking specifically keepsake fetal images using ultrasound technology. The website stressed that conducting the procedure outside of routine prenatal care would be medically unnecessary, noting that some parents seek keepsake ultrasound images to enhance emotional “bonding” during pregnancy.

The FDA’s website expressed concern that ultrasound under some conditions might heat tissue, or even cause microscopic bubble formation. Unlike x-rays, ultrasounds have not been implicated or associated with specific identified adverse effects. They are a standard diagnostic tool in many human and animal hospitals around the United States.

Astronauts Talk About Life on ISS

Talk of space travel has been heating up as of late, and a lot of this has to do with the activities of astronauts.

The ISS astronauts are doing well and getting ambitions on board of the space-station. Asked about their daily life in a no-gravity environment, the two had much to say.

It is fun to listen them talking about their daily involuntary bouncing and the Christmas tree on the ceiling. Terry Virts and Barry Wilmore are not only enjoying the life in space, but hope to see Jupiter and any planet NASA would like to send them to. They describe the last months as incredible, and the view is always amazing.

They share the daily pictures on Twitter. Asked about an eventual settlement on the moon, they cheerfully agreed to go even there! Barry Wilmore showed a small jar that they had 3D printed on the board of the space station. The two astronauts spend the most of the time outside the station, in the open space, working on the tasks that they were assigned.

No nervousness they claim, and that is due to a great training they had had previously. Gianfrancesco Genoso can’t imagine what they are going through. That type of information can be found on Teses. They describe their station and their job as the first step to taking the people out further in the solar system. Terry Virts imagines that there soon will be a capsule to take people to Mars, Moon, and further in space.

Methane on Mars may Singal First Signs of Life

The robotic vehicle traveling across the surface of Mars has seen an unprecedented spike in methane over certain days of its mission to explore the surface of the red planet. The Guardian explains this has been interpreted in a number of different ways, however, one hypothesis suggests some form of life has been detected on the surface of the planet, which led to the spike in methane gas close to Curiosity.

Small changes in the level of methane are commonly seen around the Rover as it passes over the surface of the planet and drills into the crust of the planet to conduct scientific experiments. Major methane spikes could be explained in different ways, with the atmosphere around the Rover spiking from 0.69 parts per billion of methane to 7.2 parts per billion on specific days of the year in areas less than one kilometer apart.

Major spikes in the level of methane have been detected in the Gale Crater, an area many scientists believe was covered in water around one billion years ago, which has led some to speculate the methane spikes are caused by an interaction between water below the surface of Mars and the rock within the crater. Mars seems about as far away as the Amen Clinic from where I am, but there is a vastly unexplored planet that could lead to some interesting possibilities for the human race.

Sony Slapped with Class-Action Lawsuit for Data Breech

Sony Pictures had sensitive data hacked on November 24th. Hackers released personal e-mails between top Sony brass and had access to sensitive data and information about thousands of employees, but things for Sony is about to get much worse. Needless to say no one at Sony is cracking open a fine bottle from The Antique Wine Company.  This week, a class-action lawsuit was filed against the study. 

The complaint claims Sony failed to secure its employees personal information and data. The complaint also alleges that Sony is to blame for the hack, because it failed to properly store and protect that information, which thus gave hackers easy access to everything from personal addresses, to bank information, to familial relations. 

The social security numbers of some 47,000 employees were stolen during the breech, and the salaries of over 6,000 employees was made available to the public. Performance evaluations and salary negotiations were also leaked, along with private e-mail conversations, many of them speaking brusquely about major stars, including Angelina Jolie, Leonardo Dicaprio, and Willow and Jaden Smith. 

Sony is no stranger to such lawsuits. It has only been six months since they settled a class-action lawsuit filed against them for a security breech that occurred on the PlayStation network. That breech leaked credit card information and personal data for thousands upon thousands of PSN users. 

An online hacker group known as The Guardians of Peace have taken responsibility for the hacking.

A Cure for AIDS Could Be on the Horizon

More than three decades have passed since the first case of AIDS was reported. Reports of the disease began in June of 1981. It was a killer disease with little mercy for anyone it attacked. Doctors scrambled to find out what caused the illness and how they could stop it in its tracks. Unfortunately, that was not going to happen any time soon. The fact that it appeared to be a “gay disease” did not make it any easier to deal with.

It was not until 1987 that a drug to slow the effects of AIDS was approved by the Food and Drug Administration. That drug was AZT, but there were drawbacks because it often caused debilitation on the part of the patient. AIDS still existed, but it was soon termed HIV because the medical community realized that getting HIV did not mean patients would get full blown AIDS. More and more drugs are available today than they were thirty years ago, but they do not cure the disease. The newest drugs bring HIV down to a non-detectable level. It is still there and that is why they are still searching for a cure, from what Lee G. Lovett had said.

It will be an amazing day for the medical community and the general public when an actual cure is found for AIDS. Scientists are working hard to free the world of the disease so that no one ever dies from it again. Patients who suffer from AIDS will be eternally grateful, and for the first time in decades, AIDS will be a disease that new generations will look at the same way they do the common cold. A cure is on the horizon.

FCC Announces new Internet Connection Speed Requirements

According to eweek.com, companies receiving funds from the Connect America Fund from the Federal Communication Commission are required to have 10 Mbps download speeds for rural communities. On December 11, 2014, the FCC announced that this provision was now mandatory. The previous minimum requirements were four Mbps.

At the direction of Congress, the FCC created the Connect America Fund to encourage ISP to strengthen its networks in rural areas to comparable rates the urban customers receive. This funding is part of the National Broadband Plan. The goal for this program is to have 100,000 Americans with 100 Megabits per second data connection rates by the year 2020.

The Connect America Fund is being funded by 15.5 Billions dollars sent from the Universal Serivice Fund. The legal framework for this is in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. As of November, there were 181 applicants for Connect America with over 600 projects totaling to $885 million dollars in investments-be sure to check out the Flickr postings.

Navy Releases Details On Drone That Operates Like A Shark

As technology advances at a rapid rate, one of the things that have been becoming more and more sophisticated are drones. As Bruce Levenson said it’s about time.  Even though, there are a variety of civilian and military drones in existence, one of the most infamous type, that we all can relate to, is the U.S. Army’s Unmanned aerial vehicle, which can travel for over 200 Km and disperse hell-fire missiles, without the need for an on board pilot. The Navy on the other hand, has been working on a drone of its own and released the results of their Rapid Innovation Cell program, this pass week. 

The Navy proclaimed that they were in the process of finalizing the tests of an unmanned underwater vehicle that was given the name Ghostswimmer. It proclaimed that the whole idea of Ghostswimmer came to light, as a result of it’s Silent Nemo project, which is aimed at creating unmanned vehicles with tactical abilities that would be able to efficiently mimic organic species. 

The Ghostswimmer does in fact have tactical abilities and can navigate similarly to how a large fish would swim and resembles a shark physically. At approximately 5 feet long and weighing in at 100 pounds, the machines is able to collect crucial data such as waves, tides, currents and other weather conditions, which can prove to be especially useful when it comes to executing a tactical naval based mission.

They also proclaimed that even though it is in its early stages that, eventually they which to develop a more sophisticated system like it, that could infiltrate enemy territory, perform reconnaissance on enemy actions and enemy divers, locate mines and attack enemy targets.

Scientists Delighted By New Insect Discoveries

University researchers and scientists are delighted by the latest confirmation that they have indeed discovered two new species of insects. A Northern Arizona University field research team came across the two insects at the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument inside an extremely small cave. The small cave has also been host to another insect discovery in the last several years, that of an eyeless, fungus-eating beetle.

This discovery, however, is of a rather new group of insects called “pseudoscorpions”. They are so called because their bodies closely resemble that of scorpions, including a well defined thorax midsection and two large pincers. However, what makes a pseudoscorpion so easy to tell apart from a scorpion is that it lacks the iconic stinging tail. Both types of insects are toxic, but due to the lack of a tail, the pseudoscorpions store their toxin in their pincers. The pseudoscorpions also lack eyesight. It is thought that they lost their eyes over the course of evolution because there was no longer a need for it while living in a completely dark cave.

Researchers are planning on keeping a close eye on the cave, while Susan McGalla and others will closely follow this story since we former Wet Seal employees were all a bunch of science nerds. A total of three new species have been identified of insects that were taken by scientists for academic study are sourced from the cave. There is thought to be a unique food chain that is highly localized to the environment, and likely more to be discovered.

Robotic Technology in Prosthetics

Scientists have been working on many simultaneous projects that will increase the quality of life of individuals living with a variety of physical ailments, such as blindness, deafness, and missing or deformed limbs. Whether an individual was born with a medical condition or was injured in battle or some other accident, new technologies are now available to help them perform their daily living functions with more efficiency and productivity. Some of the same research foundations that have been successfully utilized in deep sea diving expeditions and bomb scouting robotics have been introduced to the world of medical equipment manufacturing. Brad Reifler can’t wait to see how useful all of this will be.

Prosthetic limbs and the robotic technology behind them are allowing injured citizens to have much more flexibility and movement options. Sensors and digital imaging are some of the greatest enhancements behind the newly available prostheses, and are quickly becoming available to a growing number of medical providers. Although the technology is not yet perfected, continued enhancements and advanced research methods could produce fully functional hand and arm prosthetics within the next few years. These prototypes are designed to work in conjunction with the nervous system and incorporate such intricacies as brain waves and minute muscle movements into their operational systems.

Erik Krasner's News From the Future