A Preview Of Coming Attractions

So much for Homeland Security. From Russia, without love, hitting us where it really hurts.

Foreign hackers targeted U.S. water plant in apparent malicious cyber attack, expert says

Foreign hackers caused a pump at an Illinois water plant to fail last week, according to a preliminary state report. Experts said the cyber-attack, if confirmed, would be the first known to have damaged one of the systems that supply Americans with water, electricity and other essentials of modern life.

Companies and government agencies that rely on the Internet have for years been routine targets of hackers, but most incidents have resulted from attempts to steal information or interrupt the functioning of Web sites. The incident in Springfield, Ill., would mark a departure because it apparently caused physical destruction.

See also:
Was U.S. water utility hacked last week?
Foreign cyber attack hits US infrastructure: expert
Illinois Water Utility Pump Destroyed After Hack
H(ackers)2O: Attack on City Water Station Destroys Pump
Cyberattack investigation centers on Curran-Gardner water pump
Feds investigating whether Illinois “pump failure” was cyber attack
Broken water pump in Illinois caused by cyber-attack from Russia, claims expert, but DOH denies terrorism
Cyberattack on Illinois water utility may confirm Stuxnet warnings
Water utility hackers destroy pump, expert says
UPDATE 3-U.S. probes cyber attack on water system

The SCADA vulnerabilities to a remote attack have been known for years. The solution is real simple, DON’T CONNECT YOUR CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE TO THE INTERNET!

/how hard is that, is it going to take a disaster for us to learn this basic lesson?

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Ghost Of The Sea

Is this the U.S. Nay’s follow on to the $195 million Sea Shadow program, the Sea Shadow that’s currently floating on the scrap heap, waiting to be dismantled?

New Stealth Boat Glides Over Gas Layer

A new kind of boat is designed to move quickly and stealthily through water by generating a layer of gas around its underwater surfaces.

The design reduces friction by a factor of 900, according to the New Hampshire company that produced the boat. Its smooth speed makes it ideal for special operations. It could also revolutionize shipping.

Juliet Marine recently unveiled the Ghost, a ship it says can reach speeds of up to 60 miles per hour. The shape of the craft is similar to earlier attempts at making watercraft less visible to radar — notably the Navy’s “Sea Shadow” project of the 1980s.

The phenomenon is called supercavitation. Supercavitation occurs when a projectile moving through water generates a low-pressure zone around its surface. Go fast enough and the low-pressure zone becomes a layer of gas. In that respect the Ghost is similar to a Russian-made torpedo (called the “Shkval,” or squall), though the underwater portion of the boat’s twin hulls are a new design.

See also:
Juliet Marine Systems, Inc. Announces the First Super-Cavitating Ship, GHOST
Stealth Boat Glides Over Gas Layer
‘Ghost’ craft comes into view
Ghost ship unveiled: Stealth vessel is ‘virtually unstoppable
GHOST Boats Will Prey on Pirates
Pirate-fighter vessel revealed by Juliet Marine
Juliet Marine Develops Offshore Anti-Piracy Platform
“Stealth” Boat Could Revolutionize Naval Warfare
Juliet Marine Systems

Given the massive debt hole the U.S. is already in and that the Sea Shadow ended up being scrapped, I’m not sure the Navy really needs a new “stealth boat” like the Ghost, especially if it’s primary purpose would be to combat pirates. Pirates, for the most part, don’t have radar. The problem isn’t sneaking up on them, the problem is finding them in the first place and we don’t need a “stealth boat” for that.

/the supercavitation technology does, however, appear to be extremely promising in terms of possible commercial shipping applications where time and fuel are money

Prices Double, Will There Be Trouble?

Will the sticker shock of these whopping price increases on life’s basic commodities be the final straw in Iran that breaks the back of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Mullahs’ theocratic regime? Are international economic sanctions finally working?

Prices in Iran rise after lifting of subsidies

The Iranian government’s removal of decades-old subsidies for food and energy in an attempt to boost its troubled economy has spurred price increases on everything from fruit and vegetables to gasoline, generated work stoppages and emboldened the political opposition.

In Tehran, the nation’s capital, taxi fares that officially were to rise by 10% shot much higher as drivers imposed their own price increases. Some truckers across the country refused to work, complaining of government threats to revoke their permits if they raised their prices to offset higher fuel costs.

Crews on ferry boats operating between Bandar Abbas port and Qeshm island in the Persian Gulf temporarily stopped working, complaining that the ticket prices set by the government had not gone up despite a four-fold increase in the price of fuel, the Mehr news agency reported.

The austerity measures, though long anticipated, have brought mounting public anger since they began Sunday. Government critics contend that they will hurt people with modest incomes while leaving the wealthy unscathed.

. . .

Already, the prices of produce, diesel, gasoline, cooking oil, water and bread have risen dramatically. In downtown Tehran, the price of a loaf of brick-oven bread doubled overnight to 40 cents. Security forces have been deployed around the country in case public frustration boils over into civil unrest.

See also:
Iran Braces for Backlash as Subsidies Nixed
Iran deploys police as gas, food prices go up
Police in Iran streets as subsidies are cut
Subsidy reforms threaten legitimacy of Ahmadinejad
Iran opposition: ‘Dark future’ awaits the economy
Iran doubles price of bread with subsidy cut
Fuel prices in Iran rise as latest subsidy reforms begin
Ahmadinejad cuts Iranian subsidies, quadrupling the price of gas
Prices to soar as Iran cuts subsidies

Now, if your food prices doubled and your gas prices quadrupled overnight by order of your government, wouldn’t you be a bit upset? Of course, the big question is whether the Iranian opposition can harness all this public frustration and whip it up into the overthrow of the Iranian regime, or will the Iranian regime, once again, crush the opposition and brutally repress the public anger?

You know, it would be nice if the Obama administration was paying attention here and seized this opportunity to support the Iranian opposition, unlike the last time there was a popular uprising in Iran, after the last Iranian elections, when Obama and the rest of his foreign policy Clown Posse basically ignored the Iranian opposition’s pleas for help.

/then again, Obama’s on vacation and heaven forbid that Lord Slacker should have to interrupt his vacation to help some peons in another country, far far way, it’s golfing time!

The Sun Is Angry

Don’t forget to duck.

Huge blasts of sun’s plasma hurtling toward Earth

A huge mass of magnetically charged material ejected from the sun is racing across space toward our planet, where it is expected to arrive on Tuesday. When it strikes the Earth’s magnetic field, it could produce spectacular auroras.

A blast of violent space weather could hit the Earth tomorrow following two massive explosions on the Sun. NASA astronomers witnessed a huge flare above a giant sunspot the size of our planet and linked to an even larger eruption across the surface of Sun.

Experts estimate a wave of supercharged gas called plasma will reach us this Tuesday when it will buffet the natural magnetic shield protecting Earth. It could trigger spectacular displays of the aurora or northern and southern lights.

The solar outbursts on Sunday August 1 were recorded by several satellites including NASA’s new Solar Dynamics Observatory which watched its shockwave rippling outwards. The flare over the sunspot was swiftly followed by an eruption 250,000 miles (400,000 km) away in a feature called a filament.

UK solar expert Dr Lucie Green, of the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, in Surrey, followed the flare-ups using Japan’s orbiting Hinode telescope.

She said last night: “What wonderful fireworks the Sun has been producing! This was a very rare event – not one, but two almost simultaneous eruptions from different locations on the sun were launched toward the Earth.

“These eruptions occur when immense magnetic structures in the solar atmosphere lose their stability and can no longer be held down by the sun’s huge gravitational pull. Just like a coiled spring suddenly being released, they erupt into space.

“It looks like the first eruption was so large that it changed the magnetic fields throughout half the Sun’s visible atmosphere and provided the right conditions for the second eruption. Both eruptions could be Earth-directed but may be travelling at different speeds. This means we have a very good chance of seeing major and prolonged effects, such as the northern lights at low latitudes.”

. . .

Scientists have warned that a really big solar eruption, like the Carrington Event witnessed from Surrey in 1859, could destroy satellites and wreck power and around the globe if it happened today.

Such an event would be the biggest disaster ever to hit mankind, preventing the production of essential supplies including food, water and medicines. Other eruptions have been observed directed towards us but thankfully less severe.

See also:
Coronal Mass Ejection Headed for Earth
Here comes the sun storm
Large solar storm headed our way
Solar plasma aurora storm to hit Earth tomorrow!
Solar Tsunami to Strike Earth Tonight
Solar light show expected tonight
Northern lights may shine in local skies
Solar blast may fire up Northern Lights
Northern lights could be visible from UK as Sun’s ‘solar tsunami’ sweeps towards Earth
Sun storms may bring northern lights farther south
Coronal Mass Ejection on Sun, Effects Can Be Seen in New England

So, enjoy the light show if it’s visible where you’re at and let’s hope we don’t suffer any fried satellites.

/eventually, the sun will destroy life on Earth and the Earth itself, but apparently not today

I’ll Take Machines That Play Jeopardy For $500, Trebek

What is Watson, Alex?

IBM supercomputer to appear on ‘Jeopardy’

What is the end of the world?

For some, it would be dedicating your life to appear on a TV game show. For others, it would be creating a machine that can prove itself better than anyone who dedicates their life to appear on a TV game show.

For myself, it seems clear that IBM has created something that will be the apogee of appointment television by honing a supercomputer to compete with the finest mailmen, insurance brokers, and nurses to prove that it can, well, find the question in the answer.

Yes, IBM’s Watson is, according to The New York Times, to appear on “Jeopardy!”!

Eric Brown, Watson’s research manager, said on the IBM video here embedded: “A question can be posed in natural language and, having read a whole bunch of information, data, documents, it can come up with a very precise answer to that question.”

This does sound very slightly like a large box of Google with human tendencies.

One of the Watson team members describes it in extremely romantic terms. He posits the “Jeopardy!” appearance as a competition between a human, who is all “carbon and water,” and Watson, rippling with its silicon and its unslippable disk.

See also:
Supercomputer plays ‘Jeopardy’
This supercomputer plans to beat humans on Jeopardy!
VIDEO: IBM’s Supercomputer to go on Jeopardy!
IBM’s Jeopardy! computer plays to win (and does)
There’s Nothing Elementary About IBM’s Remarkable Watson
What Is I.B.M.’s Watson?
IBM invites you to outwit supercomputer
The DeepQA Project
Watson Research Center

Oh sure, it’s a cute publicity stunt, man versus machine and all.

/but can Watson beat Ken Jennings?

There’s Water On That Thar Moon!

NASA Briefing To Reveal Evidence of Water on the Moon – Lots of It

Reliable sources report that there will be a press conference at NASA HQ at 2:00 pm this Thursday featuring lunar scientist Carle Pieters from Brown University.

The topic of the press briefing will be a paper that will appear in this week’s issue of Science magazine wherein results from the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3) aboard Chandrayaan-1 will be revealed.

The take home message: there is a lot of water on the Moon.

Water discovered on moon?: “A lot of it actually”

Speculation is rife among space scientists that the quest for water on the moon may have reached a climactic end with the discovery of “a lot of water” by an instrument on board Chandrayaan-I.

A report by the online space news portal, Space Ref, says this discovery, made by the Moon Mineralogy Mapper (developed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration) on board the Indian mission, will be the subject of a press conference, to be addressed by Carle Pieters, planetary geologist and principal investigator of the instrument, at the NASA headquarters on Thursday.

The Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3), an imaging spectrometer, was one of the 11 instruments on board Chandrayaan-I that came to a premature end on August 29. M3 was aimed at providing the first mineral map of the entire lunar surface.

Hinting at this exciting development, a recent report published by Nature News says: “Results soon to be published… will show detailed spectra confirming that, indeed, the polar regions of the moon are chockfull of water-altered minerals.”

Lunar scientists have for decades contended with the possibility of water repositories. They are now increasingly “confident that the decades-long debate is over,” the report says. “The moon, in fact, has water in all sorts of places; not just locked up in minerals, but scattered throughout the broken-up surface, and, potentially, in blocks or sheets of ice at depth.” The results from the NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter are also “offering a wide array of watery signals.

NASA Expected to Reveal Moon Mineral Mapper Shows A Lot of Water on the Moon

Water on the moon should be used to supply fuel for fuel depots in space to enable colonization and lower cost access to space.

See also:
Report: NASA to confirm presence of water on the moon
Did Chandrayaan find water on Moon’s surface?
Did Chandrayaan-1 confirm ice on the Moon?
LRO, Chandrayaan-1 Team Up For Unique Search for Water Ice
India’s Chandrayaan-1 and NASA join hands to search for water on the moon
Chandrayaan-1 (M3)
Chandrayaan-1
Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3
Moon Mineralogy Mapper (M3)
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter
Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO)
Back To The Moon

It’s too bad we can’t send men back to the moon to take advantage of this wonderful discovery because Obama is spending the $50 billion NASA needs to pay back his union buddies. What a corrupt, shameful shame.

/Obama Says, No Moon For You!