Chinese Worm the Latest Turn in Cyber-War

Tom Chmielewski : October 7, 2013 9:26 pm : News

The plot is chilling. A cyber-mercenary gang known as “Icefog” operating out of China unleashes its insidious worm “Dagger Three” to infiltrate computers of foreign governments and their defense contractors, steal vital secrets, then leaves in an electronic mist before anyone is the wiser.

Sounds like a job for James Bond, though maybe he’s too old school. Perhaps they can resurrect Jason Bourne for this movie, or just find some high school sophomore geek. more »

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One-Way to Mars: Is it the only way?

Tom Chmielewski : August 27, 2013 7:49 am : Mars exploration, News

Artist depiction of habitats to house Mars One colonists. Image courtesy Mars One Foundation

Artist depiction of habitats to house Mars One colonists. Image courtesy Mars One Foundation

No, but maybe sending colonists first is the better way

If you want to go to Mars, you only have a few days left to apply.

But if you want a round trip ticket, you’re going to have to wait a while longer.

The plan of the Mars One Foundation to send would-be colonists to Mars on a one-way trip, four colonists at a time, seems at first glance an audacious if not cruel endeavor. Yes, they will be volunteers, but can anyone truly understand ahead of time what it would be like for four individuals to arrive on a barren planet, a land more inhospitable than any colonist has attempted to settle before, and come to grips with the reality that there is no chance to return to Earth? more »

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“Wheels down on Mars”

Tom Chmielewski : August 6, 2012 11:07 am : News

One of the first photos sent back by the Martian rover Curiosity after it landed early Monday, June 6, Pacific Time. The photo shows one of Curiosity’s wheels. (Credit NASA/JPL)

That call at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory confirmed the rover and robotic laboratory Curiosity landed safely on Mars late Sunday night Pacific Time. An anxious crowd of controllers, engineers and scientists at the JPL control room erupted into cheers, applause, hugs and a collective sigh of relief that Curiosity survived the feared “seven minutes of terror” as it dove through the Martian atmosphere, opened its giant parachute, ignited its rocket-powered sky crane that slowed it to a hover, and finally the crane lowered Curiosity gently to the surface for “wheels down on Mars.”

Curiosity apparently wasn’t terrified at all. Whatever intelligence was built into the rover, anxiety wasn’t part of the deal. Controllers kept reporting a normal electronic heartbeat from Curiosity throughout the landing procedure, a spectacular procedure never tried on an alien planet before. Despite all the preflight tests, the JPL staff couldn’t help but be nervous about it, fearing a spectacular failure that could doom future missions.

But Curiosity did all it was supposed to do, on time, no problems, and landed in a cloud of dust without so much as a “hi ho, Silver” or a robotic “yippee!” It just sent back some quick electronic postcards showing the Martian surface, Curiosity’s way of saying, “Wish you were here.”

So say we all.


A machine will land, but the explorers are human

Tom Chmielewski : August 2, 2012 5:23 pm : News


NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, a mobile robot for investigating Mars’ past or present ability to sustain microbial life, depicted in an artist illustration on the surface of Mars. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

My posts on this site have stressed that good science fiction is not about machines and high tech. It’s about people. But what about science news?

The big news right now out of NASA is about this weekend‘s landing of NASA’s Martian Science Laboratory, a car-sized, nuclear-powered rover called Curiosity. When it attempts to land on Mars this late Sunday night Pacific Time, all eyes will be on a machine, right?

Not really. more »

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A great day for physicists

Tom Chmielewski : July 5, 2012 3:20 pm : News

July 4 was one of those exceptional, watershed days for physicists. Years from now, a group of lucky physicists will still smugly tell colleagues and awe-inspired students, “I was there when they announced the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle.”

The rest of us will likely go, “Huh?”

You have to understand, this is a pretty big deal. Just read what someone who was there had to say about it. more »

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