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Posts Tagged ‘Hugh Pickens’

Want To Buy a Used Spaceport?

January 6th, 2013 01:32 admin View Comments

Businesses

Hugh Pickens writes writes “Want to buy a 15,000-foot landing strip? How about a place to assemble rocket ships or a parachute-packing plant? Have we got a deal for you. The Orlando Sentinel reports that with the cleanup and wind-down of the shuttle program, NASA is quietly holding a going-out-of-business sale for the its space-shuttle facilities including Launch Pad 39A, where shuttles were launched; space in the Vehicle Assembly Building, the iconic 526-foot-tall structure first used to assemble Saturn V-Apollo rockets; the Orbiter Processing Facilities, essentially huge garages where the shuttles were maintained; Hangar N and its high-tech test equipment; the launch-control center; and various other buildings and chunks of undeveloped property. ‘The facilities out here can’t be in an abandoned state for long before they become unusable,’ says Joyce Riquelme, NASA’s director of KSC planning and development. ‘So we’re in a big push over the next few months to either have agreements for these facilities or not.’ The process is mostly secret, because NASA has agreed to let bidders declare their proposals proprietary, keeping them out of the view of competitors and the public. Frank DiBello, thinks the most attractive facilities are those that can support launches that don’t use the existing pads at KSC and adjacent Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. ‘Anything that still has cleaning capabilities or satellite-processing capabilities, the parachute facility, the tile facility, the OPF, all three of them, they have real value to the next generation of space activity,’ says Frank DiBello, President of Space Florida, an Independent Special District of the State of Florida, created to foster the growth and development of a sustainable and world-leading space industry in Florida. ‘If the infrastructure helps you reach market, then it has value. If it doesn’t, then it’s just a building, it’s just a launchpad, and nobody wants it.’”

Source: Want To Buy a Used Spaceport?

‘Gorilla Arm’ Will Keep Touch Screens From Taking Over

January 6th, 2013 01:20 admin View Comments

Input Devices

Hugh Pickens writes “With Windows 8, Microsoft has made a billion-dollar gamble that personal computing is taking a new direction and that new direction is touch, says David Pogue. It’s efficient on a touchscreen tablet. But Microsoft expects us to run Windows 8 on our tens of millions of everyday PCs. Although touch has been incredibly successful on our phones, tablets, airport kiosks and cash machines, Pogue says touch will never take over on PCs. The reason? Gorilla Arms. There are three big differences between tablet screens and a PC’s screen: angle, distance and time interval. The problem is ‘the tingling ache that [comes] from extending my right arm to manipulate that screen for hours, an affliction that has earned the nickname of gorilla arm.’ Some experts say gorilla arm is what killed touch computing during its first wave in the early 1980s but Microsoft is betting that Windows 8 will be so attractive that we won’t mind touching our PC screens, at least until the PC concept fades away entirely. ‘My belief is that touch screens make sense on mobile computers but not on stationary ones,’ concludes Pogue. ‘Microsoft is making a gigantic bet that I’m wrong.’”

Source: ‘Gorilla Arm’ Will Keep Touch Screens From Taking Over

Al Jazeera Gets a US Voice

January 5th, 2013 01:59 admin View Comments

The Media

Hugh Pickens writes “The NY Times reports that Al Jazeera plans to start an English-language channel available in more than 40 million U.S. homes, with newscasts emanating from both New York and Doha, Qatar. They announced a deal to take over Current TV, the low-rated cable channel that was founded by Al Gore seven years ago. But the challenge will be persuading Americans to watch the award winning network with 71 bureaus around the world — an extremely tough proposition given the crowded television marketplace and the stereotypes about the channel that persist to this day. ‘There are still people who will not watch it, who will say that it’s a “terrorist network,”‘ says Philip Seib. ‘Al Jazeera has to override that by providing quality news.’ With a handful of exceptions, American cable and satellite distributors have mostly refused to carry Al Jazeera English since its inception in 2006. While the television sets of White House officials and lawmakers were tuned to the channel during the Arab Spring in 2011, ordinary Americans who wanted to watch had to find a live stream on the Internet. Al Jazeera’s Robert Wheelock said, We offer an alternative. It’s a broader coverage of news. It’s a broader spectrum into countries that aren’t traditionally covered.’”

Source: Al Jazeera Gets a US Voice

Facebook Lands Drunk Driving Teen In Jail

January 5th, 2013 01:18 admin View Comments

Crime

Hugh Pickens writes “The Washington Post reports that 18-year-old Jacob Cox-Brown has been arrested after telling his Facebook network that he had hit a car while driving drunk, posting the message: ‘Drivin drunk … classsic ;) but to whoever’s vehicle i hit i am sorry. :P’ Two of Cox-Brown’s friends saw the message and sent it along to two separate local police officers and after receiving the tip, police went to Cox-Brown’s house and were able to match a vehicle there to one that had hit two others in the early hours of the morning. Police then charged the teen with two counts of failing to perform the duties of a driver. ‘Astoria Police have an active social media presence,’ says a press release from Astoria Police. ‘It was a private Facebook message to one of our officers that got this case moving, though. When you post … on Facebook, you have to figure that it is not going to stay private long.’”

Source: Facebook Lands Drunk Driving Teen In Jail

Oregon Lawmakers Propose Mileage Tax On Fuel Efficient Vehicles

January 3rd, 2013 01:47 admin View Comments

Government

Hugh Pickens writes writes “Facing a $10 billion dollar revenue shortfall for transportation financing, the Oregon Legislature is expected to consider a bill to require drivers with a vehicle getting at least 55 miles per gallon of gasoline to pay a per-mile tax after 2015 to offset the loss in tax revenue for fuel efficient cars at the gas pump where the government has traditionally collected money to build and fix roads. Oregonians currently pay 30 cents per gallon, a tax that is automatically added at the pump but as cars become more fuel efficient and alternative fuel sources are identified, state officials project gas tax revenue will decline. ‘Everybody uses the road, and if some pay and some don’t, then that’s an unfair situation that’s got to be resolved,’ says Jim Whitty of the Department of Transportation. Opponents of the Oregon proposal say it will hurt a new industry. ‘It will be one more obstacle that the industry and auto dealers will face in convincing consumers to buy these new cars,’ says Paul Cosgrove, a lobbyist for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. Other states, such as Nevada and Washington, are also looking at a per-mile charge and a Washington law that would charge electric car owners an annual fee goes into effect in February. Oregon did a pilot study of the mileage tax (PDF) where participants paid 1.56 cents per mile and got a credit for any gasoline tax they paid at the pump. According to the study although initial media portrayals of the system were almost uniformly negative 91% of test participants preferred the mileage tax to paying gas taxes.”

Source: Oregon Lawmakers Propose Mileage Tax On Fuel Efficient Vehicles

The Copyright Battle Over Custom-Built Batmobiles

January 3rd, 2013 01:07 admin View Comments

Transportation

Hugh Pickens writes writes “Eriq Gardner writes that Warner Brothers is suing California resident Mark Towle, a specialist in customizing replicas of automobiles featured in films and TV shows, for selling replicas of automobiles from the 1960s ABC series Batman by arguing that copyright protection extends to the overall look and feel of the Batmobile. The case hinges on what exactly is a Batmobile — an automobile or a piece of intellectual property? Warner attorney J. Andrew Coombs argues in legal papers that the Batmobile incorporates trademarks with distinctive secondary meaning and that by selling an unauthorized replica, Towle is likely to confuse consumers about whether the cars are DC products are not. Towle’s attorney Larry Zerner, argues that automobiles aren’t copyrightable. ‘It is black letter law that useful articles, such as automobiles, do not qualify as “sculptural works” and are thus not eligible for copyright protection,’ writes Zerner adding that a decision to affirm copyright elements of automotive design features could be exploited by automobile manufacturers. ‘The implications of a ruling upholding this standard are easy to imagine. Ford, Toyota, Ferrari and Honda would start publishing comic books, so that they could protect what, up until now, was unprotectable.’”

Source: The Copyright Battle Over Custom-Built Batmobiles

Trip To Mars Could Damage Astronauts’ Brains

January 2nd, 2013 01:00 admin View Comments

Mars

Hugh Pickens writes writes “Alex Knapp reports that research by a team at the Rochester Medical Center suggests that exposure to the radiation of outer space could accelerate the onset of Alzheimer’s disease in astronauts. ‘Galactic cosmic radiation poses a significant threat to future astronauts… Exposure to … equivalent to a mission to Mars could produce cognitive problems and speed up changes in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease’ says M. Kerry O’Banio. Researchers exposed mice with known timeframes for developing Alzheimer’s to the type of low-level radiation that astronauts would be exposed to over time on a long space journey. The mice were then put through tests that measured their memory and cognitive ability and the mice exposed to radiation showed significant cognitive impairment. It’s not going to be an easy problem to solve, either. The radiation the researchers used in their testing is composed of highly charged iron particles, which are relatively common in space. ‘Because iron particles pack a bigger wallop it is extremely difficult from an engineering perspective to effectively shield against them,’ says O’Banion. ‘One would have to essentially wrap a spacecraft in a six-foot block of lead or concrete.’”

Source: Trip To Mars Could Damage Astronauts’ Brains

Antivirus Software Performs Poorly Against New Threats

January 2nd, 2013 01:11 admin View Comments

Security

Hugh Pickens writes “Nicole Perlroth reports in the NY Times that the antivirus industry has a dirty little secret: antivirus products are not very good at stopping new viruses. Researchers collected and analyzed 82 new computer viruses and put them up against more than 40 antivirus products, made by top companies like Microsoft, Symantec, McAfee and Kaspersky Lab and found that the initial detection rate was less than 5 percent (PDF). ‘The bad guys are always trying to be a step ahead,’ says Matthew D. Howard, who previously set up the security strategy at Cisco Systems. ‘And it doesn’t take a lot to be a step ahead.’ Part of the problem is that antivirus products are inherently reactive. Just as medical researchers have to study a virus before they can create a vaccine, antivirus makers must capture a computer virus, take it apart and identify its ‘signature’ — unique signs in its code — before they can write a program that removes it. That process can take as little as a few hours or as long as several years. In May, researchers at Kaspersky Lab discovered Flame, a complex piece of malware that had been stealing data from computers for an estimated five years. ‘The traditional signature-based method of detecting malware is not keeping up,’ says Phil Hochmuth. Now the thinking goes that if it is no longer possible to block everything that is bad, then the security companies of the future will be the ones whose software can spot unusual behavior and clean up systems once they have been breached. ‘The bad guys are getting worse,’ says Howard. ‘Antivirus helps filter down the problem, but the next big security company will be the one that offers a comprehensive solution.’”

Source: Antivirus Software Performs Poorly Against New Threats

US Firms Race Fiscal Cliff To Install Wind Turbines

December 31st, 2012 12:50 admin View Comments

Government

Hugh Pickens writes writes “BBC reports that US energy companies are racing to install wind turbines before a federal tax credit expires at the end of this year which could be lost as congress struggles with new legislation to avoid the ‘fiscal cliff.’ ‘There’s a lot of rushing right now to get projects completed by the end of the year,’ says Rob Gramlich, senior vice president at the American Wind Energy Association. ‘There’s a good chance we could get this extension, it is very hard to predict, but the industry is not making bets on the Congress getting it done,’ Even if there is an extension there is likely to be a significant curtailment of wind installations in 2013. From 1999 to 2004, Congress allowed the wind energy production tax credit (PTC) to expire three times, each time retroactively extending it several months after the expiration deadline had passed but wind energy companies say they need longer time frames to negotiate deals to sell the power they generate. ‘Even if the tax credit is extended, our new construction plans likely will be ramped back substantially in 2013 compared with the last few years,’ says Paul Copleman. ‘So much time has passed without certainty that a normal one-year extension would not be a game-changer for our 2013 build plans.’”

Source: US Firms Race Fiscal Cliff To Install Wind Turbines

The Power of a Hot Body

December 31st, 2012 12:08 admin View Comments

Technology

Hugh Pickens writes writes “Depending on the level of activity, the human body generates about 60 to 100 Watts of energy in the form of heat, about the same amount of heat given off by the average light bulb. Now Diane Ackerman writes in the NY Times that architects and builders are finding ways to capture this excess body heat on a scale large enough to warm homes and office buildings. At Stockholm’s busy hub, Central Station, engineers harness the body heat issuing from 250,000 railway travelers to warm the 13-story Kungsbrohuset office building about 100 yards away. First, the station’s ventilation system captures the commuters’ body heat, which it uses to warm water in underground tanks. From there, the hot water is pumped to Kungsbrohuset’s heating pipes, which ends up saving about 25 percent on energy bills. Kungsbrohuset’s design has other sustainable elements as well. The windows are angled to let sunlight flood in, but not heat in the summer. Fiber optics relay daylight from the roof to stairwells and other non-window spaces that in conventional buildings would cost money to heat. Constructing the new heating system, including installing the necessary pumps and laying the underground pipes, only cost the firm about $30,000, says Karl Sundholm, a project manager at Jernhusen, a Stockholm real estate company, and one of the creators of the system. “It pays for itself very quickly,” Sundholm adds. “And for a large building expected to cost several hundred million kronor to build, that’s not that much, especially since it will get 15% to 30% of its heat from the station.”"

Source: The Power of a Hot Body

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