Future of military aviation lies with drones
Unmanned aircraft likely represent the future for US military aviation with next generation bombers and fighter planes operating without pilots onboard, the top US military officer said on Thursday.
"We're at a real time of transition here in terms of the future of aviation, and the whole issue of what's going to be manned and what's going to be unmanned," Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Senate hearing. "I think we're at the beginning of this change," Mullen said when asked about plans for developing a new bomber aircraft. The use of drones has dramatically expanded just in the past few years, he said.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates told the same hearing that military planners needed to answer the question whether a new bomber would have a pilot in the cockpit or operate as unmanned aircraft.
Appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Mullen said that Lockheed Martin's Joint Strike Fighter now being built could be the last manned fighter jet before robotic planes take over that role.
"I mean, there are those that see JSF as the last manned fighter," Mullen said of the F-35. "I'm one that's inclined to believe that."
The US military and intelligence agencies now use thousands of drones, ranging from small one meter (three feet) long aircraft that can be thrown into the air by hand to the larger Global Hawk with a wingspan of 35 meters (116 feet), in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Although Gates has pushed for cuts in expensive weapons systems -- including plans for expanding the fleet of F-22 fighter jets -- his proposed budget for fiscal 2010 calls for increasing funding for unmanned drones, including Predators and the newer Reapers.
"This is one of the significant growth areas in the budget," Gates said.
The defense secretary's budget calls for spending two billion on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, with much of the money going to drones.
"We will ramp to build 48 Reapers a year during this budget," Gates said. "We are really placing a major bet in this area."
Google to reshoot Japan Street Views after privacy complaints
US Internet giant Google has decided to reshoot Street View photos in Japan following complaints from people who said public images of their homes violated their privacy. The company's Japanese unit announced the decision Wednesday, saying it would take new photographs with the cameras set lower so the images accessible via net-based maps would not show photos looking into people's houses. The company has also blurred vehicle license plates in the service. Google said on its Japanese website that the company wished to provide the new service in a way that is socially acceptable in Japan.
Launched two years ago in the United States, Street View gives Google users a 360-degree view of streets. The service in Japan is now available to show images from major cities. The move in Japan came after various municipalities and citizens groups accused the company of violating people's privacy by publishing the photos of private houses and community streets without owners' consent. Japan is not unique in worrying about the Internet feature. Earlier this week, Greece's data protection agency barred Google from taking any more images for its Street View feature until the company explains the service and its privacy safeguards. An American court earlier this year rejected a privacy suit by a couple whose house was shown on Street View.
Innovation Fuels Begins Selling Biodiesel To Customers In Milwaukee
Innovation Fuels has announced it has begun selling biodiesel to customers from its Midwestern renewable fuels hub / Port of Milwaukee terminal located on Lake Michigan. The 312,000 barrel (45,000 metric tons) capacity terminal located on ten (10) acres is the first in the country that is totally dedicated for the sale and distribution of renewable fuels.
Originally built as Shell Oil's Milwaukee headquarters in the 1950's and acquired from NuStar Energy L.P., the Innovation Fuels terminal includes a 20,000 square foot warehouse, executive offices and a garage. John Fox, CEO for Innovation Fuels commented, "The commencement of selling biodiesel via our Milwaukee terminal will significantly lower the cost of our biodiesel to customers in the Great Lakes due to lower transportation charges."
"We also bring along a mindset of quality at a reasonable price, which is backed by our BQ9000 credentials as a marketer and producer in the Northeast United States," added Fox.
"It is highly advantageous for us to be marketing Milwaukee based biodiesel to customers in Milwaukee and greater Wisconsin as well as to Chicago and the entire Midwestern region."
"This signifies only the beginning of using this facility as an actual renewable fuels hub in the Midwest," remarked Richard "Hardy" Sawall, Innovation Fuels SVP for Midwest Operations.
"We expect to announce plans for additional capabilities including biodiesel blending very shortly."
Innovation Fuels' Milwaukee terminal features existing truck and rail loading infrastructure, with excellent highway access and is served by two Class I railways, the Union Pacific Railroad and the Canadian Pacific Railroad. In addition, the Port of Milwaukee has international shipping access via the St. Lawrence Seaway and can receive river barge cargo via the Mississippi. The facility also has an idled connection to the Westshore petroleum pipeline, which could be used to bring in diesel and gasoline to the terminal for blending with renewable fuels, such as biodiesel and ethanol.
Garland Middendorf, President of Wolf Lake Terminals, Innovation Fuels' operations partner for the Milwaukee terminal commented, "This is indeed a momentous occasion as we begin to promote and distribute renewable fuels in Milwaukee. Our partnership with Innovation Fuels signifies our commitment to the growth of sustainable energy and to become an industry leader both in the Midwest and across the US".
Top 10 Things You Don't Know
Orbiting 350 miles above Earth for the past 19 years, the Hubble Space Telescope has allowed scientists to peer deep into the cosmos, sending them astonishing images of newborn stars and colliding galaxies from the earliest moments of the universe. But there's more than meets the eye for this ground-breaking telescope.
How much do you really know about the beloved Hubble? Here are 10 things you probably don't know yet.
1. NASA's "Comeback Kid" started out as a failure.
Now, it's an international sensation, widely known as the "people's telescope." But that wasn't always the case.
"It is now viewed as this unqualified success that has transformed our knowledge of the universe," said Roger Launius, senior curator for the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. "I've heard it compared to, in terms of its impacts, the same level of change as when Galileo first turned his homemade telescope on Jupiter in 1609."
But "the telescope began life being viewed as a flop," he said.
A measuring error in the grinding of the mirror prevented the telescope from focusing light properly. As a result, soon after its launch in April 1990, the photos sent back to Earth were fuzzy disappointments.
Hubble's $3 Billion Flaw
The mirror was ever so slightly the wrong shape, which caused light that bounced off the center of the mirror to focus in a different place than the light bouncing off the edge. The flaw was minuscule -- 1/50th the thickness of a sheet of paper -- but it made a significant difference.
"[There were] NASA scientists that stood up and said, "It's a total loss," Launius said of Hubble's early days.
Members of Congress, including Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., who was, and still is, a big NASA supporter, were livid that this had taken place.
"This was such a failure, to the tune of $3 billion," he said.
Thankfully, the telescope's first servicing mission in December 1993 was a success. After spending 11 months training for what is considered to be one of the most complex missions, astronauts installed a series of small mirrors to fix the flaw.
"They had figured out some ways to work around that problem," Launius said. "But it took a while to generate some of the images that we've seen."
In Hollywood, Hubble's a Star, Too
2. Like us, Hubble can't look directly at the sun.
Hubble has photographed every planet in the solar system, with one exception: Mercury.
The solar system's innermost planet is too close to the sun for Hubble to observe. The sun's bright light would permanently damage its optics and electronics.
Mercury's angular separation from the sun is always less than 28 degrees, which means that it's never out of the sun's glare and, therefore, off limits for the Hubble.
3. It's a pop-culture icon.
Hubble and its images have also had their share of cameo appearances in Hollywood flicks and TV shows.
When "Naked Gun 2 1/2" came out in 1991, Hubble was still a national laughingstock.
In the movie, it was pictured in the Blue Moon Cafe on a wall of failures, smack in the middle of the Titanic and the Hindenberg.
Imagery from Hubble has also been spotted in the movies "Happy Feet" and "Contact."
For the album cover of its 2000 release "Binaura," Pearl Jam used an image of Hubble's "Hourglass Nebula."
4. Hubble's namesake almost chose the law over astronomy.
When the U.S. Postal Service released a special 41-cent for Edwin Hubble in 2008, they called him a "pioneer of the distant stars."
But Hubble was close to choosing another path for himself. Born in Missouri in 1889, Hubble studied math and astronomy as an undergrad but then went on to study law as one of the first Rhode Scholars at Oxford University. He reportedly moved to Kentucky to practice law. But the pull of the cosmos was too great. Hubble spent most of his career at California's Mt. Wilson observatory.
He is credited with many discoveries but most notably for observing that the farther apart galaxies are from each other, the faster they move away from each other. Based on this, Hubble concluded that the universe expands uniformly.
When the Hubble Space Telescope launched, one of its goals was to figure out this expansion rate, called the Hubble Constant.
Hubble Images as Works of Art
5. Hubble images are held from the public for one year.
In its 19-year-career, Hubble has made about 880,000 observations and has released about 570,000 images of the universe.
But before any of those images are shown to the public, they are held in a proprietary waiting period. For one year, the scientist (or scientists) involved in the project that took the image have the exclusive opportunity to review the data.
Scientists can elect to forego the waiting period but, the research world being as competitive as it is, that rarely happens.
6. Hubble's masterpieces have debuted at the museum.
Not only has Hubble penetrated Hollywood, it has also found its way into the rarefied world of the fine arts.
Science aside, many of Hubble's images are astoundingly beautiful. The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore displayed a number of Hubble's iconic images last year in the exhibit "Mapping the Cosmos: Images from the Hubble Space Telescope."
More than 20 images were on display at the museum.
"It is really gratifying to see these pictures, constructed from Hubble's science data, among the beautiful, classical art in the Walters Art Museum," Zoltan Levay, senior image processor at the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, said at the time. "I hope visitors can enjoy the images as photographs of the cosmic landscapes, but also as artistic abstractions from nature."
7. It has more than 3 billion miles under its belt.
Every 96 minutes, Hubble makes one orbit around Earth. In its lifetime, it has circled Earth more than 100,000 times, traveling about 5 miles per second. In all, the space telescope has traveled more than 3 billion miles, which is about the distance from Earth to Pluto.
How Do Scientists Score Time with Hubble?
8. Scientists have to apply for QT with the HST.
Bottom of Form
Everyone wants a piece of the Hubble, but it only has 3,000 available hours each year. To divvy up the time, a panel of internationally renowned scientists at the Space Telescope Science Institute reviews proposals submitted by teams of scientists around the world.
"The proposals are ranked according to, in their opinion, what is the most challenging, the most important, what science can be gained from these proposals," said Cheryl Gundy, the institute's deputy news manager. "The director of the institute makes the final decision, parceling out the Hubble's time."
Some teams may only get a couple of minutes with the telescope, but even a window of time that small is highly coveted.
9. As far as telescopes go, Hubble is only average-sized.
It looks large when we see the school-bus sized telescope next to the floating astronauts. But NASA scientists say it's actually not that big for a telescope.
Hubble's primary mirror is about 8 feet in diameter, much smaller than the 34-foot mirror in the world's largest telescope, the Great Canary Telescope on the island of La Palma, part of the Canary Islands. The mirror for the Keck telescope in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, is about 25 feet.
"It's very average," said Malcolm Niedner, the Hubble deputy senior project scientist. "I'd love to have it in my backyard but it's not a large telescope."
But Hubble makes up for its size with incredible optics and design. Most importantly, Niedner said, its placement outside Earth's atmosphere enables it to see greater distances with greater clarity than any other telescope.
Hubble's Golden Years
10. Hubble is preparing to hand the reins over to its successor.
The massive Hubble makeover is expected to give the space telescope about five more years. If all goes according to plan, it should retire just as astronauts launch the heir to NASA's space telescope throne: The James Webb Space Telescope.
Slated for launch in 2014, the replacement telescope will have a mirror 21.3 feet in diameter and a sunshield the size of a tennis court. As opposed to Hubble's humble 350 mile orbit, the Webb telescope will orbit 1 million miles from Earth, which means that the days of risky servicing missions, for better or for worse, will end with Hubble.
But the telescope, named for James E. Webb, NASA's second administrator, will be able to explore the most distant galaxies and give scientists even more information about the earliest moments of the universe.
The Next Best Thing to You
Have you ever wished you could be in two places at once? Perhaps you've had the desire to create a copy of yourself that could stand in for you at a meeting, freeing you up to work on more pressing matters. Thanks to a research project called LifeLike, that fantasy might be a little closer to reality. Project LifeLike is a collaboration between the Intelligent Systems Laboratory (ISL) at the University of Central Florida (UCF) and the Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL) at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) that aims to create visualizations of people, or avatars, that are as realistic as possible. While their current results are far from perfect replications of a specific person, their work has advanced the field forward and opens up a host of possible applications in the not-too-distant future.
The EVL team, headed by Jason Leigh, an associate professor of computer science, is tasked with getting the visual aspects of the avatar just right. On the surface, this seems like a pretty straightforward task--anyone who has played a video game that features characters from movies or professional athletes is used to computer-generated images that look like real people.
But according to Leigh, it takes more than a good visual rendering to make an avatar truly seem like a human being. "Visual realism is tough," Leigh said in a recent interview. "Research shows that over 70% of communication is non-verbal," he said, and is dependent on subtle gestures, variations in a person's voice and other variables.
To get these non-verbal aspects right, the EVL team has to take precise 3-D measurements of the person that Project LifeLike seeks to copy, capturing the way their face moves and other body language so the program can replicate those fine details later.
The ISL team, headed by electrical engineering professor Avelino Gonzalez, focuses on applying artificial intelligence capabilities to the avatars. This includes technologies that allow computers to recognize and correctly understand natural language as it is being spoken as well as automated knowledge update and refinement, a process that allows the computer to 'learn' information and data it receives and apply it independently. The end goal, Gonzalez says, is that a person conversing with the avatar will have the same level of comfort and interaction that they would have with an actual person. Gonzalez sees the aims of Project LifeLike as fundamental to the field of artificial intelligence.
New Web tool WolframAlpha poised for launch
While not a traditional Web search engine, a new challenger is emerging on Friday -- WolframAlpha, named after the man behind the venture, British-born scientist and inventor Stephen Wolfram.
Wolfram, who earned a PhD in theoretical physics from Caltech at the age of 20, is careful not to call his latest invention a search engine, describing it instead as a "computational knowledge engine."
Unlike Google, which takes a query and uses algorithms to return a series of links to relevant websites, WolframAlpha.com takes a query and crunches through its databases to return answers.
"The basic idea of WolframAlpha is very simple," Wolfram said in an online presentation of his venture, which is scheduled to go live for a test run at 8:00 pm Friday (0000 GMT Saturday).
"You type your input, your question and WolframAlpha produces a result."
Danny Sullivan, editor-in-chief of SearchEngineLand.com, said in a telephone interview with AFP that WolframAlpha is a "really interesting tool."
"I try to describe it as a 'fact search engine' to help people understand the degree that it's different from Google," he said. "Google tends to point to stuff while (WolframAlpha) actually have some answers."
He said WolframAlpha was not presenting itself as a rival to Google "although they want to capture the general search audience too.
"They're saying they're not trying to wipe out Google but they feel they do the kinds of searches that Google doesn't handle," Sullivan said.
"If you're trying to get facts this might be a handy kind of encyclopedia for you.
However, Sullivan said the Massachusetts-based WolframAlpha "has some issues." "It can be kind of finicky," he said.
"It doesn't have answers to everything that you might try," Sullivan said. "So you tend to get sort of a dissatisfied feeling if you've done your search and it comes up with nothing for you." Another problem with WolframAlpha may revolve around sourcing, he said.
"Anytime you do a search they'll tell you where the data has come from and where they're pulling it from," he said. "But, you know, sources from all sorts of places can be wrong.
"So there will still be that issue where some people may feel like 'Hmm ... I don't know if I want to trust this,' in the same way that they don't want to trust Wikipedia sometimes," he said.
Wolfram, in his presentation, said WolframAlpha is a "long-term project which in many ways is just getting started.
"We're trying to take as much of the world's knowledge as possible and make it computable," he said. "So that anyone, anywhere can just go to the Web and use all that knowledge to compute answers to their specific questions."
Sullivan said he believed WolframAlpha's was the most ambitious search project in recent years outside of Microsoft's unsuccessful efforts to steal market share from Google.
"It's a fairly large project they've put together," he said. "They've got like 150 people."
Google dominates online search in the United States with a more than 64 percent share of the market followed by Yahoo! with 20 percent and Microsoft with less than 10 percent, according to industry tracking firms.
Sullivan said that as impressive as WolframAlpha may be, Google just might still be one step ahead.
He noted that the Mountain View, California, Web giant earlier this week unveiled a laboratory project called Google Squared which it plans to release later this month.
"What it does is actually trying to go beyond what Wolfram is doing," he said. "Wolfram is gathering information that's been all nicely and neatly put into databases and spreadsheets and everything.
"Google Squared is trying to find information from across the Web and automatically build those kind of spreadsheets for you."
Yahoo is Going Portuguese Hound to Outwit Twitter
According to David Ruiz, a blogger, systems analyst and senior programmer in Brazil, Yahoo has released a Twitter clone called Yahoo Meme in Portuguese. The Yahoo Meme is by invitation only. David Ruiz received his invitation to the alpha-version of the Twitter-like social networking site. Interestingly, Yahoo Meme uses a dog instead of the familiar Twitter bird.
Mr. Ruiz says the term "meme" is an adaptation of the scientific observations of Richard Dawkins in his book, "The Selfish Gene". On the Internet, a "meme" is used to describe a sort of fever of popular content available to everyone. In the Yahoo sense of the term for its new social networking site, Yahoo Meme, it is a term which expresses the notion of free and expanded, within the context of the original idea.
Simply put, Yahoo Meme is easy to access and easy to use. A click on the call, sign in and name your meme, attach your url, give a less than a 100 character description and you are Go. A screen lists all the meme images which allows users to verify who is meme-ing you. Users can post videos, images, music and text in the same way as Twitter. The search feature needs some tweaking, but it is pretty new.
According to Ruiz, the Alph-phase is closed and he has only a few invites available for distribution. He distinguishes Twitter from Memes conceptually, saying memes is more like the "fever" of the moment. The actual differences between Twitter and Yahoo Memes may be a distinction without a difference. Except Yahoo Memes is in the Portuguese language.
Thas All For the Technologicallly technicall Sci-FI-Shy NEWS
Thank uuu alll again for ur priceless patience
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