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Robotics

Halting Problem Proves That Lethal Robots Cannot Correctly Decide To Kill Humans 307

Posted by Soulskill
from the guess-we're-back-to-coinflips dept.
KentuckyFC writes: The halting problem is to determine whether an arbitrary computer program, once started, will ever finish running or whether it will continue forever. In 1936, Alan Turing famously showed that there is no general algorithm that can solve this problem. Now a group of computer scientists and ethicists have used the halting problem to tackle the question of how a weaponized robot could decide to kill a human. Their trick is to reformulate the problem in algorithmic terms by considering an evil computer programmer who writes a piece of software on which human lives depend.

The question is whether the software is entirely benign or whether it can ever operate in a way that ends up killing people. In general, a robot could never decide the answer to this question. As a result, autonomous robots should never be designed to kill or harm humans, say the authors, even though various lethal autonomous robots are already available. One curious corollary is that if the human brain is a Turing machine, then humans can never decide this issue either, a point that the authors deliberately steer well clear of.
Communications

Military Laser/Radio Tech Proposed As Alternative To Laying Costly Fiber Cable 150

Posted by samzenpus
from the amazing-saving-laser dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Californian comm-tech company Aoptix is testing new laser+radio hybrid communications technology with three major U.S. internet carriers. The equipment required can be bolted onto existing infrastructure, such as cell-tower masts, and can communicate a 2gbps stream over 6.5 miles. The system was developed over 10 years at a cost of $100 million in conjunction with the Air Force Research Laboratory, and the military implementation of it is called Aoptix Enhanced Air Ground Lasercom System (EAGLS). The laser component of the technology uses a deformable mirror to correct for atmospheric distortion over the mast-hop, in real-time. The laser part of the system is backed-up by a redundant radio transmitter. The radio component has low attenuation in rainy conditions with large refracting raindrops, while the laser is more vulnerable to dense fog. The system, which features auto-stabilization to compensate for cell-tower movement and is being proposed as an alternative to the tremendous cost p/m of laying fiber cable, is being tested in Mexico and Nigeria in addition to the three ISP trials.
Medicine

Machine Learning Used To Predict Military Suicides 74

Posted by timothy
from the sobering-statistics dept.
HughPickens.com (3830033) writes David Wagner writes that a predictive computer model using machine learning methods is helping to identify soldiers in the United States Army most likely to commit suicide. Computers combed through data on more than 40,000 soldiers who'd been hospitalized for mental health problems looking at 421 variables on each soldier drawn from 38 military data systems. Using a method known as "machine learning," the researchers identified roughly two dozen factors that are most important in predicting soldiers most likely to commit suicide. The soldiers most likely to take their own lives were men with past suicidal behavior and a history of psychiatric disorders and criminal offenses, including weapons possession and verbal assaults. Soldiers with hearing loss also faced heightened risk — a strong indicator that they had suffered a head injury. So did enlisting in the Army after age 27, most likely because those soldiers had already experienced trouble finding their way in life. "There's this group that comes to the Army later in life — they're smart, they have skills, they tend not to be married and they have no career or have left a career to join," Dr. Kessler said. "We don't know why they should be at higher risk, but they appear to be."

Murray Stein, co-author of the new study, found that among soldiers recently discharged from psychiatric hospitals, more than half of suicides were committed by just five percent of patients. "The most impressive thing is that they identified this high-risk group in the hospital, and by just focusing on one in 20 of them, you're really dramatically improving your ability to predict," says Dr. Mark Olfson, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University who was not involved in the study. "Clinicians don't do a very good job predicting suicide risk, even though we think we do."
The Military

Alleged Satellite Photo Says Ukraine Shootdown of MH17 337

Posted by timothy
from the if-the-glove-won't-fit dept.
theshowmecanuck (703852) writes A group calling itself the Russian Union of Engineers has published a photograph, picked up by many news organizations (just picked one, Google it yourself to find more), claiming to show that MH17 was shot down by a Ukrainian fighter plane. The interesting thing is the very quick ad hoc crowd sourced debunking of the photograph using tools from Google maps, online photos/data, to their own domain knowledge backed up with the previous information. It would be interesting to understand who the "Russian Union of Engineers" are and why they in particular were chosen to release this information.
China

US Weather System and Satellite Network Hacked 76

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-your-weather-are-belong-to-us dept.
mpicpp writes with this story about Chinese hackers breaching the federal weather network. "Hackers attacked the U.S. weather system in October, causing a disruption in satellite feeds and several pivotal websites. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, said that four of its websites were hacked in recent weeks. To block the attackers, government officials were forced to shut down some of its services. This explains why satellite data was mysteriously cut off in October, as well as why the National Ice Center website and others were down for more than a week. During that time, federal officials merely stated a need for "unscheduled maintenance." Still, NOAA spokesman Scott Smullen insisted that the aftermath of the attack "did not prevent us from delivering forecasts to the public." Little more is publicly known about the attack, which was first revealed by The Washington Post. It's unclear what damage, if any, was caused by the hack. But hackers managed to penetrate what's considered one of the most vital aspects of the U.S. government. The nation's military, businesses and local governments all rely on nonstop reports from the U.S. weather service."
Education

US School Installs 'Shooter Detection' System 693

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-new-textbooks-are-too-expensive dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A school in Methuen, Massachusetts has demonstrated the first installation of an automated detection system for active gunmen. Sensors placed throughout the building are activated by the sounds of gunfire. The sensors relay data on the shooter's real-time location directly to police, who can then track and subdue their target. The system was developed for the military to detect the location of enemy fire. It will cost school districts between $20,000 and $100,000 to equip each school with the gunfire-detecting sensors. Methuen's police chief said, "It's amazing, the short, split-second amount of time from identification of the shot to transmission of the message. It changes the whole game. Without that shot detection system, we wouldn't know what was going on in the school ... Valuable, valuable time can be lost. Unfortunately, with school crisis situations, it's about mitigating loss."
Google

Google To Lease and Refurbish Naval Air Base For Space Exploration 89

Posted by timothy
from the diversified-enterprise dept.
Taco Cowboy writes Google has signed a long-term lease for part of a historic Navy air base, where it plans to renovate three massive hangars and use them for projects involving aviation, space exploration and robotics. The giant Internet company will pay $1.16 billion in rent over 60 years for the property, which also includes a working air field, golf course and other buildings. The 1,000-acre site is part of the former Moffett Field Naval Air Station on the San Francisco Peninsula. Google plans to invest more than $200 million to refurbish the hangars and add other improvements, including a museum or educational facility that will showcase the history of Moffett and Silicon Valley, according to a NASA statement. The agency said a Google subsidiary called Planetary Ventures LLC will use the hangars for "research, development, assembly and testing in the areas of space exploration, aviation, rover/robotics and other emerging technologies." NASA plans to continue operating its Ames Research Center on the former Navy site. Google will take over operations at the runways and hangars, including a massive structure that was built to house dirigible-style Navy airships in the 1930s. NASA said the deal will save it $6.3 million in annual maintenance and operation costs.
United States

The Disgruntled Guys Who Babysit Our Aging Nuclear Missiles 176

Posted by samzenpus
from the keeping-an-eye-on-things dept.
Lasrick writes This is a rather disturbing read about the troops who guard our nuclear weapons."'The Air Force has not kept its ICBMs manned or maintained properly,' says Bruce Blair, a former missileer and cofounder of the anti-nuclear group Global Zero. Nuclear bases that were once the military's crown jewels are now 'little orphanages that get scraps for dinner,' he says. And morale is abysmal. Blair's organization wants to eliminate nukes, but he argues that while we still have them, it's imperative that we invest in maintenance, training, and personnel to avoid catastrophe: An accident resulting from human error, he says, may be actually more likely today because the weapons are so unlikely to be used. Without the urgent sense of purpose the Cold War provided, the young men (and a handful of women) who work with the world's most dangerous weapons are left logging their 24-hour shifts under subpar conditions—with all the dangers that follow."
United States

The Military's Latest Enemy: Climate Change 163

Posted by samzenpus
from the it's-getting-hot-in-here dept.
Lasrick writes A surprising report from the Pentagon last month places climate change squarely among the seemingly endless concerns of the US military. Although a Wall Street Journal editorial misrepresented the report in an editorial (subtitled 'Hagel wants to retool the military to stop glaciers from melting'), the report itself is straightforward and addresses practical military issues such as land management of bases and training facilities. "So, this plan is not really about mobilizing against melting glaciers; it's more like making sure our ships have viable facilities from which to launch bombs against ISIS. And the report doesn't just focus on home, though. It casts a wider eye towards how a changing climate will affect defense missions in the future."
Security

Website Peeps Into 73,000 Unsecured Security Cameras Via Default Passwords 321

Posted by Soulskill
from the security-through-insecurity dept.
colinneagle writes: After coming across a Russian website that streams video from unsecured video cameras that employ default usernames and passwords (the site claims it's doing it to raise awareness of privacy risks), a blogger used the information available to try to contact the people who were unwittingly streamed on the site. It didn't go well. The owner of a pizza restaurant, for example, cursed her out over the phone and accused her of "hacking" the cameras herself. And whoever (finally) answered the phone at a military building whose cameras were streaming on the site told her to "call the Pentagon."

The most common location of the cameras was the U.S., but many others were accessed from South Korea, China, Mexico, the UK, Italy, and France, among others. Some are from businesses, and some are from personal residences. Particularly alarming was the number of camera feeds of sleeping babies, which people often set up to protect them, but, being unaware of the risks, don't change the username or password from the default options that came with the cameras.

It's not the first time this kind of issue has come to light. In September 2013, the FTC cracked down on TRENDnet after its unsecured cameras were found to be accessible online. But the Russian site accesses cameras from several manufacturers, raising some new questions — why are strong passwords not required for these cameras? And, once this becomes mandatory, what can be done about the millions of unsecured cameras that remain live in peoples' homes?
The Military

The Plane Crash That Gave Us GPS 236

Posted by Soulskill
from the location-location-location dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Sarah Laskow reports at The Atlantic about the aftereffects of the KAL 007 incident, where the Soviet Union shot down a passenger plane on September 1, 1983. All 269 passengers were killed, including a U.S. Congressman en route from New York City to Seoul via Anchorage. At first, the Soviet Union wouldn't even admit its military had shot the plane down, but the Reagan administration immediately started pushing to establish what had happened and stymie the operations of the Soviet Aeroflot airline. It is widely believed that Korean Air Lines Flight 007 was already well off course when the crew routinely radioed that it was over its proper ''way point,'' or checkpoint, at a 90-degree angle to Shemya Island in the West Aleutian chain. Ultimately, the Boeing 747 jumbo jet cut across the lower tip of the Kamchatka Peninsula and the southern tip of Sakhalin Island, where it was shot down by a Soviet fighter.

This resulted in President Reagan making a notable choice. While this choice was reported at the time, it was not the biggest news to come out of this event: Reagan decided to speed up the timeline for civilian use of GPS. The U.S. had already launched almost a dozen satellites into orbit that could help locate its military craft, on land, in the air, or on the sea. But the use of the system was restricted. Now, Reagan said, as soon as the next iteration of the GPS system was working, it would be available for free. It took more than $10 billion and over 10 years for the second version of the U.S.'s GPS system to come fully online. But in 1995, as promised, it was available to private companies for consumer applications. It didn't take long, though, for commercial providers of GPS services to start complaining about the system's "selective availability" which reserved access to the best, most precise signals for the U.S. military. In 2000, not that long before he left office, President Clinton got rid of selective availability and freed the world from ever depending on paper maps or confusing directions from relatives again.
The Military

Buying Goods To Make Nuclear Weapons On eBay, Alibaba, and Other Platforms 260

Posted by timothy
from the we-gotcher-centrifuges-we-gotcher-krytrons dept.
Lasrick (2629253) writes The blossoming of online Internet-trading platforms has at least one downside: insufficient inspectors and product controls when it comes to goods relevant to nuclear proliferation. "On Alibaba (and other platforms), one can purchase many of the specialized items needed for the manufacture of nuclear weapons. A short list of items advertised for sale on the site include metals suitable for centrifuge manufacturing, gauges and pumps for centrifuge cascades for uranium enrichment, metallurgical casting equipment suitable for making nuclear weapon 'pits,' and high-speed cameras suitable for use in nuclear weapon diagnostic tests. A company on an Alibaba-owned Chinese Internet-trading platform even posted an ad for the sale of the rare metal gallium, which the seller trumpeted could be used to stabilize plutonium." Although many companies have strict compliance procedures in place to help avoid proliferation, many do not. There are several procedures these platforms can put into place to minimize risk, and both national (and international) regulators have a role to play, as well as shareholders.
Space

A Mysterious Piece of Russian Space Junk Does Maneuvers 146

Posted by timothy
from the achieving-sentience dept.
schwit1 writes What was first thought to be a piece of debris left over from the launch of three Russian military communication satellites has turned out to be a fourth satellite capable of maneuvers: "The three satellites were designated Kosmos-2496, -2497, -2498. However, as in the previous launch on December 25, 2013, the fourth unidentified object was detected orbiting the Earth a few kilometers away from 'routine' Rodnik satellites. Moreover, an analysis of orbital elements from a US radar by observers showed that the 'ghost' spacecraft had made a maneuver between May 29 and May 31, 2014, despite being identified as 'debris' (or Object 2014-028E) in the official U.S. catalog at the time. On June 24, the mysterious spacecraft started maneuvering again, lowering its perigee (lowest point) by four kilometers and lifting its apogee by 3.5 kilometers. Object E then continued its relentless maneuvers in July and its perigee was lowered sharply, bringing it suspiciously close to the Briz upper stage, which had originally delivered all four payloads into orbit in May."

This is the second time a Russian piece of orbital junk has suddenly started to do maneuvers. The first time, in early 2014, the Russians finally admitted five months after launch that the "junk" was actually a satellite. In both cases, the Russians have not told anyone what these satellites are designed to do, though based on the second satellite's maneuvers as well as its small size (about a foot in diameter) it is likely they are testing new cubesat capabilities, as most cubesats do not have the ability to do these kinds of orbital maneuvers. Once you have that capability, you can then apply it to cubesats with any kind of purpose, from military anti-satellite technology to commercial applications.
Medicine

Pentagon Builds Units To Transport Ebola Patients 117

Posted by samzenpus
from the sitting-ebola-class dept.
First time accepted submitter halfquibble52 writes As more U.S. troops head to West Africa, the Pentagon is developing portable isolation units that can carry up to 12 Ebola patients for transport on military planes. The Pentagon says it does not expect it will need the units for 3,000 U.S. troops heading to the region to combat the virus because military personnel will not be treating Ebola patients directly. Instead, the troops are focusing on building clinics, training personnel and testing patient blood samples for Ebola.
The Military

US Army May Relax Physical Requirements To Recruit Cyber Warriors 308

Posted by samzenpus
from the couch-patrol dept.
HughPickens.com writes Clifford Davis reports that only 30% of young people between the ages of 17 and 24 are qualified to become soldiers. This is primarily due to three issues: obesity or health problems; lack of a high school education; and criminal histories. While cognitive and moral disqualifications have held steady, weight issues account for 18% of disqualifications, and the number is rising steadily. It's projected to hit 25% by 2025. The current Army policy is that every recruit, whether enlisting for infantry or graphic design, has to meet the same physical requirements to join — but that requirement may be changing. "Today, we need cyber warriors, so we're starting to recruit for Army Cyber," says Major General Allen Batschelet. "One of the things we're considering is that your [mission] as a cyber warrior is different. Maybe you're not the Ranger who can do 100 pushups, 100 sit-ups and run the 2-mile inside of 10 minutes, but you can crack a data system of an enemy." "We're looking for America's best and brightest just like any Fortune 500 company out there," says Lt. Col. Sharlene Pigg. "We're looking for those men and women who excel in science, technology, engineering and math." Batschelet admits that a drastic change in physical requirements for recruits may be hard for some to swallow. "That's going to be an institutional, cultural change for us to be able to get our heads around that is kind of a different definition of quality," says Batschelet. "I would say it's a modernizing, or defining in a more precise way, what is considered quality for soldiers."
Star Wars Prequels

Peter Kuran:Visual Effects Artist and Atomic Bomb Archivist 37

Posted by timothy
from the everyone-should-have-a-hobby dept.
Lasrick links to this interview with Peter Kuran, an animator of the original Star Wars and legendary visual effects artist, writing If you saw the recent remake of Godzilla, you saw stock footage from Atom Central, known on YouTube as 'the atomic bomb channel.' Atom Central is the brainchild of Kuran, who among his many talents is an expert on archival films of the atmospheric testing era of 1945 to 1963. Combining his film restoration and photography expertise with his interest in nuclear history, he has also produced and directed five documentaries. He is currently working with Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos National Laboratories to preserve and catalog images from the bomb-testing era, and to produce a technical handbook that will help people understand these images and the techniques used to create them.
United Kingdom

British Army Looking For Gamers For Their Smart-Tanks 163

Posted by samzenpus
from the point-and-destroy dept.
concertina226 writes The U.K. branch of global defense firm General Dynamics is working on a futuristic state-of-the-art smart-tank to replace the British Army's aging armored vehicle fleet, to be delivered to the Ministry of Defense in 2020. The Scout SV armored vehicle is the first fully-digitized armored fighting vehicle to have been built for the British Army, and is far bigger and more durable than any of its existing tanks, which are now at least 20 years old. The tank comes in six variants that can be customized with a tools for different missions, and has numerous sensors, cameras, and sights to offer real-time intelligence on weather conditions, target acquisition, and reconnaissance — all crucial battlefield data required by commanders to access and direct situations. "With the capability in the Scout SV, we're really looking for the type of people who play Xbox games – tech-savvy people who are able to take in a lot of information and process it in the proper way," says Kevin Connell, the vice president for General Dynamic UK's Land Systems Regiment.
Canada

Shooting At Canadian Parliament 529

Posted by Soulskill
from the be-safe dept.
CBC reports that a man pulled up to the War Memorial in downtown Ottawa, got out of his car, and shot a soldier with a rifle. The Memorial is right next to the Canadian Parliament buildings. A shooter (reportedly the same one, but unconfirmed) also approached Parliament and got inside before he was shot and killed. "Scott Walsh, who was working on Parliament Hill, said ... the man hopped over the stone fence that surrounds Parliament Hill, with his gun forcing someone out of their car. He then drove to the front doors of Parliament and fired at least two shots, Walsh said." Canadian government officials were quickly evacuated from the building, while the search continues for further suspects. This comes a day after Canada raised its domestic terrorism threat level. Most details of the situation are still unconfirmed -- CBC has live video coverage here. They have confirmed that there was a second shooting at the Rideau Center, a shopping mall nearby.
Space

The Woman Who Should Have Been the First Female Astronaut 200

Posted by timothy
from the actually-my-grandmother-would-have-been-great-at-it-too dept.
StartsWithABang writes We like to think of the Mercury 7 — the very first group of NASA astronauts — as the "best of the best," having been chosen from a pool of over 500 of the top military test pilots after three rounds of intense physical and mental tests. Yet when women were allowed to take the same tests, one of them clearly distinguished herself, outperforming practically all of the men. If NASA had really believed in merit, Jerrie Cobb would have been the first female in space, even before Valentina Tereshkova, more than 50 years ago. She still deserves to go.
Canada

No More Lee-Enfield: Canada's Rangers To Get a Tech Upgrade 334

Posted by timothy
from the how-about-a-nice-barrett? dept.
ControlsGeek writes The Lee-Enfield .303 rifle is being phased out for use by the Canadian Rangers, a Northern aboriginal branch of the Armed Forces. The rifle has been in service with the Canadian military for 100 years and is still being used by the Rangers for its unfailing reliability in Arctic conditions. If only the hardware that we use in computers could have such a track record. The wheels turn slowly, though, and it's not clear what kind of gun will replace the Enfields.

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