Day: June 24, 2016

Atlas 5 returns to flight with launch of Navy’s MUOS-5

An Atlas 5 rocket from United Launch Alliance successfully launches the fifth narrowband communications satellite in the U.S. Navy's Mobile User Objective System. Credit: ULA.

WASHINGTON — United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket returned to flight June 24 with its first launch in three months to successfully lift the fifth and final satellite in the U.S. Navy’s next-generation mobile communications system.

The launch completes the Navy’s next-generation narrowband communications constellation, known as the Mobile User Objective System, which includes four satellites and an on-orbit spare that provide smartphone-like communications to mobile forces at rates 10 times faster than the legacy system.

The MUOS-5 satellite launched aboard an Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, at 10:30 a.m. local time. The Atlas 5 configuration used in the launch featured a 5-meter payload fairing, five solid-fueled strap-on boosters and a Centaur upper stage powered by a single RL-10 engine.

Tory Bruno, ULA’s chief executive, confirmed the successful launch on Twitter at 1:36 p.m. The Navy said June 24 the satellite will take several days to reach its destination in geosynchronous orbit.

The launch also marked a return to flight for the Atlas 5 following an anomaly during a March 22 launch of a Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station. Then, ULA said the Atlas 5 experienced an “unexpected shift in fuel pressure differential” across a mixture ratio control valve in the RD-180 engine, about four minutes after liftoff. The change caused the engine to run oxidizer-rich, depleted the supply of liquid oxygen and shut down the engine prematurely, even though there was still “significant fuel” left on the first stage.

While ULA has stressed that it considered the March 22 launch a successful mission after it placed the Cygnus cargo spacecraft into its planned orbit, the company also sought to make changes to avoid the anomaly in the future.

ULA said the engine supplier, NPO Energomash, made a minor change to the valve and that the fix has been verified in hot-fire tests.

The delay in launching MUOS is not expected to have any long-term impact on ULA’s manifest. The company still expects to launch nine more times by the end of 2016. ULA’s next launch is a mission for the National Reconnaissance Office, dubbed NROL-61, aboard an Atlas 5 on July 28.

ULA launched the first MUOS satellite in February 2012. The next three went up on Atlas 5 launches between July 203 and September 2015. All five satellites were built by Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Sunnyvale, California.

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Mysterious "Men In Black" spotted in Iowa


In recent weeks, several people have reported strange “men in black” standing on the side of roads in Muscatine County, Iowa. Some have witnessed the unusual trenchcoat-clad figures stepping into the roadway just as vehicles pass. In UFOlogy and conspiracy circles, Men In Black are thought to be threatening government agents or perhaps extraterrestrials.

“My son has experienced this and it’s no joke,” said Beatrice Wilson Strong. “It was really a frightening experience to him.”

The Muscatine County Sheriff’s Office requests anyone who encounters these creepy characters to call 911.

“We do take this seriously,” says the Sheriff’s Office on their Facebook page.

(KWQC via The Anomalist)

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When was "going to the beach" invented?


Until the 18th century, the seashore was not a place most people would go to relax. In ancient times, it was where you might run into a variety of monsters like Scylla and Charybdis. The shore is also where one might encounter pirates, smallpox, or even a wayward Kraken. Then something changed. Sorbonne University historian Alain Corbin explores this unusual history in the book The Lure of the Sea: The Discovery of the Seaside in the Western World, 1750-1840, one of the sources for a fascinating Smithsonian magazine article about “Inventing the Beach”:

Around the mid-18th century, according to Corbin, European elites began touting the curative qualities of fresh air, exercise and sea bathing. Especially in Britain, home of the Industrial Revolution, aristocrats and intellectuals became preoccupied with their own health and hygiene. They viewed workers, whose numbers were multiplying in factories and new industrial towns, as strengthened through labor. By comparison, the upper classes seemed fragile and effete: lacking in physical prowess and destined for decline. The notion of the “restorative sea” was born. Physicians prescribed a plunge into chilly waters to invigorate and enliven. The first seaside resort opened on England’s eastern shore in the tiny town of Scarborough near York. Other coastal communities followed, catering to a growing clientele of sea bathers seeking treatment for a number of conditions: melancholy, rickets, leprosy, gout, impotence, tubercular infections, menstrual problems and “hysteria.” In an earlier version of today’s wellness culture, the practice of sea bathing went mainstream…

Tracing this remarkable turnaround, “the irresistible awakening of a collective desire for the shore,” Corbin concludes that by 1840, the beach meant something new to Europeans. It had become a place of human consumption; a sought-after “escape” from the city and the drudgery of modern life. The rise of trains and tourism facilitated this cultural and commercial process. Travel became affordable and easy. Middle-class families took to the shore in ever-increasing numbers. In sailors’ jargon, “on the beach” once connoted poverty and helplessness; being stranded or left behind. Now it conveyed health and pleasure. The term “vacation,” once used to describe an involuntary absence from work, was now a desired interlude.

Inventing the Beach: The Unnatural History of a Natural Place(Smithsonian)

The Lure of the Sea: The Discovery of the Seaside in the Western World, 1750-1840 (Amazon)

photo above by Gray Malin; painting below by Edouard Manet


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A Pod To Call Your Own


Not a hotel, not a dorm, not quite a hostel, open by design and communitarian in spirit — Los Angeles-based PodShare is something else. And, potentially, something bigger: An affordable way to foster community in a city that’s increasingly stratified by class. This week, to start Season 3 of HOME: Stories From L.A., it’s the story of one young entrepreneur and her unstoppable enthusiasm for her big idea.

HOME is a member of the Boing Boing Podcast Network.

Subscribe: iTunes | Android | Email | Google Play | RSS

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Things Organized Neatly: The Art of Arranging the Everyday


See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Things Organized Neatly: The Art of Arranging the Everyday

by Austin Radcliffe


2016, 104 pages, 7.8 x 10 x 0.8 inches

$17 Buy a copy on Amazon

Simply as advertised. Rows and rows of diverse things neatly organized. This process is often called knolling. The applied organizing logic varies: it can be by size, by color, by age; in rows, in grids, in fitted mosaics. The effect is always hypnotic. Seemingly meaningless collections gain intelligence and order which focuses attention on the parts. The book ranges wide and far in the type of things that are inspected. You will soon knoll your own.

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Who will debunk the debunkers?


Mike Sutton is a meta-skeptic. He debunks skeptics who use myths to debunk myths.

From a FiveThirtyEight article by Daniel Engber:

In 2014, a Norwegian anthropologist named Ole Bjorn Rekdal published an examination of how the decimal-point myth had propagated through the academic literature. He found that bad citations were the vector. Instead of looking for its source, those who told the story merely plagiarized a solid-sounding reference: “(Hamblin, BMJ, 1981).” Or they cited someone in between — someone who, in turn, had cited Hamblin. This loose behavior, Rekdal wrote, made the transposed decimal point into something like an “academic urban legend,” its nested sourcing more or less equivalent to the familiar “friend of a friend” of schoolyard mythology.

Emerging from the rabbit hole, Sutton began to puzzle over what he’d found. This wasn’t just any sort of myth, he decided, but something he would term a “supermyth”: A story concocted by respected scholars and then credulously disseminated in order to promote skeptical thinking and “to help us overcome our tendency towards credulous bias.” The convolution of this scenario inspired him to look for more examples. “I’m rather a sucker for such complexity,” he told me.

I don’t know any meta-meta-skeptics, but I imagine wee’ll meet some in the comments.

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Enjoy the stick figure horror of Metro Los Angeles's grisly new transit safety videos!

Metro Los Angeles created a series of fun and terrifyingly gruesome transit safety animations about how not to get killed!

“Safety is our highest priority for Metro riders,” said Metro Board Chair and Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “These videos are edgy by design because we want these messages to stick,” “A lapse of attention at a rail crossing or unsafe behavior at a station can have dire if not deadly consequences. Let’s all do our part to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.”

Above, “Present or Pulverized?” Below, “Careful or Crushed?,” “Dismount or Dismembered?,” “Mindful or Mangled”,” and the always fun “Heads-up or Headless?”

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Google's version of the W3C's video DRM has been cracked


Since 2013, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has been working with the major browser companies, Netflix, the MPAA, and a few other stakeholders to standardize “Encrypted Media Extensions” (EME), which attempts to control web users’ behavior by adding code to browsers that refuses to obey user instructions where they conflict with the instructions sent by video services.

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If you win the lottery, hire this lawyer


You will never win the lottery, so you don’t really need to read this interview with Jason Kurland, a self-described “go-to” attorney for lottery winners. It’s still interesting, though.

From Vice:

OK, so what’s the first thing you should do if you have a winning lottery ticket?

First thing, you want to sign the back of it, because [a winning ticket] is what’s called a bearer instrument—technically whoever hands it in is declared the winner. If you sign the back of it, you secure that it is yours. And I tell the big jackpot winners to sign the back, but to leave some room above it, because if we decide to claim it in a trust fund or an LLC or any other kind of entity, you will be able to write the name of that entity above it, and then sign as a trustee or something like that. So sign the back, make a copy of it, and preferably put it in a safety deposit box, or hide it somewhere in your house.

Then what you want to do is start hiring your professionals. You want to call a lawyer for sure—I am talking about if you win $1 million or more, you should do this stuff. Call an attorney, a financial planner, an accountant––that’s the team you’re gonna need. Obviously the bigger the jackpot, the more necessary it is to get a team like that. Get your team in place, keep quiet, and don’t tell anybody. You can tell your immediate family, but as soon as word gets out your life is gonna change, and you don’t want your life to change unless you’re ready for the change. That time between knowing you won and claiming to the whole world you won is like your last chance of keeping your old life the way it was.

Then figure out how you want to do with the money, because everybody’s first instinct is never what they actually want to do when they think about it. So you need that time to figure out what you want to do. Then at least nobody is banging on your door asking for handouts.

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Fantastic "I Love L.A." pillow for design geeks


My pal Lawrence Azerrad, the hypertalented designer for bands like Wilco, Best Coast, and Beach Boys, created this wonderful “I LOVE L.A.” pillow. When I rest my weary head on its soft cotton, it makes me miss Los Angeles. And when I doze off, I dream of living in the iconic John Lautner Chemosphere house. The pillow is $50 and also available as a mug and tote!

LAD Design: I LOVE L.A. store

Previously on Boing Boing:

• “Flight of the Concordes” by Lawrence Azerrad

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Undercover reporter spent four months as a prison guard in a Louisiana pen run by CCA


Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) is one of the world’s largest private jailers; it runs prisons and immigration detention centers across the USA (and is diversifying into halfway houses, mental health center, and surveillance for poor neighborhoods). Mother Jones‘s Shane Bauer went undercover at CCA’s Winn Prison in Louisiana, the state with the highest incarceration rate in the world, and spent four months meticulously documenting the way that CCA destroys the lives of the prisoners in its care and its own employees, while paying its CEO $3.4M/year.

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ATM skimmer spotted in Vienna


Ben Tedesco of the cybersecurity company Carbon Black found an ATM skimmer while he was on vacation in Vienna, Austria.

A skimmer is a card reader that fits over an ATM card slot. It scans and records the information on the magnetic strip. Some skimmers have little built-in cameras to record card holders’ pins as they enter it on the ATM keypad. If not, the sleazy criminal will mount a video camera nearby, or even install a counterfeit keypad.

From YouTube description:

While on vacation with my family in Vienna, Austria I went to grab some cash from an ATM, being security paranoid I went repeated my typical habit of checking the card reader as I have 100’s of times… today’s the day when my security awareness paid off! Check out how perfectly made this skimmer is that was custom made for this ATM MACHINE!

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Man who saves family in car wreck gets $143 bill from first responders


A California man rescued a man and his children trapped inside a van that rolled over. When first responders arrived, they checked his pulse and give him a bottle of water to rinse off a small cut on his hand. He was surprised when he received a bill from the Cosumnes California Fire Department for $143.

Due to his heroic actions, the family got out safely, but in the process of freeing them, DeAnda received what he calls “a small scrape” on his hand. He was given a bottle of water to rinse it, and had his pulse checked by the emergency technicians who arrived later.

However, as he found out a few weeks later, that tiny “injury,” as the Cosumnes Fire Department called it, may cost him nearly $150.

“A couple months later I get a bill for $143 for a bottle of water???” he wrote in a Facebook post after receiving a bill from the fire department. “Makes you wonder why people don’t want to stop to help at an accident scene. All I can say is the look on the man’s face when I was able to break that windshield and get him and his kids out of that vehicle was all the thanks I needed. I’m glad I was able to help. But now I have a bill to pay and they won’t let it go.”

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Brexit: a timeline of the coming slow-motion car-crash


Charlie Stross is in excellent form this morning about the likely outcomes from last night’s Brexit vote, hitting all the highlights: collapse of the finance sector when Euro-denominated derivatives trades relocate to an EU state; collapse of the London property market (a big deal as 40% of the UK’s national wealth is property in the southeast); sucession risks for Scotland and Northern Ireland; the increased legitimacy of the reactionary right and xenophobia and racism as the “shy UKIPpers” realise (or claim) that they were more numerous than they had believed.

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House aviation subcommittee shows renewed interest in commercial spaceflight

George Nield

SEATTLE — A hearing by the House aviation subcommittee on commercial space transportation issues, the first of its kind in seven years, showed both its renewed interest in the subject and a willingness to reexamine some key policy issues.

The June 22 hearing by the aviation subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee was largely an informational hearing about the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s regulation of commercial space transportation and some key current issues, such as the FAA’s desire to take on a larger role in space traffic management and to provide oversight of “non-traditional” commercial space activities, such as missions to the moon and asteroids.

However, some members were interested in revisiting older issues. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), the ranking member of the full committee, raised questions about the dual mandate of the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation (AST) to both regulate the industry and to promote it, which the rest of the FAA lacks.

“There’s an inherent conflict between promotion and regulation and oversight of safety,” he said, suggesting the role of promotion of the industry would be better handled by the Department of Commerce. “I think we need to look very carefully at that.”

George Nield, FAA associate administrator for commercial space transportation, defended his office’s dual roles. “This dual mission is an important part of our culture,” he said. “Although the FAA has licensed or permitted 290 launches to date, there have never been any fatalities, serious injuries or significant property damage to the general public.”

Asked later in the hearing by DeFazio about why the office should have that dual mandate, Nield emphasized that he believed promoting the commercial spaceflight industry didn’t impact its ability to regulate it. “It is not favoring one company over another, it is not cutting corners, it is not compromising when we come to public safety,” he said.

Gerald Dillingham, director of civil aviation issues at the Government Accountability Office, noted that the GAO has previously suggested FAA work with Commerce on delineating roles regarding regulation and promotion. “There is either inherent or potential conflict with the dual mandate of promotion and safety oversight,” he said. “That is something that still needs to be looked at.”

Industry representatives, however, had fewer concerns about any potential conflict. “Its promotion mandate is not in conflict with its regulatory component, but is actually complementary,” said Mike Gold, chairman of the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee, in an interview after he testified at the hearing. Its work promoting the industry, he argued, means it wants the industry to succeed, which requires it to also be safe.

DeFazio and other committee members also raised questions about topics that had been issues in the past but appeared to be settled by recent legislation. Rep. John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-Tenn.) questioned the system of government indemnification of third-party damages from commercial launches, where the government pays for any damages that exceed a maximum probable loss level that launch providers must insure against.

“Why is it still necessary that we place this potential liability …read more

Put a few tricks up your sleeve with the Penguin Magic Starter Pack

Some people say magic tricks are nerdy and best left to your 12-year-old asthmatic cousin. But others see value in perfecting the slight of hand and showmanship associated with a perfectly executed routine.

We’re firmly in the latter camp. And now, we’re giving you the ability to put a few parlor tricks up your sleeve with the Penguin Magic Starter Pack, now $19.99 in the Boing Boing Store.

This pack gives you the tools to perfect five classic tricks: the Pen Through the Finger, Stain Alive, Vuja De, the Ghost Clip and Drawn Again. The real value comes in the 10-25 hours of video content taught by professionals who will show how to pull off these tricks flawlessly.

Whether you’re looking for a simple party icebreaker talent or have visions of putting together your own magic routine, this package will help you understand how to master simple tricks to either entertain or develop a layer of mystery for any performer.

The Penguin Magic Starter Pack is available for almost 60% off, while the deal lasts.

magic 1

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Britain’s quitting the EU, but will it be forced out of EU space programs?


PARIS—The British vote June 23 to leave the European Union is likely to occur gradually over two years, but it raises multiple immediate questions about the consequences for Europe’s space programs and Britain’s role in them.

Not all of these questions can be answered definitively. British and European Union officials have said it will take time to fix a precise schedule for the separation. During this time it may be possible for Britain the European Commission to negotiate trade and security treaties that would blunt the impact of the withdrawal. Here are some of the issues confronting British and European space policy after the vote:

— More than three-quarters of Britain’s space spending is sent to the 22-nation European Space Agency, which is not a European Union organization. ESA Director-General Johann-Dietrich Woerner has said that for ESA programs, Brexit should have little or no impact.

ESA already includes two full members – Norway and Switzerland – that are not in the EU, with Canada as an ESA associate member.

— The European Commission owns Europe’s Galileo positioning, navigation and timing network, Galileo, and here things may get complicated.

A British company, Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. (SSTL), is prime contractor for Galileo’s payload electronics. Twenty-two Galileo satellites have been ordered from OHB SE of Bremen, Germany. Most of them have been built and all were contracted well before the Brexit issue.

The question concerns future Galileo satellites. The European Commission, through ESA, is managing a competition for a fresh set of Galileo spacecraft that, in principle, will look almost identical to those built by OHB and SSTL.

ESA has set a deadline of July 19 for industry to bid on the next Galileo satellite series. OHB Chief Executive Marco R. Fuchs has said his company is bidding the same OHB-SSTL team that won the previous order, although he concedes the consequences of Brexit have been a concern.

Norway is part of the Galileo program after having signed a security treaty with the European Union. Whether such a treaty would suffice to permit a non-EU member from having a role as central as SSTL’s in Galileo is unclear.

For the moment, Britain remains in the EU, but the Galileo satellites to be contracted will be delivered and launched toward the end of the decade, presumably after Brexit occurs.

Galileo’s PRS access policy

— Britain has been an active participant in the Galileo system’s Public Regulated Service, which is similar to the U.S. GPS network’s M-code in providing protected, encrypted signals reserved for military and government customers.

Norway’s security treaty was not sufficient to allow Norway access to PRS. Like the United States, whose Defense Department wants access to PRS to diversify signal sources and raise system resiliency, Norway is now awaiting an EU decision on whether it can offer PRS to its government and military.

— The European Union also owns the Copernicus environment-monitoring program, which like Galileo is funded through the European Commission’s Multi-year Financial Framework.

The current seven-year financial commitment runs to 2020, with a mid-term review scheduled for late this year. With Britain …read more

Brexit wins: Britain votes to exit the European Union


The votes are in, and Brexit wins. Britain has voted to leave the European Union. The historic decision will change Britain’s place in the world, “rattle the Continent and rock political establishments throughout the West,” reports the New York Times.

With 309 of 382 of the country’s cities and towns reporting early on Friday, the Leave campaign held a 52 percent to 48 percent lead. The BBC called the race for the Leave campaign shortly before 4:45 a.m., with 13.1 million votes having been counted in favor of leaving and 12.2 million in favor of remaining.

The value of the British pound plummeted as financial markets absorbed the news.

“Dare to dream that the dawn is breaking on an independent United Kingdom,” U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage told cheering supporters just after 4 a.m. today London time.

It’s a “crushing” decision, it will be “catastrophic,” @Keith4Leicester says #EUref #Brexit

— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) June 24, 2016

“EUROPEAN RUIN”: Some front pages from around the web following #Brexit vote

— Oliver Darcy (@oliverdarcy) June 24, 2016

It’s not just about #Brexit, it’s not just about the EU. It’s a harbinger of what’s to come. Right wing populist nationalism rising.

— Iyad El-Baghdadi (@iyad_elbaghdadi) June 24, 2016

#Japan market meltdown triggers Nikkei futures’ circuit breaker. Futures trading halted for 10 minutes. #Brexit #VOAalert

— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) June 24, 2016

Feeling great about #brexit! 🇬🇧🇬🇧🇬🇧🇬🇧🇬🇧🇬🇧

— Brianna Wu (@Spacekatgal) June 24, 2016

#Brexit forecast sends pound plunging as #EURefResults continue to arrive

— Bloomberg (@business) June 24, 2016

Whoa, the age divide on #Brexit is stunning. via @WSJ

— Laura J. Nelson (@laura_nelson) June 24, 2016

Bunch of old racists destroyed their kids future. #Brexit

— BWD (@theonlyadult) June 24, 2016

24 juin 2016 #Brexit

— Pierre Duchesne (@duchp) June 24, 2016

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The original French tumbler, made by the company that invented tempered glass

Duralex is a French manufacturer of glassware, tableware and cookware. Picardie is one of the lines of of glassware they sell, and it is actually somewhat famous on their own, for good reason. I have had sets of the 3 3/4 oz. and the 12 oz. glasses for about 12 years.

The good:

  • They are made from tempered glass, like car windshields, so they are tough and resistant to breaking and chipping. They will survive most falls from table-height, even onto stone or tile floors. In fact I have yet to break one, and I have gone through perhaps six wine glasses in the same time. When they do break, they break into little squarish pebbles rather than sharp shards. (But that is not unique to Duralex.)
  • They come in nine different sizes, from little 3 oz. Old-Fashioned glasses to 16 oz. tumblers.
  • They are relatively thin and light, their strength notwithstanding.
  • They nest and stack nicely.
  • The faceted, swelling design makes the glasses easy to hold, even for small hands, and even when wet.
  • They have an absolutely classic design. They might be the only glasses that people will actually recognize. I saw something very like them in a painting by van Gogh.

The bad:

  • There are no bads as such. They might only be the second toughest glasses there are (the first might be the Bormioli Rocco Rock Bar line, which resembles the Picardie line, but doesn’t have exactly the same familiar design. Especially, the lip is thicker, which makes them subtly less comfortable to drink from.) The Libbey Gibraltar glasses are similar but made of thicker glass, which makes them heavier. Some people might like that, especially for sipping whiskey. But they don’t stack.

In sum, Duralex Picardie glasses are a design classic that look as good in a 18th century Provence kitchen as a sleek London flat. They are also durable, light, comfortable, and cheap. They don’t have any real flaws. — Karl Chwe

Duralex Picardie 12 oz. Clear Tumbler, Set of 6 ($30

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