Tag Archives: Science

TSA spent $1 bln on ‘body language’ program

TSA spent 1 bln on body language program TSA spent $1 bln on body language program

After investing $1 billion in behavior detection techniques and training since 2007, the Transportation Security Administration has little to show for its efforts, the New York Times stated in a new report.
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According to the newspaper, critics of the TSA’s attempt to read body language claim there’s no evidence to suggest the agency has been able to link chosen passengers to anything beyond carrying drugs or holding undeclared currency, much less a terrorist attack. In fact, a review of numerous studies seems to suggest that even those trained to look for various tics are no more capable of identifying liars than normal individuals.

“The common-sense notion that liars betray themselves through body language appears to be little more than a cultural fiction,” Maria Hartwig, a psychologist at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, told the Times.

The TSA’s body language program has also been critiqued by the Government Accountability Office, which found it to be ineffective and recommended cutting its funding going forward. As RT reported last year, its conclusion was that human ability to read body language was “the same as or slightly better than chance.”

“Available evidence does not support whether behavioral indicators, which are used in the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program, can be used to identify persons who may pose a risk to aviation security,” the GAO report read.

Through a review of various studies dating back over the last 60 years, researchers found that people were only able to pick out liars 47 percent of the time, while attempts to identify people who told the truth were more successful at 61 percent. With an average rate of 54 percent, however, the methods could not be considered effective, especially when accuracy rates fell further in cases where an individual had to rely only on body language – and could not, for example, hear someone speak.

The GAO also disputed the TSA’s claim that its procedures helped single out high-risk passengers more effectively than random screening. Out of more than 30,000 passengers highlighted every year by behavior detection methods, the GAO found that less than one percent were arrested. None of the arrests were in connection to terror plots.

According to Dr. Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago, people in general tend to overinflate their perceived ability to read another person’s body language.

“When you’re lying or cheating, you know it and feel guilty, and it feels to you as if your emotions must be leaking out through your body language,” he said to the Times. “You have an illusion that your emotions are more transparent than they actually are, and so you assume others are more transparent than they actually are, too.”

Source: RT

Hundreds of tiny satellites could soon deliver free internet worldwide

Hundreds of tiny satellites could soon deliver free internet worldwide Hundreds of tiny satellites could soon deliver free internet worldwide
Developers say they are less than a year away from deploying prototype satellites that could someday soon broadcast free and universal internet all over the globe from high in orbit.
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The “Outernet” project being bankrolled by the Media Development Investment Fund (MDIF) of New York is currently in the midst of conducting technical assessment of the project, but say by June they hope to develop test satellite in order to see how long-range WiFi would work if beamed down by a tiny 10x10x10-centimeter payload called a CubeSat.

If all goes as planned, a test CubeSat will be sent into orbit next January, and within a few years there could be hundreds of similar devices circling the Earth and sending back down internet signals. Once that is accomplished, countries that largely censor the web — like China and North Korea — would be hard-pressed to restrict internet access without also going into orbit.

“We exist to support the flow of independent news, information, and debate that people need to build free, thriving societies,” MDIF President Peter Whitehead told the National Journal recently. “It enables fuller participation in public life, holds the powerful to account and protects the rights of the individual.”

To accomplish as much, though, MDIF is facing a rather uphill battle, at least with regards to funding. Funny enough, sending hundreds of tiny WiFi ready satellites into orbit isn’t as inexpensive as one might imagine.

Syed Karim, MDIF’s director of innovation, told the National Journal’s Alex Brown that it would take only three years and $12 billion to get the project up and running.

But “We don’t have $12 billion,” Karim said, “so we’ll do as much as we can with CubeSats and broadcast data.”

Broadcasting data,” Outernet says on their website, “allows citizens to reduce their reliance on costly internet data plans in places where monthly fees are too expensive for average citizens. And offering continuously updated web content from space bypasses censorship of the Internet.”

Around 40 percent of the planet currently doesn’t have access to any sort of internet service, the company claims, but basic CubeSats could send one-way signals down to earth to deliver news or content through a “global notification system during emergencies and natural disasters,” their website says.

Access to knowledge and information is a human right and Outernet will guarantee this right by taking a practical approach to information delivery. By transmitting digital content to mobile devices, simple antennae and existing satellite dishes, a basic level of news, information, education and entertainment will be available to all of humanity.” If they can succeed with that, then Outernet hopes to start figuring a way to let customers send data back to the CubeSats, ideally creating free, “two-way internet access for everyone” in a few years’ time.

During a recent question-and-answer session on the website Reddit, Karim explained that the Outernet project is already being more affordable because some of the most expensive aspects of the endeavor, at least with regards to research, have already been considered by other entrepreneurial space experts.

There isn’t a lot of raw research that is being done here; much of what is being described has already been proven by other small satellite programs and experiments,” Karim said.

There’s really nothing that is technically impossible to this,” he added. “But at the prospect of telecoms operators trying to shut the project down before it gets off the ground,” Karim said, “We will fight… and win.”

Meanwhile, his group is gunning to figure out how to make that dream a reality without going over budget. Getting one of those tiny CubeSats into orbit could cost upwards of $100,000, Brown reported, and slightly larger satellites being considered by Outernet could run three times that.

We want to stay as small as possible, because size and weight are directly related to dollars,” Karim said. “Much of the size is dictated by power requirements and the solar panels needed satisfy those requirements.”

Source: RT

Children exposed to more brain-damaging chemicals than scientists thought

Children exposed to more brain damaging chemicals than scientists thought Children exposed to more brain damaging chemicals than scientists thought

A troubling new study has found that the number of chemicals capable of impairing child development worldwide is more than double what was previously believed, according to a new story by Time Magazine.
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Back in 2006, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai pinpointed five industrial chemicals that they linked to brain disorders such as autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), reduced IQ, and more.

These chemicals were lead, methlymercury, polychlorinated biphenyls (a coolant fluid in motors), arsenic (found naturally and also in pesticides), and toluene (in paint thinner, nail polish, and more).

In a review of their 2006 study, though, the same scientists have now discovered brain development in children could be negatively disrupted by another six chemicals. These chemicals are: chlorpyrifos, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, fluoride, manganese, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, tetrachloroethylene.

Alarmingly, the researchers discovered that manganese and fluoride, both of which are present in drinking water, can lead to poorer performance in school, lower math scores, and increased hyperactivity. High levels of fluoride, in particular, are potentially capable of lowering a child’s IQ by seven points.

Chlorpyrifos, meanwhile, is a common pesticide that is still used in public areas and in agriculture despite the fact that the Environmental Protection Agency banned it from residential areas in 2001. According to a report by CNN in 2012, even low levels of chlorpyrifos could result in disrupted brain development.

“It’s out there and we do not know what the longer term impact is of lower levels,” Virginia Rauh, professor of Clinical Population and Family Health at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, told CNN. “But it does seem to be associated with cognitive damage and structural changes in brain.”

As RT reported this week, some health experts believe the increased rate of severe birth defects in rural Washington state could possibly be linked to prolonged exposure to pesticides, though officials have been unable to determine the precise cause.

Despite the researchers’ claim that these new chemicals can contribute to brain disorders, they admitted they could not prove a direct causal link between a chemical and any one health issue. Still, they are pushing for increased public awareness considering the potential risks.

“The consequence of such brain damage is impaired [central nervous system] function that lasts a lifetime and might result in reduced intelligence, as expressed in terms of lost IQ points, or disruption in behavior,”the study reads, cited by Time and published in the Lancet Neurology journal.

In terms of defending children from exposure, the scientists said one roadblock is the fact that regulatory agencies require a vast amount of proof in order to place restrictions on chemicals. In some cases, the EPA has even raised the level of pesticides permitted on crops grown in the United States.

“Our very great concern is that children worldwide are being exposed to unrecognized toxic chemicals that are silently eroding intelligence, disrupting behaviors, truncating future achievements and damaging societies, perhaps most seriously in developing countries,” the authors of the study wrote. “A new framework of action is needed.”

Source: RT

Google investing more than $1 billion in alternative energy

solar panels and wind farms Google investing more than $1 billion in alternative energy

​Around one-third of Google’s operations are made possible by renewable power, but the Silicon Valley giant is gunning to become completely reliant on resources like wind and the sun.
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Rick Needham, the director of Google’s Energy and Sustainability office, told CNBC recently that 34 percent of the search engine company’s day-to-day operations are currently powered by reusable resources. If all goes as planned, though, before long that statistic could soar as high up as 100 percent.

Speaking to CNBC for an article published on Sunday, Needham acknowledged that a huge amount of Google’s spending has been going towards advancing the company’s reliance on energy sources like solar power.

In just the last quarter, Needham said, Google spent $2.25 billion on data centers and its general infrastructure, which is a lot for even one of the tech industry’s biggest companies. To bring the cost down, Google has been investing tons lately to be used towards alternative energy sources.

“We’ve invested over a billion dollars in 15 projects that have the capacity to produce two gigawatts of power around the world, mostly in the US, but that’s the equivalent of Hoover’s Dam worth of power generation,” Needham told the network. According to IT Pro Portal reporter Paul Cooper, that $1 billion worth of spending has all occurred in just the last year, with new endeavors being unveiled as recently as last week.

One of the latest pieces of Google’s puzzle came into place last Thursday when the company officially began operations at a massive solar thermal project in Ivanpah, California that uses 357,000 sun-facing mirrors to make around 394 megawatts of electricity. That project is the largest of its kind in the entire world, and is capable of making enough energy to power around 140,000 area homes.

“The Ivanpah project is a shining example of how America is becoming a world leader in solar energy,” US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a statement to the Associated Press after Thursday’s dedication ceremony at the site. “This project shows that building a clean-energy economy creates jobs, curbs greenhouse gas emissions and fosters American innovation.”

That project, valued at around $2.2 billion in all, is funded in part by $168 million made possible by Google and other funds courtesy of NRG Energy, Oakland-based BrightSource Energy and loans guaranteed by the US Energy Department.

That $168 million figure represents only a sliver of the $1 billion in wind and solar investments that Google has made during the last year, and to CNBC Needham said that it only makes since that a company has extensive as his has expressed interest in renewable energy.

“The fact is that all of these things, procuring power for ourselves, investing in power plants, renewable power plants, they all make business sense, they make sense for us as a company to do. We rely on power for our business,” he said.

“At Google we invest in innovative renewable energy projects that have the potential to transform the energy landscape and help provide more clean power to businesses and homes around the world,”Needham added in a statement sent to the IB Times. “Ivanpah is a shining example of such a project and we’re delighted to be a part of it.”

Solar power farms aren’t the only types of operations Google has been investing in lately, either. As RT has reportedly several times lately, the company has been spending millions on acquiring robotics and artificial intelligence firms, and — like renewable energy — Google intends on making those new additions a major part of the team before long. Speaking to the Independent last year, Google engineer Scott Huffman said new advances in AI will allow the company’s computers to soon “understand context in conversation” and soon be more human than ever.

Source: RT