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Guess who is officially back for Dragoncon 2020 as Director of the Diversity Track? I'm truly humbled and thankful for the awesome people and support we have received. We will continue to try to make you proud.

Join the group to find out more about what's going on. https://www.facebook.com/groups/DiversityInSpeculativeFiction/

 

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Wheels Off...

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Google's First Fully Autonomous Car Gives Up; Drives Self Off Cliff - Joe Bagel
The scene is from Thelma and Louise

 

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Existentialism, Fascism, Human Rights


I will be taking a break until the holidays. I have a lot of deadlines to meet.

Conservatism as popularized by their patron saint, Ronald Reagan and a budding media propaganda wing that covered all the bases - AM talk radio, Tom Clancy novels, Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger was hyper masculine, Uber patriotic and most decidedly: anti-Russian. The spike in testosterone was a reaction to the Vietnam War, the one we "lost." It was a modern "lost cause" that stuck in the craw of those that wanted Ho Chi Min to surrender like the Germans and the Japanese Emperor. Our mythology told us we were "the good guys" and the film credits always had happy endings with the hero getting the girl.

Something happened from the launching porch for "The Gipper" in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the wink-and-nod to white southern racists - left over Dixiecrats cum "Reagan democrats," soon-to-be Tea Party/Orwellian "Freedom Caucus," African Americans loyal to the previous "party of Lincoln" and genteel 1%, all wooed by Lee Atwater plausible denial coded language, faced with the reality of changing demographics, not in their Melanin-lacking favor. It was something the "Southern Strategy" didn't anticipate.

For this democracy to work, each of us has to agree on the same set of facts. We may not believe in what approach to take to solve them, but believing in the facts would merely change the approach to their resolution.
TruthFiction
Climate change is realClimate change is a hoax
Russia interfered in the 2016 electionsUkraine interfered in the 2016 elections
The current president is a crookThe current president is fighting the "deep state"

A functional Republican Party might use cap and trade to fight Climate Change. They would use diplomacy to modify the Paris Climate Accords to stay within the confines of its goals. Heck, they might make a buck or two.

A functional Republican Party would take the Autopsy authored by the RNC and reach out to diversify a party dwindling in number of Lincoln African Americans, conservative Hispanic/Latino citizens, Asians and Log Cabin Republicans.

After ANY of these impeachment inquiry hearings; after Mr. C.Y.A. Gordon Sondland uttered the magic Latin phrase: quid pro quo and Dr. Fiona Hill pimp slapped the republicans on the House Intelligence Committee (it hurt to type that), a functional Republican Party would look beyond their fundraising and think of The Constitution they swore to protect and defend against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

But we don't have that. We've never had that.

Racism itself is a conspiracy theory. It requires a leap of faith that your lack of exposure to equatorial ultraviolet rays over 1-200,000 years bequeaths you red ruby slipper, pixie dust and fairies that bless every step you take on the Yellow Brick Road in Oz.

"If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll empty his pockets for you." (then) Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson

 

*****


If the Republicans cared about the facts or the gravity of the crime being investigated, the answer would be apocalyptically damaging. But they don’t care, and they will continue to defend Trump even if those testifying under oath include an eyewitness to a criminal conspiracy hatched in the White House like Sondland, or patriots like Fiona Hill, Alexander Vindman, and Marie Yovanovitch, who not only provided irrefutable evidence of the crime but detailed the existential threat that crime poses to America.

Had Trump pulled out that (so far) proverbial gun and shot someone on Fifth Avenue, Republicans would trot out the exact same defense they have this week: The shot was fired at 2 a.m. and there were no eyewitnesses. Those nearby who claimed to have heard the shot had actually heard a car backfiring. The closed-circuit video capturing the incident is, as the president says, a hoax concocted by the same Fake News outlets that manufactured the Access Hollywood video. The confession released by the White House was “perfect” evidence of Trump’s innocence. Election records show that the cops who arrived on the scene were registered Democrats and therefore part of a deep-state conspiracy to frame the president for a crime he didn’t commit but that the Democrats did. The victim was not killed and will make a complete recovery, so no crime was committed anyway. And even if Trump had killed the young woman he gunned down, the argument advanced by Trump’s lawyer last month would apply: “The person who serves as president, while in office, enjoys absolute immunity from criminal process of any kind.” Next case!

 

Republicans Are Excusing a Criminal Conspiracy, Frank Rich, NY Magazine


Devin Nunes is about as dense as the cow he's frivolously suing. Ohio congressman Jim Jordan acts like a wrestling coach (that has new charges of not protecting student athletes from a predatory pedophile team doctor), and apparently, doesn't make enough to purchase a suit jacket!

Impeachment is likely in the House of Representatives. The senate is signalling along with republicans writ large that the "rule of law" doesn't apply for this Orange Satan, as the unitary executive - the Baal altar of William Barr - apparently only applies to presidents on his team. Russia, Iran; Israel can select our next president with impunity. Citizens will tune out and binge watch streaming media, oblivious to their responsibilities as citizens, masking their pain.

The Washington Post has the tag line "Democracy Dies in Darkness."

In darkness, Putin wins.

Apathy from exhaustion...is darkness.
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Snake Oil...

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Image Source: Link below


Topics: Biology, DNA, Genetics


"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." Carl Sagan

I'm guessing "I did Ancestry" is going to become the "I used to do Amway" in the 21st Century?

I participated, thinking it was legitimate science. It did somewhat jive with my own experiences of being consistently identified by Nigerians as resembling someone from the Igbo. This again is pure conjecture, and likely only a polite guess.
 

I can see the desire to know about our roots, especially if you're a part of the African Diaspora is tempting as well as an opportunity for confidence rackets and quackery.

In the spring of 2017, a college student named Mary spit into a tube and sent it to the DNA testing company Ancestry, which analyzed it and sent back a breakdown of her family history.

But Mary wanted to know more. The human genome contains, in theory, an extraordinary wealth of pre-programmed information about who we are and who we might become: whether she was at risk for the same types of cancer that killed her parents, for instance, or if she had medical conditions she could unknowingly pass on to her children.

For that information, Mary — we’re withholding her last name to protect her privacy — turned to a dubious new sector of the genomics industry, in which startups claim to provide vastly greater insights than prominent companies like Ancestry and 23andMe do. She uploaded a copy of her raw genetic code, which Ancestry provided as a 17.6 megabyte text file, to a site called Genomelink, which advertises tests for everything from medical conditions and mental illnesses to ludicrously specific personality traits including “loneliness,” “social communication problems,” and “vulnerability to helicopter parenting.”

But when her results arrived, Mary immediately noticed that many were “wildly inaccurate.” Genomelink said she was “less easily depressed,” but Mary was diagnosed with clinical depression at a young age. The startup predicted that she had a peanut allergy, but Mary told Futurism that “peanut butter is one of the true loves of my life.” Other errors in Mary’s report included traits like blood iron levels, body fat measurements, hearing problems, height, and skin complexion.

“I felt that much of it was off-base and unhelpful,” she told Futurism, “as it didn’t fit me at all.”

Genomelink is just one of a growing number of shady DNA testing startups now operating in the regulatory Wild West of commercial genomics.

There’s GenePlaza, for instance, which sold a DNA test that claimed to predict users’ sexual preferences — and still sells tests that purport to measure intelligence and risk of depression. A company called Soccer Genomics claims to examine a child’s DNA to create a sports training regimen to turn them into the perfect soccer player. An outfit called GenoPalate told a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reporter that their DNA demanded a diet of elk meat and passion fruit. A venture called Vinome claims it can recommend the perfect wine for each person based on their genetic code.

The problem, according to experts, is that these companies are promising information about DNA with a granularity that even scientists can’t deliver. Deanna Church, a geneticist at the biotech company Inscripta, told Futurism the tests are “all equally useless.”

“There is not a scientific basis for this sort of testing,” she said. “I certainly would not recommend anyone spend any money on this sort of thing.”

 

"Like Horoscope Readings!": The Scammy World of DNA Startups, Dan Robitzki, Futurism

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Transformers...

 

Topics: 3D Printing, Applied Physics, Research, Robotics, Soft Matter Physics


The researchers likely watched a lot of Saturday morning cartoons in the 1980s: original intro.

(CAMBRIDGE, Mass.) — The majority of soft robots today rely on external power and control, keeping them tethered to off-board systems or rigged with hard components. Now, researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and Caltech have developed soft robotic systems, inspired by origami, that can move and change shape in response to external stimuli, paving the way for fully untethered soft robots.

The research is published in Science Robotics.
 

3D-printed active hinges change shape in response to heat
Leah Burrows, SEAS Communications, Wyss Institute, Harvard

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Mapping Titan...

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These infrared views of Titan peer through the gloom
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Stéphane Le Mouélic, University of Nantes, Virginia Pasek, University of Arizona

 

Topics: Astrophysics, Cassini, Exoplanets, Moon, Space Exploration


Slowly but surely, the surface of Saturn’s strange moon Titan is being revealed. Researchers have made the first map of the geology of Titan’s entire surface, and it will eventually help us figure out what the climate is like there.

Titan’s atmosphere is full of a thick, orange haze that blocks visible light from reaching the surface, making it difficult for spacecraft to take pictures. NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, which orbited Saturn from 2004 to 2017, took radar and infrared data of Titan’s surface, giving researchers a hint of the terrain below.

Rosaly Lopes at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California and her colleagues assembled those observations and placed each area, or unit, into one of six categories: lakes, craters, dunes, plains, hummocky terrain – meaning hills and mountains – and labyrinth, which looks like heavily eroded plateaus. They then made a map of where each of those terrains exists on Titan’s surface.
 

We have the first full map of the weird surface features of Titan
Leah Crane, New Scientist

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Theta...

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Cyber threat analysis requires high-speed supercomputers, such as Theta at Argonne’s Leadership Computing Facility, a DOE Office of Science User Facility. (Image by Argonne National Laboratory.)

 

Topics: Artificial Intelligence, Computer Science, Internet, Mathematical Models, Quantum Computing


"Locks are made for honest people."

Robert H. Goodwin, June 19, 1925 - August 26, 1999 ("Pop")

It is indisputable that technology is now a fundamental and inextricable part of our everyday existence—for most people, our employment, transportation, healthcare, education, and other quality of life measures are fully reliant on technology. Our dependence has created an urgent need for dynamic cybersecurity that protects U.S. government, research and industry assets in the face of technology advances and ever more sophisticated adversaries.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory is helping lead the way in researching and developing proactive cybersecurity, including measures that leverage machine learning, to help protect data and critical infrastructure from cyberattacks.

Machine learning is a category of artificial intelligence that involves training machines to continually learn from and identify patterns in data sets.

“Applying machine learning approaches to cybersecurity efforts makes sense due to the large amount of data involved,” said Nate Evans, program lead for cybersecurity research in the Strategic Security Sciences (SSS) Division. ​“It is not efficient for humans to mine data for these patterns using traditional algorithms.”

Argonne computer scientists develop machine learning algorithms using large data sets— comprising log data from different devices, network traffic information, and instances of malicious behavior—that enable the algorithms to recognize specific patterns of events that lead to attacks. When such patterns are identified, a response team investigates instances matching those patterns.

Following an attack, the response team patches the vulnerability in the laboratory’s intrusion protection systems. Forensic analysis can then lead to changes that prevent similar future attacks.

“We are looking for ways to stop attacks before they happen,” said Evans. ​“We’re not only concerned with protecting our own lab, we’re also developing methods to protect other national labs, and the country as a whole, from potential cyberattacks.”

 

Argonne applies machine learning to cybersecurity threats
Savannah Mitchem, Argonne National Laboratory

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What's At Stake...

 

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Economics, Fascism, Human Rights, Politics


The Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) was a non-profit 501(c)(4) corporation[1] founded in 1985 that, upon its formation, argued the United States Democratic Party should shift away from the leftward turn it took in the late 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. One of its main purposes was to win back white middle class voters with ideas that addressed their concerns.[2] The DLC hailed President Bill Clinton as proof of the viability of Third Way politicians and as a DLC success story.

The DLC's affiliated think tank was the Progressive Policy Institute. Democrats who adhered to the DLC's philosophy often called themselves New Democrats. This term is also used by other groups who have similar views on where the party should go in the future, like NDN[3] and Third Way.[4]

On February 7, 2011, Politico reported that the DLC would dissolve, and would do so as early as the following week.[5] On July 5 of that year, DLC founder Al From announced in a statement on the organization's website that the historical records of the DLC have been purchased by the Clinton Foundation.[6] The DLC's last chairman was former Representative Harold Ford of Tennessee, and its vice chair was Senator Thomas R. Carper of Delaware. Its CEO was Bruce Reed.

Source: Wikipedia


The Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission helped unleash unprecedented amounts of outside spending in the 2010 and 2012 election cycles. The case, along with other legal developments, spawned the creation of super PACs, which can accept unlimited contributions from corporate and union treasuries, as well as from individuals; these groups spent more than $800 million in the 2012 election cycle. It also triggered a boom in political activity by tax-exempt "dark money" organizations that don't have to disclose their donors. You can listen to the decision (see "Opinion Announcement - January 21, 2010") as read by Justice Kennedy and the dissenting opinion read by Justice Stevens. Read on to learn more about how the Supreme Court transformed the campaign finance landscape with this decision, and how it is now affecting U.S. politics.

Citizen's United vs. Federal Election Commission, OpenSecrets.org

Both political parties through the need for funds deified the "free hand of the market." Both are concerned at the resonant chord Sanders, Warren et al have struck with an electorate not umbilical-tied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average. Instead of a "rising tide that lifts all boats," the effort to kowtow at Moloch's altar has produced Caligula.

Former Governor and "Bain Capitalist" Deval Patrick threw his hat into the democratic primary, as did billionaire and former republican, former independent and ended-up-democrat Mayor Mike "stop and frisk" Bloomberg. Governor Patrick seemed to eclipse the news another school shooting occurred in California, now apparently routine, despite the death of two citizens that won't grow up. Meanwhile, Erdoğan blasted a propaganda video over his I-Pad showing the Kurds as terrorists, the same aforementioned Kurds he apparently has a "great relationship" with while committing genocide.

In the ever-changing defense of the indefensible, the Reich Wing has veered from the impeachment inquiry hearings have "no pizzazz" and chief of lies tweeting about it sixty times in a day, Hillary colluded with the Russians (to apparently, lose the election and plunge us all into a dystopian nightmare); crowd strike, star chamber, no Quid Pro Quo, a Quid but no Pro Quo what-about-ism on bribery and the latest hilarious defense: he's too stupid to commit a genuine Mafia shakedown - he forgot the cement boots.

We have a political party that believes in science, facts and reality who's name has been turned into a pejorative ("democrat party").

We have a political party that believes in conspiracy theory, lies and obfuscation; "creates its own Karl Rove realities," believes the self-admitted sexual assaulter NEVER LIES (according to Franklin Graham) that somehow with a straight face still associates itself with integrity, principles and "family values." Stephen Miller - the architect of our kiddie concentration camps, apparently willed himself "white" and shared racist propaganda that would have prevented his grandfather's escape from Polish pogroms.
 
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See "Sunshine Fascism," April 12, 2019

Impeachment, despite the protestation is in The Constitution. Alexander Hamilton (well pre the Broadway hit and triple platinum album) wrote about it in the Federalists Papers:

A well-constituted court for the trial of impeachments is an object not more to be desired than difficult to be obtained in a government wholly elective. The subjects of its jurisdiction are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself. The prosecution of them, for this reason, will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community, and to divide it into parties more or less friendly or inimical to the accused. In many cases it will connect itself with the pre-existing factions, and will enlist all their animosities, partialities, influence, and interest on one side or on the other; and in such cases there will always be the greatest danger that the decision will be regulated more by the comparative strength of parties, than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt. Federalist 65, Yale Law School

The President of the United States would be liable to be impeached, tried, and, upon conviction of treason, bribery, or other high crimes or misdemeanors, removed from office; and would afterwards be liable to prosecution and punishment in the ordinary course of law. The person of the king of Great Britain is sacred and inviolable; there is no constitutional tribunal to which he is amenable; no punishment to which he can be subjected without involving the crisis of a national revolution. In this delicate and important circumstance of personal responsibility, the President of Confederated America would stand upon no better ground than a governor of New York, and upon worse ground than the governors of Maryland and Delaware. Federalist 69, Yale Law School

Putin would love to discredit representative democracy, itself a pejorative to him. The Internet Research Agency has interfered in elections around the globe, an annoyance so far with one clear success here in the US. He would love for all nations to organize around strongmen - reporting to him, of course - making him richer than Midas and Solomon.

For the rest of us, outside of the politburo would be literally as Russia faced years before its 1989 fall: disease, famine and death.

The defeat and demise of democracy would have the impact of the Chicxulub crater.

Except instead of a wall falling symbolically, we could be facing extinction. Only delusion and hubris would make us ignore this.

A few xenophobic Ayn Rand worshipers will be rich beyond the wildest psychopaths' dreams - for a moment - until inevitable Entropy completes our societal and mass species apoptosis. There will be no second act and fully negates starships, lest they be filled with ghosts, corpses and dreams. It's that stark.
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The Slingshot Effect...

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An artist’s illustration of a spacecraft’s escape trajectory (bright white line) from our solar system into interstellar space. Credit: Mike Yukovlev Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory - Link 2 below

 

Topics: Astrophysics, Interstellar Travel, NASA, Spaceflight, Star Trek


Yes, an actual slingshot effect does exist.

As much a fan as I am of the Trek, this isn't it.

When a spacecraft in orbit about a primary body comes close to a moon that is orbiting the same primary body, there is an exchange of orbital energy and angular momentum between the spacecraft and the moon. The total orbital energy remains constant, so if the spacecraft gains orbital energy then the moon's orbital energy decreases. Orbital period, which is the time required to complete one orbit about the primary body, is proportional to orbital energy. Therefore, as the spacecraft's orbital period increases (the slingshot effect), the moon's orbital period decreases.

But because the spacecraft is much, much smaller than the moon, the effect on the spacecraft's orbit is much greater than on the moon's orbit. For example, the Cassini spacecraft weighs about 3,000 kilograms, whereas Titan, the largest of Saturn's moons, weighs about 1023 kilograms. The effect on Cassini is thus about 20 orders of magnitude greater than the effect on Titan is. [1]

 

*****


It would begin in the early 2030s, with a launch of a roughly half-ton nuclear-powered spacecraft on the world’s largest rocket, designed to go farther and faster than any human-made object has ever gone before. The probe would pass by Jupiter and perhaps later dive perilously close to the sun, in both cases to siphon a fraction of each object’s momentum, picking up speed to supercharge its escape. Then, with the sun and the major planets rapidly receding behind it, the craft would emerge from the haze of primordial dust that surrounds our star system, allowing it an unfiltered glimpse of the feeble all-sky glow from countless far-off galaxies. Forging ahead, it could fly by one or more of the icy, unexplored worlds now known to exist past Pluto. And gazing back, it could seek out the pale blue dot of Earth, looking for hints of our planet’s life that could be seen from nearby stars.

All this would be but a prelude, however, to what McNutt and other mission planners pitch as the probe’s core scientific purpose. About a decade after launch, it would pierce the heliosphere—a cocoonlike region around our solar system created by “winds” of particles flowing from our sun—to reach and study the cosmic rays and clouds of plasma that make up the “interstellar medium” that fills the dark spaces between the stars. Continuing its cruise, by the 2080s it could conceivably have traveled as far as 1,000 astronomical units (AU), or Earth-sun distances, from the solar system, achieving its primary objective at last: an unprecedented bird’s-eye view of the heliosphere that could revolutionize our understanding of our place in the cosmos. [2]

 

1. How does the slingshot effect (or gravity assist) work to change the orbit of a spacecraft? Scientific American, July 11, 2005
Jeremy B. Jones, Cassini Navigation Team Chief at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory
2. Proposed Interstellar Mission Reaches for the Stars, One Generation at a Time
Scientific American, Lee Billings, November 2019

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Fossil Hunters...

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Lighter colors represent higher elevation in this image of Jezero Crater on Mars, the landing site for NASA's Mars 2020 mission. The oval indicates the landing ellipse, where the rover will be touching down on Mars.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/JHU-APL/ESA

 

Topics: Astrobiology, Mars, NASA, Space Exploration, Spaceflight


Scientists with NASA's Mars 2020 rover have discovered what may be one of the best places to look for signs of ancient life in Jezero Crater, where the rover will land on Feb. 18, 2021.

A paper published today in the journal Icarus identifies distinct deposits of minerals called carbonates along the inner rim of Jezero, the site of a lake more than 3.5 billion years ago. On Earth, carbonates help form structures that are hardy enough to survive in fossil form for billions of years, including seashells, coral and some stromatolites — rocks formed on this planet by ancient microbial life along ancient shorelines, where sunlight and water were plentiful.

The possibility of stromatolite-like structures existing on Mars is why the concentration of carbonates tracing Jezero's shoreline like a bathtub ring makes the area a prime scientific hunting ground.

Mars 2020 is NASA's next-generation mission with a focus on astrobiology, or the study of life throughout the universe. Equipped with a new suite of scientific instruments, it aims to build on the discoveries of NASA's Curiosity, which found that parts of Mars could have supported microbial life billions of years ago. Mars 2020 will search for actual signs of past microbial life, taking rock core samples that will be deposited in metal tubes on the Martian surface. Future missions could return these samples to Earth for deeper study.

 

NASA's Mars 2020 Will Hunt for Microscopic Fossils, NASA

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Eratosthenes to Starfish...

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Sir Isaac Newton's impact on Optics. Link below.


Topics: Geometry, History, Science, Research


Every day, we conduct science experiments, posing an “if” with a “then” and seeing what shakes out. Maybe it’s just taking a slightly different route on our commute home or heating that burrito for a few seconds longer in the microwave. Or it could be trying one more variation of that gene, or wondering what kind of code would best fit a given problem. Ultimately, this striving, questioning spirit is at the root of our ability to discover anything at all. A willingness to experiment has helped us delve deeper into the nature of reality through the pursuit we call science.

A select batch of these science experiments has stood the test of time in showcasing our species at its inquiring, intelligent best. Whether elegant or crude, and often with a touch of serendipity, these singular efforts have delivered insights that changed our view of ourselves or the universe.

Here are nine such successful endeavors — plus a glorious failure — that could be hailed as the top science experiments of all time.

Eratosthenes Measures the World

Experimental result: The first recorded measurement of Earth’s circumference
 

When: end of the third century B.C.

Just how big is our world? Of the many answers from ancient cultures, a stunningly accurate value calculated by Eratosthenes has echoed down the ages. Born around 276 B.C. in Cyrene, a Greek settlement on the coast of modern-day Libya, Eratosthenes became a voracious scholar — a trait that brought him both critics and admirers. The haters nicknamed him Beta, after the second letter of the Greek alphabet. University of Puget Sound physics professor James Evans explains the Classical-style burn: “Eratosthenes moved so often from one field to another that his contemporaries thought of him as only second-best in each of them.” Those who instead celebrated the multi-talented Eratosthenes dubbed him Pentathlos, after the five-event athletic competition.

That mental dexterity landed the scholar a gig as chief librarian at the famous library in Alexandria, Egypt. It was there that he conducted his famous experiment. He had heard of a well in Syene, a Nile River city to the south (modern-day Aswan), where the noon sun shone straight down, casting no shadows, on the date of the Northern Hemisphere’s summer solstice. Intrigued, Eratosthenes measured the shadow cast by a vertical stick in Alexandria on this same day and time. He determined the angle of the sun’s light there to be 7.2 degrees, or 1/50th of a circle’s 360 degrees.

Knowing — as many educated Greeks did — Earth was spherical, Eratosthenes fathomed that if he knew the distance between the two cities, he could multiply that figure by 50 and gauge Earth’s curvature, and hence its total circumference. Supplied with that information, Eratosthenes deduced Earth’s circumference as 250,000 stades, a Hellenistic unit of length equaling roughly 600 feet. The span equates to about 28,500 miles, well within the ballpark of the correct figure of 24,900 miles.

Eratosthenes’ motive for getting Earth’s size right was his keenness for geography, a field whose name he coined. Fittingly, modernity has bestowed upon him one more nickname: father of geography. Not bad for a guy once dismissed as second-rate.

 

The Top 10 Science Experiments of All Time, Adam Hadhazy, Discover Magazine

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It Takes a Village...

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This cutaway shows the interior of a 3D printed section of ESA's planned Moon Village.

 

Topics: ESA, Moon, NASA, Space Exploration, Spaceflight


We've all fantasized of visiting somewhere exotic. For most of us, that dream spot is somewhere on Earth. But for some, the ultimate must-see destination isn't on our planet at all.

NASA is currently planning a series of 37 rocket launches, both robotic and crewed, that will culminate with the 2028 deployment of the first components for along-term lunar base, according to recently leaked documents obtained by Ars Technica. An outpost on the Moon is surely an exciting prospect for both science geeks and prospective solar-system sightseers, but some believe NASA’s timeline is a too ambitious to be realistic.

However, unlike NASA, who not long ago adjusted their sights from Mars mission to a return to the Moon, the European Space Agency (ESA) has already spent almost five years quietly planning a permanent lunar settlement. And while building it may take a few decades, if done right, it could serve the entire world — sightseers included — for many more decades to come.

 

Moon Village: Humanity's first step toward a lunar colony?
Jake Parks, Astronomy Magazine

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Jonah Blackstone, half mortal, half grim reaper, must travel through the mortal and Afterworld to defeat the supernatural forces threatening his small southern town. An uncommon hero on an epic quest. Start the journey from the beginning this Halloween.

The Protector's Ring (Jonah Blackstone, Book 1) by John Darr
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00OTYNKVE/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_U_x_6G8RDbSNN7RA9 via @amazon

 

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Snowflakes and Woke Folks...


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Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Commentary, Human Rights, Politics


For ONCE, this isn't about the self-destructing Orange Satan. There will be ample material next Friday, as his downward spiral continues.

That doesn't mean I'm not concerned with our republic. Public impeachment hearings begin next Wednesday, broadcast on every network, including the conservative ones. That being said, the most dangerous animal in the world is man, and like any, is most dangerous when cornered. The scene from the Sons of Jacob takeover is disturbingly instructive. The question is, would Ayn Rand self-centered capitalism even CARE if we lost our democracy as long as stocks continue trading between 9:30 am - 4:00 pm EST?

 

*****


The conniption fits about African American actress Halle Bailey playing the Little Mermaid were humorous and disturbing. It reminded me of the controversy over NK Jemisin winning the Hugo and Nebula Awards for science fiction...because she's African American. A whole community - self-described as "rabid puppies" and sad puppies eventually were bequeathed the apropos label: "snowflakes."




A term for someone that thinks they are unique and special, but really are not. It gained popularity after the movie "Fight Club" from the quote “You are not special. You're not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You're the same decaying organic matter as everything else."




Began being used extensively as a put down for someone, usually on the political left, who is easily offended or felt they needed a "safe space" away from the harsh realities of the world, but now has morphed into a general put down for anyone that complains about any subject.



Source: Urban Dictionary/Snowflake

 


1. Ahem: mermaid's aren't real. o_9 The fact that humanity came from what we now know as the continent of Africa can be verified as can the political creation of so-called "white" people in 1681.

 


2. The legend of mermaids was probably based on the manatee (which doesn't look attractive at all, except to other manatees) and drunken, horny sailors that hadn't seen land or women in a while.

3. Atlantis is fiction, as is Aquaman and Namor, depending on which comic book series you followed. There are hidden worlds and undersea organisms we're discovering every year, yet we haven't discovered Atlantis, mermaids, mermen, Big Foot, the Loch Ness monster, unicorns or leprechauns.

 

*****


I posted several trailers for "Harriet" played by British actress Cynthia Erivo and screenplay co-written by Kasi Lemmons, an African American woman who also directed the film.

In real life, Cynthia Erivo dates actor Dean John-Wilson, an aforementioned so-called white guy. English society has its issues (see: Brexit). However, manumission in eighteenth century England wasn't followed up with black codes, lynchings and Jim Crow. Also, English actors have played American parts before - Christian Bale played Bruce Wayne in the Dark Knight trilogy and Sir Patrick Stewart played a Frenchman in Star Trek: The Next Generation and Charles Xavier in X-men. How soon we forget.

To be fair: in some forums my posts were received positively. In others, I was immediately attacked by the diversity doppelganger of the aforementioned pound puppies: "woke folks." Specifically, I recall a diatribe about the movie and certain characters not being historically accurate. It was as interesting and I think the same phenomena as Arial NOT being a single white female. It was fascinating, but something I felt I had to address:

1. It’s a movie. The statement at the beginning says “based on true events.”

2. If your criticism is historical inaccuracy, that is correct. Often what is cinematic is not accurate. The writers have to generate conflict to keep our interests. That is the license of creativity.

3. I’m a Star Trek fan, but I also majored in Engineering Physics as an undergrad and pursuing graduate study in Nanoengineering. That said, I don’t watch Trek to learn physics as warp drive is inherently impossible at even a casual understanding of Einstein’s Special and General Theory of Relativity. It’s entertainment, nothing more.

I deeply enjoyed "Black Panther" and Chadwick Boseman's acting abilities, knowing full well his Wakandan accent was as practiced as Michael B. Jordan's and that Wakanda as a nation doesn't exist. Plus, Jack Kirby and Stan Lee who created the first black and distinctly African Superhero were two Jewish guys from New York!

I still wore my "straight out of Wakanda" shirt as others wore dashikis with pride and not a lot of analysis or forethought.

I am absolutely fine with Cynthia Erivo playing Harriet Tubman. I'm overjoyed David Gyasi is playing the real life inspiration for the whitewashed Lone Ranger. The African Diaspora in America are involuntarily from both of their home nations, knowing neither intimately. Both actors had to audition and be judged by the merits of their abilities. They worked as hard as the two Englishmen who portrayed a fictional billionaire superhero crime fighter and a starship captain in the 24th century. If neither of these individuals won their parts, we'd be talking about someone else.

No less than former President Obama called out the woke as non-activists, more concerned with scoring consciousness zingers than the heavy lifting of citizenship. He, and before him General Colin Powell and currently Kamala Harris via the ever ridiculous and receding Rush Limbaugh and through the "kings of woke" Ben Carson and Cornell West (Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post) wasn't "black enough" despite many times vilified and hung in effigy.

Both snow and woke are triggered beyond their tribal enclaves and feel the connected world closing in with divergent opinions of "how things used to/ought to be," a particular intolerance being the bedrock foundation of fascism.

Of the two groups, I can say voting in a (currently) democratic republic is a lot more important than posting opinions from their smart phones, or the basement. 

 

Both need to switch to decaf.


I can't wait for their coming conniption fits on Bass Reeves.

 

Related links:

The 'Superhero Journey' Of Harriet Tubman, Now On Film
Noel King, NPR Morning Addition
The Real Lone Ranger Was Black, And Now There Is A Movie About Him
Jerry L. Barrow, BET

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Mind Meld...

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Credit: Getty Images

 

Topics: Internet, Neuroscience, Research, Star Trek


We humans have evolved a rich repertoire of communication, from gesture to sophisticated languages. All of these forms of communication link otherwise separate individuals in such a way that they can share and express their singular experiences and work together collaboratively. In a new study, technology replaces language as a means of communicating by directly linking the activity of human brains. Electrical activity from the brains of a pair of human subjects was transmitted to the brain of a third individual in the form of magnetic signals, which conveyed an instruction to perform a task in a particular manner. This study opens the door to extraordinary new means of human collaboration while, at the same time, blurring fundamental notions about individual identity and autonomy in disconcerting ways.

Direct brain-to-brain communication has been a subject of intense interest for many years, driven by motives as diverse as futurist enthusiasm and military exigency. In his book Beyond Boundaries one of the leaders in the field, Miguel Nicolelis, described the merging of human brain activity as the future of humanity, the next stage in our species’ evolution. (Nicolelis serves on Scientific American’s board of advisers.) He has already conducted a study in which he linked together the brains of several rats using complex implanted electrodes known as brain-to-brain interfaces. Nicolelis and his co-authors described this achievement as the first “organic computer” with living brains tethered together as if they were so many microprocessors. The animals in this network learned to synchronize the electrical activity of their nerve cells to the same extent as those in a single brain. The networked brains were tested for things such as their ability to discriminate between two different patterns of electrical stimuli, and they routinely outperformed individual animals.

If networked rat brains are “smarter” than a single animal, imagine the capabilities of a biological supercomputer of networked human brains. Such a network could enable people to work across language barriers. It could provide those whose ability to communicate is impaired with a new means of doing so. Moreover, if the rat study is correct, networking human brains might enhance performance. Could such a network be a faster, more efficient and smarter way of working together?

 

Scientists Demonstrate Direct Brain-to-Brain Communication in Humans
Robert Martone, Scientific American

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Going Vertical...

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Czech scientists have opened a lab to experiment growing food for environments with extreme conditions and lack of water, such as Mars.

 

Topics: Climate Change, Mars, NASA, Space Exploration


PRAGUE (Reuters) - Czech scientists have opened a lab to experiment growing food for environments with extreme conditions and lack of water, such as Mars.

The “Marsonaut” experiment by scientist Jan Lukacevic, 29, and his team at the Prague University of Life Sciences is based on aeroponics - growing plants in the air, without soil, and limiting water use to a minimum.

The plants grow horizontally from a vertical unit and are stacked one above the other to minimize space. Researchers experiment with light and temperature changes, Lukacevic said.

The team has already succeeded in growing mustard plants, salad leaves, radishes and herbs like basil and mint.

Scientists ate their first harvest last week.

“They taste wonderful, because they grow in a controlled environment and we supply them with bespoke nutrients,” said Lukacevic.

 

Czech lab grows mustard plants for Mars
Reporting by Jiri Skacel; Writing by Jan Lopatka; Editing by Alexandra Hudson and Dan Grebler, Reuters Science

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TEPCE...

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Image source: Futurism/Dan Robitzski

 

Topics: Astrophysics, Instrumentation, Space, Space Junk


A massive cloud of space junk—containing more than 23,000 pieces larger than 10 centimeters across—is currently zooming around Earth with an average speed of about 36,000 kilometers per hour. And as companies such as SpaceX and OneWeb plan to launch tens of thousands of new satellites over the next few years, this hazardous clutter will likely pose an increasing threat to space missions and astronauts. One possible solution may be an electrodynamic tether, a device that could help prevent future satellites from becoming abandoned wrecks. The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory plans to test this technology in the next few weeks.

In early November the Tether Electrodynamic Propulsion CubeSat Experiment (TEPCE), already in orbit, is set to make its move under the watchful gaze of telescopes on the Hawaiian island of Maui. The Earth-bound control team is waiting for an ideal 10-minute period at dawn or dusk, when the dim sunlight will offer the best possible view of the shoe box-size spacecraft involved. Once the crew triggers the process, TEPCE should separate into two identical minisatellites joined by a kilometer-long tether as thick as several strands of dental floss. If deployment goes smoothly, the mission can observe how the tether interacts with Earth’s magnetic field in the ionosphere (where much of the space junk orbits) to change the satellites’ velocity and orbit; the results could possibly enable future spacecraft to move around while orbiting Earth—without having to carry unwieldy chemical propellant.

“In other words, it is the sailing ship of space,” says Enrico Lorenzini, a professor of energy management engineering at the University of Padova in Italy, who is not involved in the TEPCE mission. But instead of wind, the electrodynamic tether technology moves thanks to the physical laws that govern electric and magnetic fields. A tether in Earth’s ionosphere—an upper atmospheric layer filled with charged particles such as free electrons and positive ions—can collect electrons at one end and emit them at the other, generating an electric current through itself. The electrified tether’s interactions with Earth’s magnetic field produce an impetus known as the Lorentz force, which pushes on the tether in a perpendicular direction.

 

Kilometer-Long Space Tether Tests Fuel-Free Propulsion
Jeremy Hsu, Scientific American

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Hologram Printer...

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The new printer uses low-power continuous wave lasers to create holograms on a highly sensitive photomaterial developed by the researchers. Credit: C Yves GENTET

 

Topics: 3D Objects, 3D Printing, Applied Physics, Holograms, Optics, Research


Researchers have developed a new printer that produces digital 3-D holograms with an unprecedented level of detail and realistic color. The new printer could be used to make high-resolution color recreations of objects or scenes for museum displays, architectural models, fine art or advertisements that do not require glasses or special viewing aids.

"Our 15-year research project aimed to build a hologram printer with all the advantages of previous technologies while eliminating known drawbacks such as expensive lasers, slow printing speed, limited field of view and unsaturated colors," said research team leader Yves Gentet from Ultimate Holography in France. "We accomplished this by creating the CHIMERA printer, which uses low-cost commercial lasers and high-speed printing to produce holograms with high-quality color that spans a large dynamic range."

 

New printer creates extremely realistic colorful holograms, The Optical Society, Phys.org

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On Fascism...

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[Major General Smedley Butler. Image reprinted from Philadelphia’s Organized Crime of the 1920 and 1930s by Anne Margaret Anderson with John J. Binder courtesy of the Library of Congress (pg. 11, Arcadia Publishing, 2014).]

 

Topics: Civics, Civil Rights, Existentialism, Fascism, Human Rights, Politics


"One of the things taken out of the curriculum was civics," Zappa went on to explain. "Civics was a class that used to be required before you could graduate from high school. You were taught what was in the U.S. Constitution. And after all the student rebellions in the Sixties, civics was banished from the student curriculum and was replaced by something called social studies. Here we live in a country that has a fabulous constitution and all these guarantees, a contract between the citizens and the government – nobody knows what's in it...And so, if you don't know what your rights are, how can you stand up for them? And furthermore, if you don't know what's in the document, how can you care if someone is shredding it?"

"Notes From the Dangerous Kitchen," a review and a quote from Frank Zappa, Critics at Large

In 1934, a colossal claim reached the American news media: There had been a plot to overthrow President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in favor of a fascist government. Supposedly in the works since 1933, the claims of the conspiracy came from a very conspicuous and reliable source: Major General Smedley Butler, one of the most decorated war heroes of his time. Even more unbelievable were his claims of who was involved in the plot – respected names like Robert Sterling Clark, Grayson M.P. Murphy, and Prescott Bush (George Herbert Walker Bush's father and George W. Bush's grandfather). While news media at the time mocked Butler’s story, recently discovered archives have revealed the truth behind Major General Butler’s claims.

Major General Smedley Darlington Butler (July 30, 1881 – June 21, 1940), nicknamed "Old Gimlet Eye",[1] was a senior United States Marine Corps officer who fought in both the Mexican Revolution and the World War I. Butler was, at the time of his death, the most decorated Marine in U.S. history. During his 34-year career as a Marine, he participated in military actions in the Philippines, China, in Central America and the Caribbean during the Banana Wars, and France in World War I. Butler later became an outspoken critic of American wars and their consequences. Butler also exposed an alleged plan to overthrow the United States government.

By the end of his career, Butler had received 16 medals, five for heroism. He is one of 19 men to receive the Medal of Honor twice, one of three to be awarded both the Marine Corps Brevet Medal (along with Wendell Neville and David Porter) and the Medal of Honor, and the only Marine to be awarded the Brevet Medal and two Medals of Honor, all for separate actions.

In 1933, he became involved in a controversy known as the Business Plot, when he told a congressional committee that a group of wealthy industrialists were planning a military coup to overthrow Franklin D. Roosevelt, with Butler selected to lead a march of veterans to become dictator, similar to Fascist regimes at that time. The individuals involved all denied the existence of a plot and the media ridiculed the allegations, but a final report by a special House of Representatives Committee confirmed some of Butler's testimony.

Halloween yesterday had impact.

A formal vote along party lines agreed to an official impeachment inquiry. The same vote republicans wanted initially...until they didn't. The rules they raided the SCIF over was as republican as the Affordable Care Act: they were passed by John Boehner for Benghazi. Karma is truly a bitch.

 

*****


Major General Smedley Butler is one of nineteen men to win two Congressional Medals of Honor. He was on his way to becoming Commandant of the Marine Corps. His reporting the coup led to likely his stall at two stars and lackluster failure to gain elected office as a republican senator.

His reveal of the fascist plot to overthrow the US government is instructive. To quote the historian Timothy Snyder, "On Tyranny":

"History does not repeat, but it does instruct. As the Founding Fathers debated our Constitution, they took instruction from the history they knew. Concerned with the democratic republic they envisioned would collapse, they contemplated the descent of ancient democracies and republics into oligarchy and empire. As they knew, Aristotle warned that inequality brought instability, while Plato believed that demagogues exploited free speech to install themselves as tyrants. In founding a democratic republic upon law and establishing checks and balances, the Founding Fathers sought to avoid the evil that they, like the ancient philosophers, called tyranny. They had in mind the usurpation of power by a single individual or group, or the circumvention of laws by rulers for their own benefit. Much of the succeeding political debate in the United States has concerned the problem of tyranny within American society: over slaves and women for example."

History and Tyranny, Prologue, Timothy Snyder, "On Tyranny"

We're seeing a growing rise in inequality as the 1% build their versions of castles and motes in exclusive enclaves, separating themselves from the rest of the population. They continue post Citizens United influencing electoral politics with bucket loads of money and horse shit. The poetry we ascribe to our founding documents neglects that John Jacob Astor - our nation's first multimillionaire - after struggling in the fur business, made cheddar in the opium trade to China, as did "Warren Delano Jr., the grandfather of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt." He eventually settled...into New York real estate with the help of Vice President Aaron Burr. One of his properties was part of the original New York Public Library system. When you investigate history, it has a way of destroying illusions.

 

America’s First Multi-Millionaire, 250 Years Later
Get the facts about John Jacob Astor, America’s first multi-millionaire.
Barbara Maranzani, History.com


We have deluded ourselves into thinking we are "the good guys." The Constitution is at most a suggestion by White, Anglo Saxon Protestant Cisgender men who owned slaves, kept wives and mistresses, defying the demands of Colonial England and usurped power. Though they used the words "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal," African slaves were not considered human and women were not regarded at all except as sexual partners and mothers. The tendency towards miscegenation resulting in mixed children that fostered "colorism" within the future African Americans made things even more confusing.

We need to recognize this designed division for what it is: a way to maintain power by those in power. It will not bring back coal, put blacks on the back of the bus, women out of the work force, LGBT back in the closet or immigrants - Ellis Island, Emma Lazarus poem notwithstanding, or asylum seekers - back in their native countries.

This is a moment for Americans to consider our founding documents with regards to what kind of country we had to what kind of country we ultimately want going forward: one with sovereignty that selects its own leaders, or an anarchy selected in banana republic elections in literal Russian Roulette?

Instead of overthrowing the president, the installed Manchurian ass(et) may be trying to overthrow US!

We won't always have a self-sacrificing Smedley Butler to save us.

WAR is a racket. It always has been.

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small "inside" group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

In the World War [I] a mere handful garnered the profits of the conflict. At least 21,000 new millionaires and billionaires were made in the United States during the World War. That many admitted their huge blood gains in their income tax returns. How many other war millionaires falsified their tax returns no one knows.

How many of these war millionaires shouldered a rifle? How many of them dug a trench? How many of them knew what it meant to go hungry in a rat-infested dug-out? How many of them spent sleepless, frightened nights, ducking shells and shrapnel and machine gun bullets? How many of them parried a bayonet thrust of an enemy? How many of them were wounded or killed in battle?

Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few -- the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill.

War is a Racket, Major General Smedley Butler
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Pandora's Box...

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MS TECH / SOURCE PHOTO: GETTY

 

Topics: Biology, Biotechnology, Civics, Ethics, Existentialism


A private DNA ancestry database that’s been used by police to catch criminals is a security risk from which a nation-state could steal DNA data on a million Americans, according to security researchers.

Security flaws in the service, called GEDmatch, not only risk exposing people’s genetic health information but could let an adversary such as China or Russia create a powerful biometric database useful for identifying nearly any American from a DNA sample.

GEDmatch, which crowdsources DNA profiles, was created by genealogy enthusiasts to let people search for relatives and is run entirely by volunteers. It shows how a trend toward sharing DNA data online can create privacy risks affecting everyone, even people who don’t choose to share their own information.

“You can replace your credit card number, but you can’t replace your genome,” says Peter Ney, a postdoctoral researcher in computer science at the University of Washington.

Ney, along with professors and DNA security researchers Luis Ceze and Tadayoshi Kohno, described in a report posted online how they developed and tested a novel attack employing DNA data they uploaded to GEDmatch.

 

The DNA database used to find the Golden State Killer is a national security leak waiting to happen
Antonio Regalado, Technology Review

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