Opportunity Rover Team Honors Pioneering Lindbergh Flight at Mars Mountaintop Crater

Martian Reminder of a Pioneering Flight. Names related to the first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic have been informally assigned to a crater NASA’s Opportunity Mars rover is studying. This false-color view of the “Spirit of St. Louis Crater” and the “Lindbergh Mound” inside it comes from Opportunity’s panoramic camera. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell Univ./Arizona State Univ.
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The science team leading NASA’s long-lived Opportunity rover mission is honoring the pioneering solo nonstop trans-Atlantic flight of aviator Charles Lindbergh by assigning key features of the Mars mountain top crater area the rover is now exploring with names related to the historic flight.

Opportunity is now studying an elongated crater called “Spirit of St. Louis” and a unparalleled rock spire within the crater called “Lindbergh Mound” which are (…)
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© Ken Kremer for Universe Today, 2015. |
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Privatization Has Been a Colossal Flop

Let’s get this straight. I am a penny pincher, who hates waste and wants a lean and efficient government.

But, that said, we have to face the fact that our massive privatization of what once were government functions has been a failure. There are some public services that get really loused up when done privately and for profit.

This is a classic mismatch of wonderful theory and disastrous practice. The privatization theory is compelling. Government is inherently bloated, lazy, wasteful, dumb and inefficient because it does not have to face the discipline of the marketplace. Put public services up for private bidding and you will get the lower costs and greater efficiency that comes with free market competition.

But privatization practice is often a disaster. An inefficient government monopoly is replaced by an even more inefficient private monopoly that is more expensive, wasteful and lacking in accountability or responsibility for serving the public good.

The selection of private contractors is often rife with the corruption of political sweetheart deals. The profit motive consistently trumps public interest And shareholders and executives benefit at public expense, while public services deteriorate.

Let’s do a quick review of the scorecard.

Mental Health: De-institionalization and the privatization of community mental health centers allowed the states to off-load responsibility for the severely mentally ill so that now about 300,000 are in prison and a like number are homeless.

Medical Health: Our chaotic, profit-driven system delivers poor health outcomes even though it costs about twice as much per person as the more government regulated systems in the rest of the developed world. People who don’t need it get too much medical care because it is profitable to providers, while one in seven people lack any coverage at all.

Defense: We pay outrageously padded bills to private military contractors who deliver poor services with —> Read More

Drones Can Curb Poaching, but They’re Much Costlier Than Alternatives

A team of experienced rangers practice tracking formations used when doing reconnaissance patrols to gather information on poachers operating in a protected area in Malawi.

A team of experienced rangers practice tracking formations used when doing reconnaissance patrols to gather information on poachers operating in a protected area in Malawi. (Photo by Rory Young)

By Patricia Raxter and Rory Young

Across the globe poaching and wildlife crime are decimating species, from charismatic megafauna like African elephants and rhinos to small and adorable pangolins to brightly colored parrots. An estimated 100,000 African elephants were poached for their ivory from 2011 to 2013. Since 2007, rhino poaching has increased 9,000 percent.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, Earth has lost 50 percent of its wildlife in the past 40 years. While habitat loss and environmental degradation clearly take their toll, poaching for human consumption has emerged as a key factor driving this loss.

As organized crime has penetrated the illegal wildlife trade, it has gotten more sophisticated and almost impossible to stop. We‘re in the midst of an environmental crime crisis which could, if left unchecked, have irreversible consequences.

Increasingly, conservationists and policymakers are turning to technology solutions to combat wildlife crime, including drones, satellite imagery, predictive analysis, DNA analysis, hidden cameras, GPS location devices, and apps.

In some regions, new technologies are already making an impact. For example, organizations seeking demand reduction are skillfully using such technologies to change the habits of Chinese consumers, the world’s largest market for wildlife products.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has reached hundreds of millions of Chinese through social media applications like Wechat. IFAW’s augmented reality elephant, “Laura,” is spreading awareness of wildlife through “live” interactions with Chinese consumers, most of whom have never seen a living elephant.

At the supply end of the chain in Africa, where elephants are poached by the tens of thousands each year and rhino poaching has reached historic levels, drones are increasingly —> Read More

Mind-Controlled Robot Arm Lets Paralyzed Man Drink A Beer On His Own

A man paralyzed for 13 years can finally have a drink on his own again, thanks to a robotic arm he’s able to control using his brain.

“I joke around with the guys that I want to be able to drink my own beer — to be able to take a drink at my own pace, when I want to take a sip out of my beer and to not have to ask somebody to give it to me,” Erik Sorto, 34, said in a news release from the California Institute of Technology.

A gunshot wound when he was 21 left Sorto unable to move his arms or legs, ABC News reported. That has changed after a clinical trial that involved doctors surgically implanting a neuro-prosthetic device into the part of Sorto’s brain that controls his “intent to move,” Engadget explained.

The results of the trial, which was a collaboration of Caltech, Keck School of Medicine of USC and Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center, were published in the May 22 edition of Science journal.

Scientists have outfitted patients with brain-controlled devices in the past. One big difference, though, is that previous devices have worked with the brain’s motor cortex, which “generates the electrical signals that are sent down the spinal cord and control the contractions of every muscular movement,” The Guardian explained.

Sorto’s device was implanted into his posterior parietal cortex, or PPC, which deals with the “initial intent” to make a movement, rather than the specifics of each muscle group, according to Caltech.

“When you move your arm, you really don’t think about which muscles to activate and the details of the movement — such as lift the arm, extend the arm, grasp the cup, close the hand around the cup, —> Read More

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