Technology

Pentagon eyes expanding DARPA future warfare research office

The U.S. Department of Defense is close to expanding its legendary future warfare and technology agency DARPA by combining it with the Pentagon office in charge of adapting existing weapons to new uses, people familiar with the plans said. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency would absorb the Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) and centralize more research units under the Pentagon’s Chief Technology Officer Michael Griffin. The combination would end an experiment with SCO that began as an attempt to adapt to future threats quickly and with less bureaucracy. SCO reported directly to the defense secretary, removing it from traditional bureaucratic channels at the Pentagon. If all of SCO’s $1.3 billion 2020 budget request were transferred to DARPA, DARPA would gain control over 37 percent more funding on top of its 2020 funding request of $3.5 billion. The SCO is charged with developing unexpected and game-changing capabilities to counter emerging threats. The SCO has looked into projects like swarming small drones and transforming the Raytheon Co-made Standard Missile 6, a defensive weapon, into an offensive weapon. Griffin, the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, initiatives including hypersonic weapons, lasers and space-based projects. Last year, Congress asked the Pentagon to explore how it could shut down the SCO or transfer its functions to another entity. On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee rolled out its proposals for a $750 billion 2020 defense budget.

STUDY: The CNN Search Engine — Google Search Results Overwhelmingly Favor Mainstream Media

According to data compiled by Northwestern University, Google search results overwhelmingly favor CNN compared to other news sources, followed by the New York Times and the Washington Post. Of the top 20 news sources promoted by Google in its “top stories”, the top results on its News Search feature, just one was somewhat right-wing, Fox News. But Fox accounted for just three percent of the stories that appeared in “top stories,” compared to 10.9 percent for CNN, 6.5 percent for the New York Times, and 5.6 percent for the Washington Post. Other mainstream or left-wing media sources which represented the top 20 sources include ABC, CBS, NPR, The Huffington Post, The Guardian, BBC, The Verge, Al Jazeera, Politico, and the LA Times. 86 percent of all results in Google’s “top stories” came from the top 20. Of those, all but the three percent of Fox results came from left-wing or establishment news sources. Even mainstream media sources with a reputation for a right-of-center editorial line, like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post do not appear in the top 20.

Gee..  What a shocker.  Soo..  To be VERY clear..  If you Google anything, the top 20 results you’ll get will be links to sources from the dominantly liberal mainstream media.  And to think Dems in the House and in the Senate have actually been suggesting that “big tech” is in bed with Republicans.  This study more than suggests it’s just the exact opposite.  And, keep in mind, Northwester University near Chicago is not exactly a bastion of conservatism.  For more, click on the text above.

‘Spaceplane’ that flies 25 times faster than the speed of sound passes crucial test

A ‘spaceplane’ that flies 25 times faster than the speed of sound has successfully passed a crucial testing milestone. The hypersonic plane is so fast it could jet from London to New York in less than 60 minutes and transport you from the UK to Australia in four hours. Oxford-based Reaction Engines has been working with the European Space Agency and the UK Space Agency, along with BAE Systems, to make the powerful aircraft. Reaction Engines has recently been testing a ‘pre-cooler’ for the plane, which is technology that would allow it to travel faster than ever before. The pre-cooler is critical in the plane’s development because it is required to stop the engine from melting by lowering the temperature of compressed air in the engine from more than 1,000°C to room temperature in one-twentieth of a second. Thousands of tubes inside the pre-cooler, which are thinner than human hair, contain liquid helium that can cool the air as it rushes past them. Until now, heat has been a limiting factor for how fast aircraft can travel, including Concorde which traveled at two times the speed of sound. This technology could now be combined with the spaceplane’s experimental engine, referred to as Sabre. Sabre is intended to be much lighter than a conventional rocket engine because it would carry less fuel-oxidant. It is being designed to draw oxygen into the engine to use for combustion from take off until it reaches just over 4,000 mph. After this point, the engine would need to burn liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen from on-board fuel tanks. The spaceplane would need to continue using this process until it reached 25 times the speed of sound to enter space. The company ultimately aims to create a reusable vehicle that has the fuel efficiency of a jet engine with the power of a rocket. Plans for the hypersonic plane don’t just include getting people around the world in a fraction of the time but also taking people or cargo into Space and back for just a fraction of the current cost.

Very cool!!    🙂

Apple gets ready for life after the iPhone with services push

On Monday, Apple will do something it has never done when making a product announcement — focus largely on other companies, not itself. Apple is expected to launch two services on March 25, including its rumored video streaming service, at an event in Cupertino, Calif. that will be attended by Hollywood celebrities such as JJ Abrams and Jennifer Aniston. This is in stark contrast to past events, which have largely featured tech journalists, Wall Street and industry analysts. As part of the video streaming service, Apple is expected to place a heavy emphasis on selling others’ services for them, according to a report in Recode. It will work similar to the App Store and Amazon’s successful Amazon Channels initiative, in that it will sell the services for them and take a cut of the transaction. Apple is also likely to unveil some of its own content, some of which stars Aniston as well as Reese Witherspoon, Steve Carrell and others. On Sunday, The New York Times reported that five of the first shows that Apple has funded as part of its big content push have already been completed. Apple, which has not yet given a name to the service, is also said to be wooing other cable companies, such as HBO, Starz and Showtime ahead of the launch, according to Bloomberg. Earlier this week, Apple unveiled new iPads, new iMacs and new AirPods. They were all introduced with simple press releases and without the usual fanfare Apple has given its products in the past, a stark reminder that Apple sees itself as more than just a consumer electronics company. CEO Tim Cook, who has become increasingly active in touting the company’s business outside of its iPhone, has previously said the company would double its service revenue by 2020 from 2016 levels. Revenue attributed to its Services-related business totaled $10.9 billion in its most recent quarter, up 19 percent year-over-year. To effort this along, Apple is said to be spending at least $1 billion on content, a venture that has been marred by reports of intrusion from Apple executives wary of content that might be considered overly graphic or anti-technology. Earlier this month, The New York Post reported that Cook has been seen on the set on one of the Apple-funded shows “See,” a futuristic sci-fi drama starring “Aquaman” star Jason Momoa. Several of the company’s top brass, including Cook himself, have given notes to writers and showrunners, a process that has been deemed “intrusive,” according to the Post’s sources. Apple’s push into television and movie making is being led by two executives it hired away from Sony, Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, who were responsible for shows such as “Breaking Bad” and “The Goldberg’s.” Monness Crespi analyst Brian White, arguably Apple’s biggest supporter on Wall Street, believes the event will kick into high-gear the mindset that Apple is trying to shape how it is viewed. Apple is no longer just about iDevices, but rather a ubiquitous and indispensable part of everyone’s lives, White believes. “In our view, Apple’s digital ecosystem remains a major differentiator, developing hardware, software and services to create a unique experience with devices working seamlessly together on Planet Apple,” White wrote in a note to investors. White added that Apple, which had more than 1.4 billion active devices at the end of its most recent quarter, will be well-positioned as more devices become a computer, allowing it to sell more services. “As more ‘things’ become a computer, we believe Apple is well positioned to benefit and unveil even more new services,” White continued.

For more, click on the text above.

Nude photos, tax statements and more: Old USB drives contain highly sensitive info

A whopping two-thirds of secondhand USB drives contain recoverable data from the previous owner, including some highly sensitive and personal information, according to a new study. The study, done by the University of Hertfordshire and commissioned by Comparitech, said almost 70 percent of secondhand USB flash drives sold in the U.S. and U.K. still contain recoverable data from their previous owners. Researchers purchased 200 USB memory sticks – 100 in the US, 100 in the UK – from eBay, secondhand shops, and traditional auctions, Comparitech said. Of the 100 drives purchased in the U.S., 64 had data deleted but it could easily be recovered. The corresponding number was 47 for the U.K. “Researchers discovered a wide range of intimate, private, and sensitive files,” Paul Bischoff, a privacy advocate who writes for Comparitech.com, said. That includes nude photos, business documents, ID scans, job applications, wage slips, private memos, tax statements, receipts, and medical documents. Click here for details of some of the more notable recovered data:

US military wants $300M to start testing satellite-mounted lasers and ‘particle beams’

The U.S. military is looking to develop and test more weapons it can blast into space to fire at targets on the surface of the earth. According to Defense One, the first plan on the agenda is a space laser that could be used to blow up enemy missiles “coming off the launch pad”. A study to see if this is feasible should wrap up within six months, but only takes up $15m of the total budget. Much of the rest of the cash is going to a project to develop space-based “particle beam” weapons. While lasers fire high-energy light at targets, particle beam weapons would accelerate a stream of subatomic particles to ludicrously high speeds and direct them at the target. While each particle only has a tiny mass, enough of them moving fast enough would be able to impart a serious amount of energy in a very short space of time. The U.S. first tested particle beam weapons in the late 1980s to some success, but the designs for a functional weapon were huge, with some reportedly over 70 feet long. “We now believe we can get it down to a package that we can put on as part of a payload to be placed on orbit,” according to a senior U.S. military official quoted by Defense One. The idea is that such weapons could be used to take out missiles very shortly after they launch, when they’re blasting up from their launch pads into the atmosphere. The current plan has such weapons being ready for testing in 2023. Some worry that if the U.S. developed and deployed these sorts of weapons it would push the likes of Russia and China into developing both missiles that would be resistant to the technology and weapons to take down the satellite weapons. The development of those new weapons result in “greatly increasing the threat to U.S. assets in space,” according to Kingston Reif, of the Arms Control Association. No country currently has any official space-based weapons, but plenty have been theorized. China has upgraded its space technology recently, with U.S. analysts suggesting they already have laser-based weapons capable of crippling American defenses.

Steve Forbes: US can beat China in 5G without becoming like China

China’s aggressive push to dominate 5G wireless technology has given rise to calls for the U.S. government to take over the development of a national 5G network. In fact, there is no reason to panic. American companies are rising to the 5G challenge. Socialism and crony capitalism will only undermine U.S. progress in the race to 5G. The success of tech companies like Apple and Microsoft is emblematic of what American innovation and its competitive spirit can accomplish. The companies that have changed the world and kept America at the cutting edge have rarely if ever been the spawn of government. When politicians in Washington team up with special interests, it generally distorts competition and impedes groundbreaking innovation. Fifth generation, or 5G, wireless technology is of cosmic importance and is one of the most significant high-tech breakthroughs ever. It is elemental to what some see as the Fourth Industrial Revolution – not merely upgrading current technology, but enabling a revolution with new technology. The speed and processing power of 5G wireless technology will turn the futuristic visions of smart cities, smart agriculture, telemedicine, autonomous vehicles, and so much more into reality. Within the coming decade, businesses small and large will essentially have to have 5G access to compete and succeed. With the stakes so high, President Trump is hearing calls from aides and outside interests to push for more government control in building out our 5G network. Some Trump administration officials are counseling that beating China to the punch in 5G leadership is so crucial that the federal government should build a nationwide wholesale 5G network. In essence, they are saying that in order to beat China we have to become like China. This myopic and misbegotten advice ignores a rather crucial fact: Private sector wireless providers are already investing in and creating the national 5G network. America’s pre-eminent high-tech network construction leaders, Verizon and AT&T, already have 5G projects underway across the country. U.S. wireless providers, who won the race to 4G without government assistance, ask only that they be allowed to invest and innovate under free-market policies that minimize regulatory red tape and expense. Bringing politicians and bureaucrats into the mix is a surefire way to gum up the process of deploying 5G. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai agrees. He said: “The main lesson to draw from the wireless sector’s development over the past three decades – including American leadership in 4G – is that the market, not government, is best positioned to drive innovation and investment. Any federal effort to construct a nationalized 5G network would be a costly and counterproductive distraction from the policies we need to help the United States win the 5G future.” Advocates of government keeping a huge portion of the spectrum to itself to jumpstart construction of a national 5G network naively believe this would be a limited, light-handed intervention. Their terrible proposal ignores reality. One of the scientific properties of a gas is that it expands to fill the space it’s in; government is not much different. People calling for a national wholesale network may like to believe it will be neutral and immune to interference. But once we start down that road, who knows where we’ll end up? It’s completely possible that at some point in the future, as political tides shift, we could see the government controlling the 5G network, followed by control of messages on that network. In private hands the 5G network is a liberating force. In government hands it would look more like George Orwell’s Big Brother. In the quest for 5G, government at all levels should not supplant but instead should empower the private sector. The FCC has already rewritten some regulations to begin streamlining and standardizing the permitting rules for 5G infrastructure. The FCC should continue to step up the pace for transferring commercially useful spectrum to the private sector to use to develop 5G and even stipulate it be used for that purpose. Some state legislatures and municipal governments have rid themselves of antiquated regulations that stand in the way of small cell antenna placement and taken other steps forward in the 5G process. Preventing greedy local politicians from holding 5G hostage will ensure that we have the universal network deployment necessary to make 5G work for all U.S. families, employers and public institutions. If the Trump administration is serious about winning the global race to 5G and staying ahead of China it will ignore calls for a government takeover or a nationalized 5G network and continue to support policies that allow private sector investment to lead the way. The faster the administration gives American companies the tools, the faster they will finish the job. Have faith in free markets!

Agreed!!!  And well said, Steve!!  Steve Forbes is Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Media. His latest book, “Reviving America: How Repealing Obamacare, Replacing the Tax Code, and Reforming the Fed will Restore Hope and Prosperity”.   🙂