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Geeks rule!

  • NASA wants your ideas for digitizing Wernher von Braun’s notes – literally discovered in boxes six months ago.
  • The panopticon economy: NSA’s new data-mining facility. James Bamford’s The Shadow Factory is available at Amazon US & UK.
  • UK’s new cyber security command center employs formerly naughty hackers to combat network intruders – and forge offensive attacks. Humm… Gary McKinnon’s talents could well be vital to UK national security.
  • In October 2006, Netflix offered a million dollar prize to the first contestant that could improve on the company’s movie-recommendations software by more than 10 percent. A multinational team – made up of statisticians, machine learning experts and computer engineers from America, Austria, Canada and Israel – claims it’s succeeded.
  • Space shuttle exhaust causes clouds that may explain the Tunguska event.
  • The future of NASA’s manned spaceflight program now rests with a 10-member committee which only has 11 weeks to evaluate… well, practically everything.
  • Buzz Aldrin weighs into NASA: Cancel Ares, reprieve shuttle, colonise Mars.
  • The next step in space exploration? Minimize the downtime before NASA’s next big project, says former astronaut, Bob Crippen.
  • Former astronaut Jay Apt says NASA should be testing plasma rockets (scroll down), and planning missions to land on asteroids.
  • NASA trainer heads to Arctic base for simulated Mars mission.
  • The International Space Station is soon to have a room with a view.
  • All on one page (warning for the bandwidth-challenged), 35 spectacular photos taken by astronauts aboard the ISS over the past few months. Many have Google map links.
  • A review of For All Mankind, one of the best documentaries yet made on the Apollo missions to the moon, composed almost entirely of film footage taken by the Apollo astronauts themselves during the actual missions. Available at Amazon US in DVD & Blu-ray (July 14th release).
  • NASA has found the missing moon landing tapes. But they don’t sound pleased that the UK’s Daily Express is ruining their big surprise for next month’s Anniversary celebration.
  • Wedged between dashboard and window, and refusing to budge, a rogue knob could ground space shuttle Atlantis for six months – or permanently.
  • In theory, advanced geothermal power could produce 60,000 times the US’s annual energy usage. Unfortunately, it can also cause earthquakes.
  • Grains of sand reveal possible fifth state of matter.
  • Whales might be as much like humans as apes are. Respect for whales’ cultural diversity may be essential to saving them.
  • Stone Age wells, 9,000 to 10,500 years old, found in Cyprus.
  • While devising a writing system for the Cherokee language, Sequoyah often visited caves for inspiration. An archaeologist has found what he thinks are the earliest known examples of the Sequoyah syllabary, in a cave in southeastern Kentucky.
  • Prehistoric European cave artists were female.
  • Archaeologists uncover secrets of daily life among the great pyramids of Giza: An interview with Mark Lehner.
  • Is this the earliest image of St Paul? Sensational 1,600-year-old icon of saint found in a Roman tomb.
  • Tests ‘seem to confirm’ remains of St Paul are genuine in second major discovery of saint in days.
  • No Smiting!: In his controversial new book, The Evolution of God (Amazon US & UK), Robert Wright tells the story of how God grew up. According to the reviewer, ‘There is something here to annoy almost everyone.’
  • In the Andes, La Oroya, Peru has been named one of the world’s 10 most polluted places. The fate of thousands now rests on the possible clean-up of a toxic smelter which is owned by a US billionaire who is fighting the clean-up.
  • A review of Gavin Weightman’s The Industrial Revolutionaries: The Making of the Modern World 1776-1914 (Amazon US & UK), which focuses on a large number of inventors, architects, engineers and visionaries you’ve, quite possibly, never heard of. Chapter One: Spies.

Quote of the Day:

With conventional rockets, a one-way journey to Mars would take six months; plasma propulsion could cut that trip to a month. And a quicker trip wouldn’t just be easier for the astronauts aboard; it would make the entire mission easier because the crew would need to take along far less food and water, which would mean far less mass needing to be propelled across space to the Red Planet. The U.S. has what it takes to do that.

Former astronaut Jay Apt, as paraphrased in this article in today’s News Briefs.