FrEYEday NoTsoFuneez


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Robo-Fido Thursday


SpotMini, no bark, no drool, no poop, no pee, no chew, oil occasionally.

It appears that, just like their flesh and blood counterparts, you just can’t put a good robot dog down, even if you’re a human fighting it for control of a door.

Boston Dynamics’ well-mannered four-legged machine SpotMini has already proved that it can easily open a door and walk through unchallenged, but now the former Google turned SoftBank robotics firm is teaching its robo-canines to fight back.

A newly released video shows SpotMini approaching the door as before, but this time it’s joined by a pesky human with an ice hockey stick. Unperturbed by his distractions, SpotMini continues to grab the handle and turn it even after its creepy fifth arm with a claw on the front is pushed away.

If that assault wasn’t enough, the human’s robot bullying continues, shutting the door on Spot, which counterbalances and fights back against the pressure. In a last-ditch effort to stop the robot dog breaching the threshold, the human grabs at a leash attached to the back of the SpotMini and yanks.

The robot valiantly trudges forward attempting to shake off this cowardly move, losing its tail in the process and looking ever more like a dog fighting its owner. Eventually the human gives in, SpotMini rights itself, lines up with the door, grabs the handle and across the threshold it goes.

@ TG

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Warming Wednesday


In just eight days in mid-February, nearly a third of the sea ice covering the Bering Sea off Alaska’s west coast disappeared. That kind of ice loss and the changing climate as the planet warms is affecting the lives of the people who live along the coast.

At a time when the sea ice should be growing toward its maximum extent for the year, it’s shrinking instead—the area of the Bering Sea covered by ice is now 60 percent below its average from 1981-2010.

“[Bering sea ice] is in a league by itself at this point,” said Richard Thoman, the climate science and services manager for the National Weather Service Alaska region. “And looking at the weather over the next week, this value isn’t going to go up significantly. It’s going to go down.”


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SpaceX Tuesday


Last week, SpaceX realized a decade-long dream of successfully launching the most powerful rocket in the world. The Falcon Heavy’s achievement, marked resoundingly with thunderous sonic booms following twin booster touchdowns at Cape Canaveral, was only upstaged by Starman—a doomed mannequin at the wheel of Elon Musk’s Roadster

With the Heavy’s test flight complete, SpaceX is back to business as usual. Or maybe not. What seems like a routine launch this week may have greater implications for the company’s future and profits.

The launch’s primary mission is to deliver Paz, an observational satellite heavily financed by the Spanish Ministry of Defense, from the company’s pad in California. Paz won’t be riding alone on its recycled Falcon 9 though; SpaceX quietly loaded two experimental broadband satellites—built in-house—atop the rocket.


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Paper Ballot Monday


The Nations’ Secretaries of State gathered for a multi-day National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) conference in Washington, D.C., this weekend, with cybersecurity on the mind.

Panels and lectures centered around the integrity of America’s election process, with the federal probe into alleged Russian government attempts to penetrate voting systems a frequent topic of discussion.

Cybersecurity experts from the federal government and military were in high supply. Every secretary of state was invited to a closed-door briefing at the Department of Homeland Security, while federal experts spoke to a wider audience at the conference.

Brigadier General Timothy T. Lunderman, a cybersecurity expert at the National Guard, ran a session laying out to the assembled officials the resources available to them in the event of a cyberattack or intrusion on their systems. “If you take something away from today’s message, it is that we are a team,” he said.

One way to allay concerns about the integrity of electronic voting machine infrastructure, however, is to simply not use it. Over the past year, a number of states are moving back towards the use of paper ballots or at least requiring a paper trail of votes cast.

@ TI

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Solar Sunday


THE SUNSPOT IS LEAVING: Sunspot AR2699, which hurled a CME toward Earth and sparked bright polar auroras on Feb. 15th, is about to vanish. The active region is rotating off the face of the sun this weekend. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory is monitoring the sunspot’s magnetic canopy now seen in profile over the sun’s western limb:

A sunspot’s magnetic canopy is where solar flares happen. Magnetic lines of force criss, cross, and explode in a process known as “magnetic reconnection.” Got a backard solar telescope? Keep an eye on the sun’s western limb. With its canopy in full view, AR2699 might fire a parting shot worth photographing.


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Saturday Reading


People forgot. Special counsel Robert Mueller was not only focused on investigating interactions between Trump world and the Russians; he was tasked with digging into Vladimir Putin’s attack on the 2016 election. And on Friday afternoon, he announced the indictment of 13 Russian nationals for interfering with the presidential campaign. The indictment focused on the Internet Research Agency, a Kremlin-linked outfit based in St. Petersburg, where hundreds of trolls were paid to disseminate false information and propaganda on American social media to influence the election. The document noted that IRA trolls “posted derogatory information about a number of candidates” and its “operations included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump…and disparaging Clinton.”

Here is yet more proof, not that any was needed, that Russia meddled in the election to benefit Trump—and that Trump’s continued denial or downplaying of Putin’s intervention is nothing but bunk. The indictment is a reminder that Trump won a tainted election, in which he was assisted by Russian skullduggery—and that he has refused to come to terms with that.

David Corn @ MJ

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