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This week has been Big Data Week in Atlanta and privacy and data governance come up from time to time. At tonights meeting it came up again so I posed this question:

Applying machine learning algorithms to our decisions will give us significant new capabilities. But to do that the systems need the data. Will those who choose to opt-out because of privacy concerns be at a disadvantage similar to the disadvantage the unaugmented may have cognitively and physically?

That is the fear that sites like stopthecyborgs.com are based on.

I absolutely respect anyone's right to opt-out. But what will be the cost? Will the lives of the digitally and physically augmented be so different from the unaugmented and private that, not only will they not be able to communicate, there won't be anything worth communicating about?


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Rand Paul stepped in it earlier today by making a statement about drones that those who didn't actually listen to his filibuster speech think is inconsistent. But as Jordan Bloom says, his position is still entirely consistent.

The word 'drone' befuddles me greatly. Its just a remote controlled airplane or helicopter. In some cases they do have armaments and they do have cameras. Hobbyists have been doing that for decades. But as one of the comments to Bloom's article suggests:

Philip Giraldi says: April 23, 2013 at 5:56 pm Jason, get serious yourself. A cop can make an educated judgment on whether or not to use lethal force and he can do it in a split second. A drone cannot.

some seem to think these things are autonomous robots like something out of the Terminator series. They aren't. They're simply remotely controlled tools that law enforcement and the military use to gather intelligence or delivery ordinance in a slightly different way.

What Rand said during his filibuster and what he said today backs that up. If the law allows surveillance of a person with a warrant then that surveillance can be a drone, wiretap, or any other method available to the police. If the law says that a cop can use deadly force then the same goes for weather that weapon is in his hands or in a drone being guided by his hands.

What the bill he filibustered was trying to do was change the rules so that certain methods of surveillance and use of deadly force would be exempt from existing rules such as requiring a warrant for certain types of surveillance or when/how law enforcement is allowed to use deadly force. There's nothing magical about 'drones'.

And that's all Rand Paul is saying, a drone is a tool. What matters is the process for this tool be the same as the others. That's all.


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We are evaluating Node.js in a constrained application. Over the past two decades of web evolution there is a standard cycle where new standards, frameworks and languages come into vogue and become popular enough to justify being a target for hacking. J2EE in the 90s lead to the first cross-site scripting attacks, SQL injection, etc. PHP in the 2000s opened web development up to many new developers who had no experience with security. Now, with 'views' moving into the client there is a complete blurring of trust boundaries.

One common blind spot for developers is to assume the attack vector comes through a browser, that you can still trust that browser is still enforcing its rules. But what happens if the browser is the bad guy? Some hear that and assume “oh, he means the hacker is using curl”. No. Assume the other end is a piece of C that is NOT following HTTP 1.1 protocol rules. Run a web application firewall for a few days and you'll see all sorts of things barfed into the open socket on port 80 just trying to trigger various security holes.

Here is some reading material for Node.js advocates to ponder. Trust boundaries matter.

So unless you want to end up on the evening news for a security breach, design for not just sad path but evil path.


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If you Google for nickel iron meteorites this is one of the hits you get:

http://www.ebay.com/sch/i.html?clk_rvr_id=470393098227&geo_id=9972&keyword=nickel+iron+meteorite&adpos=1t1&crlp=10905623892_2416792&MT_ID=69&_sop=15&tt_encode=raw&adgroup_id=3043227132&crdt=0&_nkw=nickel+iron+meteorite&_pgn=3&_skc=100&rt=nc

Which is an eBay section for meteorites. Its full of what looks like meteorites from Argentina, China, and Russia. So how can you tell that you're getting something authentic?

And while we're at it, does anyone have a vacuum chamber and a tunable laser I could borrow?


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3d printing is one of the NASA App Challenge projects but sadly its only printing models of spacecraft. While 3D printing in space has been in the press lately because of Sinterhab and DSI's Microgravity Foundry, there is still much technology that needs to be developed. But it can be done in steps.

But we can break it into requirements and steps that we can build and test. In some cases the tests can be done terrestrially. Others will need time on ISS or on a suborbital vehicle. Here are some thoughts:

1) Using nickel/iron meteorites create a base feed stock.

2) Separate the right materials from the raw stock

3) Refine that material into a form needed for deposition

4) Evaluate different metal deposition: beam welding, vapor deposition, ion implantation, etc. Here are, some, examples.

5) Build a full lifecycle example here

6) Build a self-contained full lifecycle test for the ISS using NanoRacks' External Platform program.

By that point someone should have identified a few candidate asteroids to try larger projects on.

If you know of relevant research for this let me know and I'll update this message to list them. Maybe even turn it into a wiki somewhere.


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I attended the kick off session of Atlanta's NASA Apps Challenge this evening. Prior to the meeting I ran through a few of the proposed challenges and a few piqued my interest:

1) ArduSat - Extend the functionality of ArduSat - an open satellite platform offering on-demand access to Space, and built on the Arduino chip set. Engage people with ArduSat via an application that utilizes its camera, the development of a global weather dataset, or improve ArduSat's processing power.

2) Hitch A Ride to Mars - Create a CubeSat design and develop a mission that operates in the Mars environment and furthers our knowledge of Mars. (The EDL and power challenges are considerable.)

3) Bootstrapping of Space Industry - Isn't this what we're doing?

4) CubeSats for Asteroid Exploration - Consider ways you could use a CubeSat to provide more information about an asteroid, such as developing a cubesat based sensor package that can be used to impact an asteroid and send back information about the minerals inside.

5) Asteroid Occultation App - combine multiple amateur observations to identify asteroid trajectories


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This week has been an interesting exercise in juggling personal priorities. Pipefish has had a good week. We're in the middle of our second sprint and things are looking good. Some tasks are coming in early and the team is gelling well.

At the same time an opinion piece about the Georgia spaceport I wrote was featured in the newspaper which resulted in several chances to educate key people about how important that is.

But at the same time Atlanta's Space App Challenge is this weekend and I wasn't able to help out. Next week is Big Data Week so that is going to suck up time.

Being CEO of Pipefish and President of the Georgia Space Society is a challenge. Doing everything you want to do and not doing them half-assed is exhausting and something else ends up suffering. If you aren't careful what suffers are the people you love.

So if I appear a bit frazzled from time to time I apologize in advance. I'm just trying to have it all, too.


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With some of the recent spaceport and Georgia Space Society discussions I've had some newcomers to the issue ask me why NASA seems to be going in circles for the past few decades. Here's a really good analysis of why:

In a similar vein, Spacepolicyonline.com relayed comments by Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski, that cuts to Orion, ”were not politically possible” due to the influence of Alabama Senator Richard Shelby, whom she went on to praise profusely.  
 
Although Mikulski is the Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the deference to Shelby seems to represent a very unfortunate Faustian pact between two powerful Senators each supporting their own respective projects regardless of the consequences. For Mikulski, the object of her affection is the massively over budget and long-delayed James Webb Space Telescope, which compared to SLS, does at least have a defined mission, and also appears to be on a stable track.

I've been paying attention to and slightly involved in national space policy since around 2001 and in my opinion the Senator from Alabam is the #1 reason why things are so screwed up. Others in Congress can be self serving but not in the truly evil way that only Shelby can be.


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This op-ed was published by the Atlanta Journal Constitution earlier today in their MyAJC edition. If my readers could go to the AJC version and use their Facebook/Twitter buttons to Like/Share it I would greatly appreciate it.

GEORGIA'S SPACEPORT: A ONCE-A-CENTURY OPPORTUNITY
Michael Mealling
President, Georgia Space Society
 
 
I grew up in Tifton and Brunswick and I have family in Waycross, Moultrie, and Savannah. I drive through those parts of the state these days and I see small towns dying. For the longest time I had no idea how to fix that problem. But now I do. The proposed spaceport in Camden County is the best opportunity to help south Georgia's economy in the past century and we should do absolutely whatever it takes to make it reality.  
 
When NASA was looking for a location to launch rockets in the early 1960s, a group of Georgia businessmen promoted Southeast Georgia as a potential location. At times their proposal ran a close second to other sites in Florida. After a great deal of discussion, visits and evaluation, NASA decided to locate their facility at Cape Canaveral, Florida.  
 
Prior to that selection, eastern central Florida was very empty with only 17,000 people. Since then, Kennedy Space Center has grown to become the world’s leading space launch facility, one of the nation’s leading tourist attractions, and helped spur the population's growth to 700,000. Imagine it they had chosen Southeast Georgia instead.  
 
Had that decision been made, Georgia would be the nation’s leading space launch location. Coastal Georgia would have received the legions of tourists who come to the visitor’s center and watch space launches. The high paying, high tech jobs created by the space industry would be in Georgia. Those changes would have been dramatic.  
 
Very seldom in life do you get a second chance, but now Georgia is getting a do-over. Several years ago NASA decided to push launches to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) into the commercial arena. NASA will still do research into deep space and government related launch, but LEO activities will be done by commercial companies. Those companies need a location for commercial launches. Government launch sites, like the Kennedy Space Center, place the priority of launch on government needs, and commercial launch takes a back seat. If commercial launch is going to move into the mainstream, those companies need a site that puts the priority on commercial needs.  
 
Georgia has what some have called the perfect location. The Camden County site meets every requirement the commercial launch industry needs: flights happen over the ocean, weather permits year round operations, population is limited, and cities and infrastructure are close enough to be accessible. An industry insider recently told a state representative, “In real estate it’s location, location, location.  You have the best location in the country for a commercial spaceport.  If you develop it right you will have the best commercial spaceport in the country, possibly the world.  If you don’t it will be the biggest mistake in 10 generations.”   
 
Who would have thought in 1960 that Cape Canaveral would become what it has become today? Georgia missed out on that tremendous opportunity 60 years ago. Texas and Florida see this opportunity and are aggressively going after it with significant resources, including cash incentives. Spaceport Georgia is being lead by a small county with few resources. Georgia has been given a second chance for something very special… a chance to become the Cape Canaveral of commercial spaceflight. Decisions are being made now by companies like SpaceX and Bigelow Aerospace.  
 
For the sake of cities like Jesup, Woodbine, and Blackshear, the Governor and the state economic development office should do everything possible to attract these companies. Double whatever the other states are offering. Recall the House and Senate if necessary. The future of south Georgia depends on it.


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Last week Rand Paul went to Howard University as part of a his outreach to the more left leaning parts of the African American community. While there a student asked “Howard University student to Sen. Rand Paul: "Good afternoon, Senator. My name is Keenan Glover, I’m an administration of justice major from Rochester, New York. A freshman, as well. You say you want to provide a government that leaves us alone. Quite frankly, I don’t want that. I want a government that is going to help me. I want a government that is going to help me fund my college education. I want a government that won’t define me by my FAFSA or by my family’s income. I’m a dollar sign with a heartbeat in this nation. This society is a mirror image of Capitol Hill. Do you, Senator Rand Paul, have a solution to come up with new American values so that the citizens of this nation have a worth of more than dead presidents and Ben Franklin?”

The question that always brings to mind is what is that person after by asking for that help? Is it that they get the help or does it matter that it's the Government that's helping? If it doesn't matter where the help comes from then what's the problem with others deciding not to participate, to be “left alone”? What makes the Government the only organization capable of providing help?

Is there a way for people who agree with Rand and those who agree with Keenan to live with two different systems that happen to exist within the same borders? That half of the country that views the Government as the solution can do so while those who don't live within a system that is not allowed to use those services? We've figured out how to build an Internet that works regardless of the hardware vendor or operating system. Why can't we do that with Government services?


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